Game theory and the legitimacy of international adjudicative bodies

Janaína Gomes Garcia de Moraes, Patricio Alvarado


Traditional legal approaches assume that a court is legitimate when its decisions are faithful to the text that expresses the mandate for which it was created (i.e. the Constitution, in the case of domestic courts; and the treaty, in the case of international courts). However, studies employing game theory show that judges of international courts cannot always be faithful to this mandate and provide the single right legal answer to the cases brought before them for it would risk the stability of the whole system. In light of these findings, this paper exposes the implications that game theory brings to legal theory, reviews the concept(s) of legitimacy of courts, and sketches the foundations of a new theory that justifies their authority, which provides a normative framework to assess their activity. This new theory asserts that the role of international courts is not (cannot be) to provide the unique right legal answer on a case-to-case basis in an approach that focuses on individual rights, but to advance and sustain a “legitimate state of affairs” (objective dimension of rights approach) that is in line with the normative goals that motivated the creation of the international organization.


Legitimacy. Normative. International courts.

Texto completo:

PDF (English)


ALEXY, R. On the Structure of Legal Principles. Ratio Juris, v. 13, n. 3, 2000.

ATIENZA, M., & RUIZ MANERO, J. La dimensión institucional del Derecho y la justificación jurídica. Doxa, v. 24, 2001, p. 115–130.

BIX, B. Ronald Dworkin's Right Answer Thesis. In: Law, Language, and Legal Determinacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 77-132.

BOYD, C., EPSTEIN, L., MARTIN, A. Untangling the Causal Effects of Sex on Judging. American Journal of Political Science, v. 54, n. 2, Apr. 2010, pp. 389–411.

GERMANY. Bundesverfassungsgericht. BVerfGE 7, 198, 1958.

CARACCIOLO, R. Democracia y Obediencia al Derecho: El Argumento de Nino. Análisis Filosófico, v. 35, n. 1, 2015, 81–110.

CARRUBBA, C. J., GABEL, M. & HANKLA, C. Judicial Behavior under Political Constraints: Evidence from the European Court of Justice. American Political Schience Review, v. 102, v. 4, 2008, p. 435-452.

CARRUBBA, C. J., MURRAH, L. Legal Integration and Use of the Preliminary Ruling Process in the European Union. International Organization, v. 59, 2005, p. 399-418.

CHRISTOFFERSEN, J. Individual and Constitutional Justice: Can the Power Balance of Adjudication be Reversed? In Individual and Constitutional Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

DOTHAN, S. How International Courts Enhance Their Legitimacy. Theoretical Inquiries in Law, v. 14, 2013, p. 455-478.

DWORKIN, R. How Law is Like Literature. In: Law's Empire. Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 1986, p. 146-166.

DWORKIN, R. No Right Answer. New York University Law Review, v. 53, n. 1, 1978, p. 1-32.

DWORKIN, R. Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977.

DYEVRE, A. Domestic judicial defiance and the authority of international legal regimes, European Journal of Law and Economics, v. 44, 2017, p. 453–481.

DYEVRE, A. The Future of Legal Theory and the Law School of the Future. Intersentia: Antwerp, 2016.

FALLON, R. Legitimacy and the Constitution. Harvard Law Review, v. 118, 2005, p. 1787.

FINNIS, J. Natural Law and Natural Rights. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

GROSSMAN, N. Legitimacy and International Adjudicative Bodies. George Washing International Law Review, v. 41, 2009, p. 107.

HANGARTNER, D., LAUDERDALE, B. E. & SPIRIG, J. Refugee Roulette Revisited: Judicial Preference Variation and Aggregation on the Swiss Federal Administrative Court 2007-2012. Retrieved from

HART, H. L. A. El concepto de derecho. (G. Carrrió, Ed.). Buenos Aires: Abeledo- Perrot, 1963

HART, H. L. A. The Concept of Law. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994.

HELFER, L. R. & ALTER, K. J. Legitimacy and Lawmaking: A Tale of Three International Courts. Theoretical Inquiries in Law, v. 14, 2013, p. 479-503.

HOFMANN, A. Resistance against the Court of Justice of the European Union. Copenhagen, iCourts - The Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre of Excellence for International Courts, 2018.

HOHFELD, W. Some Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied to Legal Reasoning. Yale Law Journal, v. 23, n. 1, 1913, p. 16-59.

KELEMEN, D.The Limits of Judicial Power: Trade-Environment Disputes in the GATT/WTO and the EU. Comparative Political Studies, v. 34, n. 6, 2001, p. 623.

LIPSET, S. M. Political Man: The Social Bases of Politics. 2nd ed. London: Heinemann, 1983, p. 64.

LOTH, M. Who has the last word: On judicial lawmaking in European private law. European Review of Private Law, 2017, p. 45-70.

LUHMANN, N. Law as a Social System. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

MACKIE, J. The Third Theory of Law. Philosophy and Public Affairs, v. 7, n. 1, 1977, p. 5.

NINO, C. El concepto de poder constituyente originario y la justificación jurídica. In BULLYGIN, E. (Ed.), El lenguaje del Derecho: Homenaje a Genaro Carrió. Buenos Aires: Abeledo-Perrot, 1983, p. 339–370.

NINO, C. Ética y Derechos Humanos. Buenos Aires: Paidos, 1984.

NINO, C. La justificación de la democracia: entre la negación de la justificación y la restricción de la democracia. réplica a mis críticos. Análisis Filosófico, v. 2, 1986, p. 103–114.

POOLE, T. Legitimacy, Rights and Judicial Review. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, v. 25, n. 4, 2005, p. 697–725.

PRIETO SANCHÍS, L. El Constitucionalismo de los Derechos. Madrid: Trotta, 2013.

QUINTERO, J., NAVARRO, A., & MESA, M. El Estado de Cosas Inconstitucionales como mecanismo de protección de los derechos fundamentales de la población vulnerable de Colombia. Revista Jurídica Mario Alario D’Filippo, v. 3, n. 1, 2011, p. 69–80.

RAZ, J. Morality of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

ROMERO, N. La doctrina del Estado de Cosas Inconstitucional en Colombia novedades del neoconstitucionalismo y “La inconstitucionalidad de la realidad.” Derecho Público Iberoamericano, v. 1, 2012, p. 244.


ISSN 2236-997X (impresso) - ISSN 2237-1036 (on-line)

Desenvolvido por:

Logomarca da Lepidus Tecnologia