Antoine Garapon

Judging Well Publication date : May 25, 2010

Imagine for a moment that you are attending a court hearing for the first time. You would probably be more impressed by the strange spectacle unfolding before you than by the content of the judicial discussion. That's because judging is not just a moral faculty, it is primarily a momentous occasion. Even before there were laws, judges or law courts, there was a ritual. This book seeks to reveal every facet of a hearing, showing for example how everything in the courtroom is arranged to intimidate the accused and to make him feel guilty and submissive toward the judicial order. But do judges really need such dramatisation in order to judge well? This is the question that Antoine Garapon's reflection then tries to tackle, notably by comparing the French and American judicial systems, by analysing the intrusion of the media while the trial is in process, and by referring to certain works by Aeschylus, Freud and Kafka. If the philosophy of law is a quest for justice in abstracto, through rules and an ideal, this book shows that the goal of “judging well” obliges judges to immerse themselves in concreto in the experience of the act of judging. There is thus no such thing as a “pure” act of judgment, because justice — with its daily experience of evil, of human cruelty, of factual resistance, of the perishable character of political institutions, of the fragility of evidence and of the foreclosure of truth — is constantly in contact with the brut material of humanity.

Antoine Garapon is a magistrate, the founder of the Institut des Hautes Etudes sur la Justice and a member of the editorial board of the French magazine Esprit. He is the author of, most notably, Le Gardien des promesses (1996), Des crimes qu'on ne peut ni punir ni pardonner (2002) and Juger en Amérique et en France (2003).

His other works include Et ce sera justice (2001) and Peut-on réparer l'histoire? (2008).