Agenda Control and Coalition Bargaining in the European Court of Human Rights

PluriCourts Lunch Seminar with Mikael Holmgren.

A central issue in contemporary theories of judicial politics concerns the organization intracourt bargaining. Some scholars argue that the median justice exercises the most influence over court policy, while others focus on the median justice of the majority coalition, and others yet on the majority opinion writer. By contrast, we argue that real judicial decision-making often occurs in the shadow of hierarchy. Higher courts in particular typically feature one or more "chief justices" who may have both incentive and opportunity to impose their own preferences on the other justices through formal authority.

To buttress this conjecture, we examine an original dataset with detailed information on all justices and judgments in the European Court of Human Rights between 1959 and 2016. Using a difference-in-differences design, we show that justices generally obtain judgment outcomes closer to their own ideal-points when they occupy a presidential cabinet than when they are part of the rank-and-file. In addition to shedding new light on the internal operations of one of the world's most powerful international courts, our findings also have implications for advancing theories of judicial bargaining more broadly.


PluriCourts Lunch Seminars are a forum for pluridisciplinary discussion of core issues relating to international courts and tribunals. PluriCourts scholars or invited speakers present new and ongoing research or comment on current questions. The seminars are open to everyone.

Tags: Human Rights
Published July 4, 2019 2:40 PM - Last modified Nov. 29, 2019 6:46 AM