The Soft Power of Dissent: The Impact of Dissenting Opinions from the Russian Constitutional Court
Author: Alexandra Orlova
This Article poses a question regarding the importance of judicial dissents emanating from constitutional courts. It examines the power of dissents emanating from the Russian Constitutional Court, given the fact that the Russian government has invested a significant effort in suppressing dissenting voices. The very presence of dissents in the Russian Constitutional Court poses an interesting question regarding their impact on democracy, consensus building, and civil society. This Article argues that while dissents coming from the Russian Constitutional Court may not be binding, they carry a great deal of “soft power.” Judicial dissents aid in challenging commonly espoused consensus both inside and outside the courtroom and provide a legitimizing voice to marginalized groups that have frequently been excluded from the dialogue. Due to the possibility of judicial dissents spilling over from the confines of the courts, they aid the democratic process, not necessarily by convincing the majority to change their minds, but by forming a polity where people’s rights are the subject of an ongoing political debate. The Article concludes that while judicial dissents are not binding, the true “soft power” of judicial dissents comes from their ability to challenge the permanence of both law and consensus. Judicial dissents show that disagreement matters and is fundamental to democracy.