Arbitrary Decision-making and the Rule of Law
The Role of the Jurisdiction in Migrants’ Detention Proceedings – Between Discretion and Arbitrariness
Many studies have highlighted a substantial "bureaucracy domination" in procedures relating to migrants’ access to territory. This form of domination is marked by highly discretionary and arbitrary practices, enacted by the administrative authorities of the state. Only minor attention, however, has been devoted to the arbitrariness of judicial decisions and to the judicial role in general in the numerous proceedings that increasingly affect the path of migrants. This path is the main object of this paper. The study focuses on Italian case law in expulsion and detention proceedings of irregular third country national citizens and asylum seekers and presents qualitative empirical research on decisions issued by the competent national authorities. The results have been analysed using a selection of theoretical tools, all referable to the general concept of the rule of law. The judicial decisions on pre-removal detention proceedings in two case studies are examined: the jurisprudence on detention of irregular migrants, in different offices of the Justice of the Peace in Italy; and the case law on detention of asylum seekers in the Ordinary Tribunal of Rome. The assumption underlying the research is that various conceptions of the rule of law may have different explanatory power when it comes to explaining the empirical results. To verify this hypothesis, the study proposes an overview of the main rule of law doctrines in the Western tradition of political and legal thought and applies the method of historical-conceptual analysis. As a result, the explanatory power of six theoretical models of the rule of law was verified against the data with the view to highlight the virtues and vices of the respective explanatory frameworks.
This article reaches a two-fold conclusion. First, as far as the explanatory frameworks are concerned: the results of the two case studies cannot be fully explained by any of the models considered in this study. This fact alone casts doubts on the explanatory power of these theories and calls for further research on judicial decision-making more generally. Secondly, a key finding of the study regarding the notions of discretion and arbitrariness is that the judicial approach which assures the highest protection of rights is also the one that is most easily influenced by arbitrariness. The author argues that this paradox can be easily dissolved by paying attention to the plural dimensions of arbitrariness. If we consider arbitrariness from a legal point of view, i.e. as an illegal decision, it is unsurprising that the authority that most uses its discretionary powers is also the one most at risk of abusing these discretionary powers and hence of exercising arbitrary power. However, if we consider arbitrariness from the point of view of philosophical-political theory, i.e. as a form of domination characterised by the absence of sufficient justification, it is unsurprising that the judicial approach which assures the highest protection of rights is also the one that takes its own role as guarantor of these rights and of the constitutional democratic legal order as such most seriously. This judicial approach thus most often risks exercising its power in criticisable ways, as compared to an authority much more in line with the requirements of law enforcement agencies.
Keywords: migration, discretion, justice, arbitrariness, civil rights, Rechtsstaat, expulsion, mixed constitution
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Copyright (c) 2020 Francesca Asta
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