The aim of the project “The Rise of Judicial Self-Government: Changing the Architecture of Separation of Powers without an Architect” (hereinafter “JUDI-ARCH”) was to understand the process of empowerment (and, more recently, disempowerment) of judges in judicial governance and to analyse its impact on domestic and supranational judiciaries as well as on societies in general.

While the unprecedented rise of the decision-making power of courts has stirred vibrant and comprehensive academic discussion, the rise (and fall) of JSG and its resulting effects remain under-researched, as the traditional descriptive and normative scholarship is not able to capture them.

JUDI-ARCH filled this gap and addressed the implications of this phenomenon for the “new” as well as “old” EU member states. JUDI-ARCH’s central research question was: how has the rise of JSG affected the functioning of judiciaries in Europe and what implications has it for the concept of separation of powers?

Theoretical Model of JUDI-ARCH: JI = judicial independence, JA = judicial accountability, Tr = transparency, Leg = Legitimacy, Conf = Confidence, SoP = separation of powers, ENCJ = European Network of Councils for the Judiciary, CCJE = Consultative Council of European Judges


The first was to provide a richer understanding of judicial self-governance in Europe. The JUDI-ARCH team went beyond the usually examined institution of the judicial council and explored a higher number of the main JSG actors and practices, providing a complex understanding of the phenomenon of JSG. The second aim was to find out what the actors involved in the daily business of judicial (self-)governance – judges, politicians and lawyers across Europe – think about the JSG institutions, their strengths and weaknesses, and ways to improve them. The third aim was to explore the competences held by judges from the institutional perspective, comparing the share of judges involved in judicial governance across individual models (ministerial, judicial councils, court service etc.), in order to enable empirical measurements of causal relationships between the outcomes of judicial decision-making (judicial independence, accountability, legitimacy, transparency, and confidence in courts) and the participation of judges in the regulation and governance of the field. Finally, the fourth aim was to account for how JSG affected the separation of power.


WP1: Conceptual understanding of JSG and its impact on a constitutional system

The key objective is to obtain insights regarding the concept of JSG and its impact on national as well as supranational constitutional systems. The Challenge is to acquire novel conceptual insights regarding the JSG and separation of powers and an in-depth understanding of each model of JSG.

WP2: Socio-legal study of perceptions of changes brought by the JSG

Objectives: The key objective is to understand how different actors perceive the effects of JSG. More specifically, we will inquire what was the perceived effect of JSG on confidence in, and the independence, accountability, transparency and legitimacy (“CIATL”) of courts and judges. The challenge is to identify multiple – and at times contradictory – grounds for CIATL of courts and judges, show how they make sense together, what the implications of contradictions are, what social forces can undermine CIATL of courts and judges, and why social perceptions of CIATL take on different forms in different places or times. Moreover, conducting interviews with elites (having questions from WP1) is a challenge in itself.

WP3: Quantitative study of changes brought about by the JSG

Objectives: To carry out a longitudinal quantitative assessment of the effects of introducing JSG on confidence in, the independence, accountability, and transparency (hereinafter “CIAT”) of courts and judges. The challenge is to analyse the vast amount of primary data on CIAT on different mechanisms in each country in various languages, and show how they make sense together and what the implications of contradictions are.

WP4: Development of the new theory of separation of powers

Objectives: WP4 will (1) provide other WPs with theoretical/conceptual inputs in formulating research questions, hypotheses, and indicators, (2) collect and interpret the empirical outputs of other WPs in order to formulate and contextualise the theoretical interpretations, and (3) formulate the theoretical outcomes of the project – mainly a new theory of separation of powers resulting from the rise of separation of powers which will integrate legal, societal and political impacts of JSG on separation of powers. The challenge is to incorporate – often contradictory – insights from conceptual, qualitative and quantitative analysis into a coherent theory of the separation of powers.

The biggest challenges identified by the interviewees in the six jurisdictions, a concept map
The biggest challenges identified by the interviewees in the six jurisdictions, a frequency word cloud

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