We argue that courts may increase their autonomy and effectiveness by persuading governmental actors, who have powers over the societal impact of judicial decisions, of the legal quality of their rulings. This view combines a strategic perspective on judicial decision making with a conception of persuasion that allows courts to widen their zone of discretion. We support our argument with data from the European Union, where we find that the Court of Justice improves its legal justifications—by embedding its decisions in case law—when it faces a more adverse political environment. Our findings suggest both that the limits of judicial independence are set largely by political preferences, and that legal rhetoric may be an opportunity for courts to extend their room for maneuver. They also indicate that political audiences may indirectly influence the development of case law, by triggering courts to engage in precedent.