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Article

Use and Misuse of Language in Judicial Decision-Making: Russian Experience

International Journal for the Semiotics of Law. 2013. Vol. 26. No. 3. P. 673-692.

In my paper I will analyze decisions of the Russian Constitutional Court and courts of general jurisdiction, in which they interpret ordinary and seemingly unambiguous words and phrases. In a number of cases this interpretation is made in a manner, which is suspect from a linguistic point of view. The analysis shows that there is no consistency in the application by Russian courts of the ‘‘plain language’’ rule and that literal interpretation may be used selectively as a means of legitimizing the decisions made on non-linguistic grounds. Though literal interpretation can be often incompatible with the concept of justice and therefore judges should also take into account other criteria, there are examples of court decisions, in which literal interpretation would have been more appropriate from the perspective of justice, separation of powers and human rights. The article shows how use and misuse of language by judges is employed as a tool in judicial decision-making.