Get access

Mapping Constitutionally Safeguarded Judicial Independence—A Global Survey


  • The results presented in this article are the outcome of a substantial effort in coding constitutions. An encompassing project was originally started by Elkins et al. (2009). Regarding the coding of the variables presented here, most of the coding was done by a team of research assistants: Marc Berendsen, Dante Castillo, Nora El Bialy, Nora Heil, Jens Merte, and Max Thesing. The team was coordinated by Jerg Gutmann, who also estimated the bivariate correlations. Their help is gratefully acknowledged. The article was presented at a workshop on Constitutional Design at the Law School of the University of Chicago. Many participants helped to improve the article; in particular, Lee Epstein, Tom Ginsburg, David Law, and Barry Weingast.


De jure judicial independence (JI) is the single most important predictor of de facto JI. In this article, we describe under what conditions countries are likely to include JI in their constitutions. We describe and analyze both their original choice in this regard as well as change over time using a newly constructed data set comprised of 100 countries and covering the years between 1950 and 2005. Particularly robust findings are that former British colonies are less likely to address JI explicitly, as are states in the Caribbean. Electoral rules appear to matter and so does the form of government. A higher percentage of urban dwellers reduces the likelihood of mentioning JI in the constitution. Finally, we show that the likelihood that a constitution is altered with regard to JI is quite small: after a period of more than 50 years, 85 percent of all constitutions have remained unchanged in this regard.