New York, October 12-15, 2011
When Judges Disagree
An International Symposium on Logic and Its Limits in Jurisprudence
When judges disagree-when they write dissenting opinions, or when they reverse
or remand lower court decisions-there is a tendency to think that
some got it "right" and others got it "wrong." And indeed,
there is such a thing as palpable error in the law: when judges make
mathematical errors in calculating damages, for example, or when they
improperly shift the burden of proof, or apply the wrong test, or
the wrong controlling law.
Often, however, disagreements stem not from errors of this sort, nor
from errors in logic. They stem from ideological differences that
are not always articulated in the judgment. For purposes of this
Symposium, ideology is defined as a non-negotiable belief about the
way things are or ought to be, a belief that is equally impossible to
prove and impervious to refutation. Ideology and ideological
differences are especially common in charter or constitutional cases.
The primary question posed by this symposium will
be whether it is possible to transcend political and sectarian
ideology, and if so, how, and on what grounds. Material for
discussion will be drawn from cases nominated by the participants
themselves. Cases involving gender, religion, sexual preference,
human rights, entitlements of indigenous peoples, judicial
independence, and political or cultural conflicts are encouraged,
particularly those that have resulted in dissenting opinions,
reversal on appeal, public debate, or conflict with other branches of
It will be a "symposium" in the classical sense-a feast of
ideas during which guests of comparable standing from diverse
cultures and jurisdictions discuss theory and practice in
controversial cases. The objective is to exchange
ideas and to learn from one another, the essential premise being that
no one country or jurisdiction is presumed to have a better approach
to philosophical problems or practices in jurisprudence. The
Institute will not espouse a particular political or sectarian
Participation is by invitation only and will be limited to sixteen chief justices,
members of international tribunals, and other court leaders qualified to discuss
the philosophical dimensions of jurisprudence at an advanced level.
Efforts will be made to include a diversity of jurisdictions,
geography, and gender, but otherwise participants will be selected in
the order in which registration forms are received.
The symposium will begin with a short lecture at the National Arts
Club. Housed in the Historic Tilden mansion, a New York City
landmark, the NAC was founded in 1898 by Charles de Kay, literary and
art critic for the New York Times, as a gathering place for artists,
patrons and audiences in all the arts. The lecture will provide a
conceptual framework for the critical analysis of specific cases and
will be followed by a dinner at the Club. Other
sessions will take place next door in the library of the Players
Club, founded by Edwin Booth, a celebrated 19th century Shakespearean actor.
There is no charge for participants, but a voluntary contribution of
$500 US is suggested. The Institute will provide the venue, the
materials, coffee breaks, lunches, and two dinners. Participants are
expected to pay for their travel and lodging and for the optional but
highly recommended jazz and dinner cruise around the harbor on a
glass top boat.
Click here to register.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org