Politics, Judicial Behaviour, and Institutional Design

Erik Voeten

in The European Court of Human Rights between Law and Politics

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199694495
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729782 | DOI:
Politics, Judicial Behaviour, and Institutional Design

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This chapter evaluates empirical studies of ECtHR decision-making and how they inform debates about institutional reform. The evidence suggests that ECtHR judges are politically motivated actors in the sense that they have preferences on how best to apply abstract human rights in concrete cases and that their desire to be reappointed results in some national bias. Moreover, partisan politics shapes the judicial selection process. Yet, there is no evidence that judges behave like diplomats who pursue the broad national interests of their States on the Court. Normatively, these findings are generally favourable for the possibility of international review of rights issues. The ECtHR needs to strike a balance between demands for independence and a reasonable desire for accountability to political institutions, which may partially be provided through influence over judicial selection. The author suggests how minor reforms in the selection process may lead to reductions in national bias.

Keywords: judicial behaviour; judicial independence; ideology; judicial appointments; institutional reform

Chapter.  6789 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public International Law

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