Why are independent courts rarely found in emerging democracies? This book moves beyond familiar obstacles, such as an inhospitable legal legacy and formal institutions that expose judges to political pressure. It proposes a strategic pressure theory, which claims that in emerging democracies, political competition eggs on rather than restrains power-hungry politicians. Incumbents who are losing their grip on power try to use the courts to hang on, which leads to the politicization of justice. The analysis uses four original datasets, containing 1,000 decisions by Russian and Ukrainian lower courts from 1998 to 2004. The main finding is that justice is politicized in both countries, but in the more competitive regime (Ukraine) incumbents leaned more forcefully on the courts and obtained more favorable rulings.
Maria Popova is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at McGill University. She is the winner of the 2007 Edward S. Corwin Award from the American Political Science Association for best dissertation in the field of public law and the 2006 Sumner Dissertation Prize in the Department of Government at Harvard University. Her writings have been published in Comparative Political Studies, Demokratizatsiya, Europe-Asia Studies, the Journal of East European Law and Konstitutsionnoe Pravo: Vostochnoevropeiskoe Obozrenie.
1. What is judicial independence?; 2. Judges and politicians: theories about the origins of judicial independence; 3. What can a focused comparison of Russia and Ukraine tell us about the origins of independent court; 4. The role of Ukrainian and Russian courts in the provision of free and fair elections: judicial independence from politicians during the 2002 Rada and the 2003 Duma campaigns; 5. The role of Ukrainian and Russian courts in the provision of press freedom: judicial independence in defamation lawsuits, 1998-2003; 6. Politicians' capacity to pressure the courts; 7. Politicians' willingness to pressure the courts, 1998-2004 and beyond.