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The Politics of International Judicial Appointments: Evidence from the European Court of Human Rights

  • Erik Voeten (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 October 2007

Theories of government–international court relations assume that judges share an interest in expanding the reach of their court. Yet, casual observation suggests that international judges vary in their activist orientations and that governments selectively appoint judges. This article explores a new data set of dissents in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to estimate the ideal points of judges. The results show that activism-restraint is indeed the main dimension of contestation among judges. Variation in judicial activism cannot be accounted for by different legal cultures of judges or by levels of domestic human rights observance in the judges' countries of origins. Instead, aspiring European Union (EU) members and governments more favorably disposed toward European integration appoint more activist judges. These results imply that politics matters in the appointment of international judges and that EU expansion was an important driving force behind the ECHR's increased activism. More generally, the analysis suggests that agent selection is an important and understudied tool for influencing international organizations.Earlier versions of this article were presented at seminars at the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, George Washington, the University of Wisconsin, William and Mary, Princeton, and Georgetown as well as the 2006 Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association. I much appreciate comments and suggestions from the participants in those seminars, two anonymous referees, Karen Alter, Freek Bruinsma, Rachel Cichowski, Allison Danner, Darren Hawkins, Larry Helfer, Christopher Joyner, Charles Lipson, Emily Meierding, Andrew Moravcsik, Kimberly Morgan, Eric Posner, Mike Tierney, and Andreas von Staden. I thank Jamie Druckman, Andrew Roberts, and Paul Warwick for making data on cabinet composition available.

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International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
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