The Evolving International Judiciary

Posted: 10 Jan 2012

See all articles by Karen J. Alter

Karen J. Alter

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science; University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law - iCourts Center of Excellence

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2011


This article explains the rapid proliferation in international courts first in the post-World War II and then the post-Cold War eras. It examines the larger international judicial complex, showing how developments in one region and domain affect developments in similar and distant regimes. Situating individual developments into their larger context, and showing how change occurs incrementally and slowly over time, allows one to see developments in economic, human rights, and war crimes systems as part of a longer-term evolutionary process of the creation of international judicial authority. Evolution is not the same as teleology; we see that some international courts develop and change, whereas others stay in their same role and with the same low level of activity for long periods of time. The evolutionary approach of this article suggests that building judicial authority evolves through practice and takes time and that the overall international judicial context and developments in parallel institutions shape the development of individual international courts.

Suggested Citation

Alter, Karen J., The Evolving International Judiciary (December 2011). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 7, pp. 387-415, 2011. Available at SSRN: or

Karen J. Alter (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

601 University Place
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Law - iCourts Center of Excellence ( email )

Karen Blixens Plads 16
Copenhagen, DK-2300

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