(Non)renewable Terms and Judicial Independence in the European Court of Human Rights
Article by Øyvind Stiansen published in the Journal of Politics
Do renewable terms compromise judicial independence? Scholars of various courts have demonstrated relationships between judges’ voting patterns and the interests of actors responsible for their (re)appointment. However, it is typically unclear whether such relationships are (at least partially) explained by judges acting strategically to achieve reappointment or if they are (fully) attributable to selection effects. I exploit a 2010 reform of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to estimate the causal effect of removing reappointment opportunities on judges’ independence. The ECtHR bench consists of one judge from each member state, and judges sit ex officio on cases involving their nominating state. Prior to 2010, terms were renewable. Judges seeking reappointment were therefore incentivized to favor their nominating states. In 2010, the terms were made nonrenewable, with immediate effect for judges on the court. I show that removing reappointment opportunities significantly reduced judges’ tendency to favor their nominating states.