Judging and Judgment in Contemporary Asia: Editor’s Introduction to this Special Issue

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Although the figure of the wise judge may be a universal trope, respect is not automatically accorded every person who passes judgment on another. To be perceived as legitimate, judges must occupy an institutional status with the power to decide controverted cases and must have access to specialized or even sacred knowledge and moral authority. Historically, Asian judges could claim legitimacy through their connection to transcendent legal principles, such as dhamma or dao or shari’a. In contemporary Asia, however, conceptions of law and legal legitimacy have become pluralistic, contested, and contradictory. Judges may to some extent retain a connection to the sacred and the transcendent, yet that connection is no longer sufficient in itself to insulate their judgments—or their character—from criticism. How, then, can the “good judge” be distinguished from judges who fall short of the mark? In this Special Issue, five distinguished scholars explore the crisis of legitimation as it affects judging and judgment in Sri Lanka, India, China, Indonesia, and Thailand.

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Asian Journal of Law and Society

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