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Malicious legal transplants

  • Mathias Siems (a1)

It is frequently assumed that legal transplants can help law makers in choosing the best ideas from elsewhere in the world. However, this paper suggests that there can also be cases of ‘malicious legal transplants’. It explains why such transplants emerge and how they may be prevented. This discussion fills a gap in the normative debate about legal transplants: while it is valuable to identify good models, it is equally important to understand how the impact of malicious ideas can be prevented.

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1 Michaels, RMake or buy – a new look at legal transplants’ in Eidenmüller, H (ed) Regulatory Competition in Contract Law and Dispute Resolution (Munich: Beck, 2013) p 34; Markesinis, BOur debt to Europe: past, present and future’ in Markesinis, B (ed) The Coming Together of the Common Law and the Civil Law (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2000) p 61; Zweigert, K and Kötz, H An Introduction to Comparative Law (Oxford: Clarendon, 3rd edn, 1998) p 17.

2 A point frequently raised about legal systems in transition: eg Donaggio, ALimitations of legal transplants and convergence to corporate governance practices in emerging markets: the Brazilian case’ in Boubaker, S amd Nguyen, DK (eds) Corporate Governance in Emerging Markets (Berlin: Springer, 2014) pp 465484; Jupp, JLegal transplants as tools for post-conflict criminal law reform: justification and evaluation’ (2014) 3 Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law 381.

3 Teubner, GLegal irritants: good faith in British law or how unifying law ends up in new divergences’ (1998) 61 Modern Law Review 11; Legrand, PThe impossibility of legal transplants’ (1997) 4 Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law 111.

4 See eg the debate in the US: Benvenuto, OJReevaluating the debate surrounding the Supreme Court's use of foreign precedent’ (2006) 38 Fordham Law Review 2596.

5 Carolan, EDiffusing bad ideas: what the migration of the separation of powers means for comparative constitutionalism and constitutional transplants’ in Farran, S, Gallen, J and Rautenbach, C (eds) The Diffusion of Law (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015) pp 213233.

6 For details and examples of this category see Section 1 (a), below.

7 Watson, A Legal Transplants: An Approach to Comparative Law (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2nd edn, 1993; 1st edn, 1971). But see also Cairns, JWWatson, Walton and the history of legal transplants’ (2013) 41 Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law 637.

8 Watson, A Law, Society, Reality (Lake Mary, FL: Vandeplas, 2007) p 5.

9 Watson, AThe importance of “nutshells”’ (1994) 42 American Journal of Comparative Law 1, 2.

10 Watson, ALegal transplants and law reform’ (1996) 92 Law Quarterly Review 79, 81.

11 So, this refers to ‘legislative comparative law’; see Zweigert and Kötz, above n 1, p 51.

12 See eg Gelter, M and Siems, MCitations to foreign courts – illegitimate and superfluous, or unavoidable? Evidence from Europe’ (2014) 62 American Journal of Comparative Law 35.

13 See eg Halpérin, J-LThe concept of law: a Western transplant?’ (2010) 10 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 333; Simmons, BA Mobilizing Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

14 For different forms and objects of legal transplants, see eg Twining, W General Jurisprudence: Understanding Law from a Global Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) p 279.

15 Summary in Siems, M Comparative Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd edn, 2018) pp 251255. See also Section 1 (b) (i), below.

16 For a specific example: MacQueen, HScotland’ in Smits, Jan M (ed) Elgar Encyclopaedia of Comparative Law (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2nd edn, 2012) p 791.

17 For the different terms, see eg Perju, VConstitutional transplants, borrowing, and migrations’ in Rosenfeld, M and Sajo, A (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Constitutional Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) pp 13061308.

18 Ezzell, BLaws of racial identification and racial purity in Nazi Germany and the United States: did Jim Crow write the laws that spawned the Holocaust?’ (2002) 30 Southern University Law Review 1. For further details on the US history, see Moran, RF, ‘Love with a proper stranger: what anti-miscegenation laws can tell us about the meaning of race, sex, and marriage’ (2004) 32 Hofstra Law Review 1663.

19 Livingston, MA The Fascists and the Jews of Italy: Mussolini's Race Laws, 1938–1943 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014); Zimmerman, JD (ed) Jews in Italy under Fascist and Nazi Rule, 1922–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); De Napoli, OThe origin of the racist laws under fascism: a problem of historiography’ (2012) 17 Journal of Modern Italian Studies 106. Those views were also promoted through the Fascist journal La difesa della razza.

20 De Napoli, ibid, p 117 (discussion of the position of Denis Mack Smith and other historians).

21 Marshall, P (ed) The Talibanization of Nigeria: Sharia Law and Religious Freedom (Washington, DC: Freedom House, 2002).

22 Deutsche Welle Religion Sharia in Brunei: The Sultan's New Laws (10 May 2014), available at

23 Chaplin, CImagining the land of the two holy mosques: the social and doctrinal importance of Saudi Arabia in Indonesian Salafi discourse’ (2014) 7 Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 217; A Kovacs Saudi Arabia Exporting Salafi Education and Radicalizing Indonesia's Muslims (2014) GIGA Focus, available at

24 Roul, AThe threat from rising extremism in the Maldives’ (2013) 6/3 CTC Sentinel 2428 (footnotes omitted).

25 Ibid. See also A Singh Ningthoujam Maldives is No Longer a ‘Paradise’ (2 April 2015), available at

26 See Vanita, R and Kidwai, S (eds) Same-Sex Love in India, Readings in Indian Literature (New York: Palgrave, 2001) p 25.

27 Sanders, D377 and the unnatural afterlife of British colonialism in Asia’ (2009) 4 Asian Journal of Comparative Law 1.

28 Ibid, pp 14–15.

29 See Human Rights WatchThis alien legacy: the origins of “sodomy” laws in British colonialism’ in Lennox, C and Waites, M (eds) Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change (London: Institute of Commonwealth Studies, 2013) pp 83123.

30 Ibid, p 110.

31 See eg Friedman, LSome comments on Cotterrell and legal transplants’ in Nelken, D and Feest, J (eds) Adapting Legal Cultures (Oxford: Hart, 2001) pp 9398, with ‘no fault divorce’ as an example; Moscati, MF Pasolini's Italian Premonitions: Same-Sex Unions and the Law in Comparative Perspective (London: Wildy, Simmonds and Hill, 2014).

32 Nussbaum, MC“Equal respect for conscience”: Roger Williams on the moral basis of civil peace’ (2007) 15 Harvard Review of Philosophy 4, 14 (with reference to Locke).

33 For the debate, see eg Schnyder, G and Siems, MThe ordoliberal variety of neoliberalism’ in Konzelmann, S and Fovargue-Davies, M (eds) The Faces of Liberal Capitalism: Banking Systems in Crisis (London: Routledge, 2013) pp 250268.

34 Eg Gregg, S Becoming Europe: Economic Decline, Culture, and How America Can Avoid a European Future (New York: Encounter Books, 2013).

35 Eg Pinto-Duschinsky, M Bringing Rights. Back Home. Making Human Rights Compatible with Parliamentary Democracy in the UK (London: Policy Exchange, 2011).

36 Eg Mattei, U and Nader, L Plunder: When the Rule of Law is Illegal (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008).

37 Buruma, I and Margalit, A Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of its Enemies (New York: Penguin, 2004) p 149.

38 Nelken, DComparatists and transferability’, in Legrand, P and Munday, R (eds) Comparative Legal Studies: Traditions and Transitions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) p 456 (‘geared to fitting an imagined future’).

39 See eg Sandel, MJ (ed) Justice: A Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Heinze, E The Concept of Injustice (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013).

40 For the following, see Siems, above n 15, pp 233–236 (with further references).

41 Miller, JMA typology of legal transplants: using sociology, legal history, and Argentine examples to explain the transplant process’ (2003) 51 American Journal of Comparative Law 839, calls those ‘cost-saving transplants’ (p 845).

42 Miller ibid, as ‘legitimacy-generating’ (p 854) and ‘entrepreneurial’ transplants (p 849).

43 See eg the recent ‘battle of brochures’ discussed in Kötz, HThe jurisdiction of choice: England and Wales or Germany?’ (2010) 18 European Review of Private Law 1243.

44 Cohn, MLegal transplant chronicles: the evolution of unreasonableness and proportionality review of the administration in the United Kingdom’ (2010) 58 American Journal of Comparative Law 583, 591 (in addition referring to negative fertilisation and novation).

45 See eg Mattei, UA theory of imperial law: a study of U.S. hegemony and the Latin resistance’ (2003) 10 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 383.

46 For examples see Siems, above n 15, pp 223, 354–357.

47 Section 2 (a), below.

48 See overview in Siems, above n 15, pp 255–259.

49 Markesinis, above n 1, p 49; Buscaglia, E and Ratli, W Law and Economics in Developing Countries (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution, 2000) p 31.

50 Arvind, TTThe “transplant effect” in harmonization’ (2010) 59 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 65, 81.

51 For a summary, see Trebilcock, MJ and Prado, MM Advanced Introduction to Law and Development (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2014) pp 4555.

52 Gutteridge, HC Comparative Law: An Introduction to the Comparative Method of Legal Study and Research (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1946) p 25.

53 Teubner, above n 3.

54 See eg Ahlering, B and Deakin, SLabour regulation, corporate governance and legal origin: a case of institutional complementarity?’ (2007) 41 Law & Society Review 865.

55 Foster, NHD, ‘Comparative commercial law: rules or context?’ in Örücü, E and Nelken, D (eds) Comparative Law: A Handbook (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2007) pp 273274. See also Berkowitz, D, Pistor, K and Richard, J-FThe transplant effect’ (2003) 51 American Journal of Comparative Law 163.

56 For a summary of the discussion, see Alston, P and Goodman, R International Human Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) pp 531557.

57 The main journal is the Journal of the History of Ideas.

58 See eg the main associations: the World Future Society (, the World Futures Studies Organisation ( and the Association of Professional Futurists (

59 Crozier, GKDReconsidering cultural selection theory’ (2008) 59 British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 455.

60 Dawkins, R The Selfish Gene (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edn, 1989). For an application to law, see Deakin, SEvolution for our time: a theory of legal memetics’ (2002) 55 Current Legal Problems 1.

61 E Rogers Diffusion of Innovations (New York: Free Press, 5th edn, 2003).

62 See T Greenhalgh, G Robert and P Bate How to Spread Good Ideas – A Systematic Review of the Literature on Diffusion, Dissemination and Sustainability of Innovations in Health Service Delivery and Organisation (Report for the National Co-ordinating Centre for NHS Service Delivery and Organisation R&D, April 2004) pp 15, 142. See also Twining, WSocial science and diffusion of law’ (2005) 32 Journal of Law and Society 203, 217220 (sceptical about the suitability of Rogers’ diffusion theory).

63 For a summary see Hantrais, L International Comparative Research: Theory, Methods and Practice (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2009) pp 133139.

64 Campbell, JLInstitutional reproduction and change’ in Morgan, G et al. (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Institutional Analysis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) pp 97106.

65 Boudon, R, L'idéologie ou L'origine des idées reçues (Paris: Fayard, 1986).

66 As phrased in the review by J Herf (1989) 18 Contemporary Sociology 291.

67 Quiggin, J Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

68 Scammell, GVEssay and reflection: on the discovery of the Americas and the spread of intolerance, absolutism, and racism in early modern Europe’ (1991) 13 International History Review 502.

69 Snyder, TD Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

70 Mayer, R Serial Fu Manchu: The Chinese Supervillain and the Spread of Yellow Peril Ideology (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2013).

71 Rusagara, FThe spread of “genocide ideology” within the Great Lakes region: challenges for Rwanda’ in Campioni, M and Noack, P (eds) Rwanda Fast Forward (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) pp 213227.

72 K Ramakrishna Democratisation of Hate: The Spread of Al-Qaedaism, RSIS Commentaries 2014 No 17, available at; Schulze, RIslamofascism: four avenues to the use of an epithet’ (2012) 52 Die Welt des Islams 290.

73 Surowiecki, J The Wisdom of Crowds (New York: Doubleday, 2004).

74 Cf O Khazan The Stupidity of the Crowd (29 July 2013), available at

75 See Section 1 (a) (i), above.

76 See Section 1 (b) (i), above.

77 See Section 1 (a) (ii), above.

78 See the first example of Section 1 (a) (ii), above.

79 See the second and third examples in Section 1 (a) (ii), above.

80 See the first and third examples in Section 1 (a) (ii), above.

81 Chaplin, above n 23, p 217.

82 See Section 1 (b) (iii), above.

83 For the debate, see eg Esty, DC and Géradin, D (eds) Regulatory Competition and Economic Integration (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

84 See Section 1 (b) (iii), above. For the notion of a ‘marketplace of ideas’ and its shortcomings, see also Poole, S Rethink: The Surprising History of Ideas (New York: Random House, 2016).

85 This phrase was coined by Cary, WJFederalism and corporate law: reflections upon Delaware’ (1973–1974) 83 Yale Law Journal 663.

86 See eg Baldwin, R, Cave, M and Lodge, M Understanding Regulation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edn, 2012) pp 6882, on regulatory failures.

87 Suggested by Carolan, above n 5.

88 See Section 1 (b) (i), above.

89 Ibid. (countries often choosing the ‘most legitimate model’).

90 See Section 1 (a) (i), above.

91 Ibid.

92 See the first example in Section 1 a (ii), above.

93 See the second example in Section 1 a (ii), above.

94 For private interest theories of regulation, see eg Morgan, B and Yeung, K An Introduction to Law and Regulation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) pp 4353.

95 For both, see the second example in Section 1 (a) (ii), above.

96 See Section 1 (b) (i), above.

97 Greenhalgh et al, above n 62, p 10.

98 Boudon, above n 65.

99 See all three examples in Section 1 a (ii), above.

100 Possibly this was the case in the first example in Section 1 a (ii), above.

101 See Section 1 a (i) and (b) (i), above.

102 See Section 1 a (ii), above.

103 For the discussion, see eg Moringiello, JM and Reynolds, WLThe new territorialism in the not-so-new frontier of cyberspace’ (2014) 99 Cornell Law Review 1415; Symposium issue on Extraterritoriality and EU Data Protection (2015) 5(4) International Data Privacy Law.

104 This is a frequent objection against laws with an extraterritorial effect; see eg Kirshner, JWhy is the U.S. abdicating the policing of multinational corporations to Europe? Extraterritoriality, sovereignty, and the alien tort statute’ (2012) 29 Berkeley Journal of International Law 259.

105 See Fredrickson, GM Racism: A Short History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).

106 See Section 2 (a) (i), above.

107 Eg in terms of free speech or the right to public protest; see eg Mead, D The New Law of Peaceful Protest (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2010).

108 See eg Chua, LPragmatic resistance, law, and social movements in authoritarian states: the case of gay collective action in Singapore’ (2012) 46 Law & Society Review 713.

109 See eg MJ Bazyler Holocaust Denial Laws and Other Legislation Criminalizing Promotion of Nazism GPN Genocide Year in Review 2009, available at

110 Rubin, EAdministrative law and the complexity of culture’ in Seidman, A, Seidman, R and Payne, J (eds) Legislative Drafting for Market Reform: Some Lessons from China (Hampshire: Macmillan, 2000) p 108.

111 S Poole ‘Why bad ideas refuse to die’ The Guardian 28 June 2016, available at

112 Called ‘negative fertilisation’ by Cohn, above n 44.

113 See the third example in Section 1 a (ii), above.

114 See Siems, above n 15, pp 27–28, 233–234.

115 See above n 2.

116 See eg Trebilcock and Prado, above n 51, pp 7–12, 78–80, and Section 1 (b) (i), above.

117 See the second example in Section 1 a (ii), above, as well as 1 (b) (i) and 2 (a) (ii), above.

118 See Section 2 (a) (ii), above.

119 For the debate, see eg Islam, SThe negative effects of ill-advised legislation: the curious case of the evolution of anti-Sharia law legislation into anti-foreign law legislation and the impact on the CISG’ (2013/14) 57 Howard Law Journal 979; Venetis, PMThe unconstitutionality of Oklahoma's SQ 755 and other provisions like it that bar state courts from considering international law’ (2011) 59 Cleveland State Law Review 189.

120 Mak, E Judicial Decision-Making in a Globalised World (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2013). See also Gelter and Siems, above n 12.

121 For the latter, see eg de Sousa Santos, B and Rodriguez-Garavito, CALaw, politics, and the subaltern in counter-hegemonic globalization’ in de Sousa Santos, B and Rodriguez-Garavito, CA (eds), Law and Globalization from Below: Towards a Cosmopolitan Legality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005) pp 126.

122 See the second example of Section 1 a (ii), above.

123 Blog Post Should We Create a Critical Idea Permeability Index? (10 July 2013), available at

124 Arts 1(1), 79(3) of the German Basic Law. For examples from other countries, see Colón-Riós, JI Weak Constitutionalism: Democratic Legitimacy and the Question of Constituent Power (London: Routledge, 2012) p 67.

125 See Section 1 (a) (ii), above.

126 See eg Mutua, MThe Iraq paradox: minority and group rights in a viable constitution’ (2006) 54 Buffalo Law Review 927. See also the discussion in regulation studies: eg Baldwin et al, above n 86, pp 338–355, 373–387; Morgan and Yeung, above n 94, pp 221–280.

127 See eg Frankenberg, GConstitutional transfer: the IKEA theory revisited’ (2012) 8 International Journal of Constitutional Law 563; Xanthaki, HLegal transplants in legislation: defusing the trap’ (2008) 57 International and Comparative Law Quarterly 659.

128 See Section 2 (b), above.

129 For the discussion see Siems, above n 15, pp 262–279.

130 However this may be defined. See Siems, MBringing in foreign ideas: the quest for “better law” in implicit comparative law’ (2014) 9 Journal of Comparative Law 119.

131 McCloskey, DN Bourgeois Equality: Ideas, not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2016).

132 Siems, MThe curious case of overfitting legal transplants’ in Adams, M and Heirbaut, D (eds) The Method and Culture of Comparative Law: Essays in Honour of Mark Van Hoecke (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2014) pp 133146.

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