What happens when international courts are asked to tackle local political controversies and their judgments subsequently spark contentious resistance? In the European Union (EU), scholars have posited that the politicization of the often-liberalizing rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) provokes Euroscepticism and noncompliance. In contrast, I argue that contentious politics may also produce permissive conditions for activist “Eurolawyers” to promote awareness of EU law and mobilize support for liberalization. To unpack this claim, I conduct an intensive case study of perhaps the most explosive controversy in Italy to generate litigation before the ECJ: The 1991 “Port of Genoa” case, where the public monopoly rights of a centuries-old dockworkers' union were challenged. Leveraging interviews, court and newspaper records, public opinion data, and litigation statistics, I trace how—despite dockworkers' vigorous resistance—a pair of entrepreneurial lawyers liberalized Italy's largest port by combining strategic litigation with a public relations campaign to mobilize a compliance constituency. I conclude with insights the case study offers into the contemporary politics of transnational governance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science