Court Presidents: The Missing Piece in the Puzzle of Judicial Self-Governance

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The aim of this paper is to provide a new comprehensive understanding of roles of court presidents in judicial governance in Europe. It argues that in order to understand better the role of court presidents in comparative perspective it is necessary to unpack their power into smaller components that can be analyzed separately. We define seven such components: judicial career, jurisprudential, administrative, financial, ambassadorial, and media power, and ancillary powers as a residual category. Subsequently, we zero in on selected European jurisdictions, both in the West and East Europe, and rate them according to the strength of their court presidents’ powers. By doing so we develop a Court President Power Index. However, we also show that powers are not everything and that various contingent circumstances (such as the length of court presidents’ term, the role of individuals, information asymmetry, existence of competing judicial self-government bodies, institutional design of the judiciary, proximity of court presidents to political leaders, legal profession, legal culture, and political environment) affect to what extent court presidents may exploit their powers in practice. Finally, we question the widely held opinion that the West and East Europe view the roles of court presidents differently, and provide a more nuanced picture. More specifically, we argue that powers of court presidents diverge widely both within the West Europe and within the East Europe and hence it is difficult to draw the easy line along the West/East axis on this ground.

(co-authored with Adam Blisa, PhD candidate in Law, Masaryk University)