The wording of major human rights texts—constitutions and international treaties—is very similar in those provisions, which guarantee everyone the right to family, privacy, protection against discrimination and arbitrary detention, and the right to access the court. However, judges of lower national courts, constitutional judges and judges of the European Court of Human Rights often read the same or seemingly the same texts differently. This difference in interpretation gives rise not only to disputes about the hierarchy of interpretative authorities, but to more general disputes about limits of judicial construction and validity of legal arguments. How it may happen, that the national courts, which apply constitutional provisions or provisions of national legislative acts, which are seemingly in compliance with the international human rights standards, come to different results with the international judges? Do they employ different interpretative techniques, share different values or develop different legal concepts? Do international judges ‘write’ rather than ‘read’ the text of the Convention? Who is, in Plato’s terms, a name-giver and who has a power to define the ‘correctness’ of names? The answers to these questions from the rhetorical and semiotic perspectives are exemplified by the texts of the judicial decisions on the rights of persons with mental disabilities. © 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
The article aims to provide a semiotic interpretation of the sign of the Ecclesiastical Court within the legal framework from temporal and spatial perspectives (case of Russia). The starting point of the research is the idea that the history of the Russian Ecclesiastical Court is inextricably linked to the history of Russian society and secular court. Consideration of the pre-revolutionary ecclesiastical and secular law helps us explore principles of the ecclesiastical proceedings and organization, identify contradictions in understanding modern Ecclesiastical Court. Its sign is not only limited to the legal interpretation. In his novel The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky F. M. gave the sign of the Ecclesiastical Court symbolic meaning and, thus, expanded it beyond the existing legal framework. The Ecclesiastical Court is one of the symbols of Russian spirituality which is reflected in the concept of “Russian soul”. Rational elements of the sign of Ecclesiastical Court as well as its sensual and metaphorical (represented visually in the author’s pictures in this article) components, are analyzed using the category of Truth. Clearly, the Cross is sign-symbol for Christianity. But if applied to the concept of Ecclesiastical Court, the Orthodox Cross becomes a sign-index. As a result, several semantically heterogeneous meanings of the sign of Ecclesiastical Court are revealed and described.
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.