The mutual dependence between courts and their compliance constituencies is a fundamental feature of judicial power. Actors whose rights and interests are reinforced by court decisions may use these as legal ammunitions while contributing to ensuring that court decisions are effectively implemented. We argue that judgments that contain dissenting opinions are less powerful in this regard, compared with unanimous decisions. The reason is that dissent reduces the perceived legal authority of the judgment. Using data from the international human rights judiciaries in Europe and the Americas, we provide evidence of a negative relationship between judicial dissent and compliance. Our findings have important implications for questions relating to the institutional design of courts, for courts’ ability to manage compliance problems, and for understanding the conditions for effective international judicial protection of human rights.
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