Judicial Independence, Constitutions, and Politicians

Hossein Abbasi , Working Paper , July 2014.

Many countries strive to provide independence to their judges and improve judicial quality through incorporating formal protection clauses in their constitution. This constitutional protection, I argue, has not been effective. Using a comprehensive set of indicators of constitutional protection, I find that countries may adopt many components of constitutional protection just to show off their dedication to providing quality services. At the same time, I find that real restrictions on politicians’ power and authority do indeed improve judicial independence and performance. The policy recommendation of this paper is that the reforms in laws-on-paper can be effective only if they restrict the de facto power of politicians; otherwise, politicians will show off their effort by adopting ineffective arrangements.

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