Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



International courts employ a variety of legitimation strategies in order to establish and maintain a sound basis of support among their constituents. Existing studies on the legitimating efforts and legitimacy of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) judicial bodies have relied largely on theoretical or normative priors about what makes them legitimate. In contrast, this Article directly connects the study of courts' legitimating efforts with their effects by empirically mapping the reception of the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism's (DSM) exercise of authority by the system's primary constituents--WTO Members. Using an original data set of WTO Member statements within meetings of the Dispute Settlement Body from 1995-2013 and a series of interviews, this Article provides a descriptive analysis of expressed views on the DSM's exercise of authority over time and across subsets of Members. Through an in-depth examination of statements on focal reports, this Article sheds new light on the sources of the DSM's legitimacy by identifying practices that contribute to reducing or enhancing it in the eyes of the primary constituents of this international institution.