The Politics of International Judicial Appointments

18 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2008

See all articles by Erik Voeten

Erik Voeten

Georgetown University - Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS)

Date Written: September 10, 2008


How, if at all, do governments influence the choices that international judges make? This question has justly received ample attention in the literature. Unlike in the study of U.S. judicial politics, however, relatively few of these scholarly efforts have been devoted to the question of how governments use the appointment process to shape the international judiciary. This article evaluates what we know about the politics of international judicial appointments and identifies some areas for future research. International judges are much more diverse in their backgrounds and preferences than is commonly assumed. To some, the prototypical international judge is a committed professional with exceptional moral standards who cares deeply about the advancement of international law and is largely unresponsive to material incentives or political pressures. To others, international judges are more like diplomats who use legal reasoning as a mere guise for making decisions that fit the national interests of the governments that appointed them. Empirical research appears to show that the international judiciary contains examples of both these ideal types as well as many others. More interestingly, this research suggests that this variation can be understood reasonably well by examining the motivations of governments and the institutional details of the appointment process.

Keywords: judicial behavior, international courts

Suggested Citation

Voeten, Erik, The Politics of International Judicial Appointments (September 10, 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Erik Voeten (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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