Talking Courts aims to contribute to engaging with the practices and challenges of contemporary judiciary in Slovakia towards a broad audience. Courts are often perceived as isolated from the broader society and their decisions less visible than those of the executive or the legislature. Yet, they decisively influence democracy by their mandate to resolve conflicts without allowing the regime to plunge into autocracy. By creating a platform for official and informal interaction between judges and various public constituencies and by developing educational materials for university students on the role of judiciaries in democratic regimes, Talking Courts will raise awareness on judges as public figures who are key participants of modern democracy.
Talking Courts aims to humanize courts and judges and bring them closer to the public by organizing several public events, seminars and workshops featuring discussions between judges or experts on the study of courts and the broader public (including via seminars at high schools and universities and at special events, such as the Slovak Human Rights Olympics).
The public discussions will intend to bring together academics with judges or other ‘court insiders’ (for example, clerks at the constitutional courts). While primarily centering on Slovakia, the discussion plan provides space for comparative insights from other democracies, particularly the US, and can also bring insights from India (as a regime with democratic aspirations but under threat of deconsolidation and with formally strong courts) and other jurisdictions. Thus, the project aims to show the connectedness of experiences across the globe, including going beyond the Eurocentric/Western-driven emphasis that often results in neglecting lessons and experiences with (de)democratization gained from non-Western contexts.
Talking Courts is hosted at the Comenius University in Bratislava, Department of Political Science, which collaborates with several partners. The contact person for the project is Max Steuer, PhD (max.steueruniba.sk). The project collaborators at the Department of Political Science are Associate Professor Erik Láštic, PhD (Head of the Department of Political Science), and Mgr. Pavol Žilinčík, MPP.
Project duration: September 2022 – March 2024
- workshops with high schools and with university students run by the project collaborators on contemporary judiciaries which may feature a member of the judiciary or a government official developing the government’s policy vis-à-vis the judiciary. The workshops will be based on generating a participatory environment that will help raise the awareness on judiciaries as key institutions for democratic communal life.
- public events (in person, hybrid or online), organized together with partner institutions and featuring US and Slovak court insiders and academics. At least one of these events will incorporate non-Western perspectives to contribute to the ‘decolonization’ of the discourse on the judiciary in Slovakia. Interpretation (English – Slovak) will be provided where appropriate to broaden the access to the discussion.
- workshop/discussion at the Slovak Human Rights Olympics 2023, that brings together the 64 best competitors from across secondary schools in the country and their secondary school teachers, focusing on the role and responsibilities of courts in human rights protection.
- educational materials (syllabus, support materials) for a faculty-wide elective course on judiciaries in democratic regimes at the Comenius University in Bratislava, Faculty of Arts, with the aim to launch this course in Fall 2023/Spring 2024.