Lecturer: Dr. Yulia Khalikova
Semester hours per week: 2
Credits: 5,0
Language of instruction: English
Dates: April 6,May 4, June 29, July 6, July 13 (always Thursdays)
Time and location: 14.00 – 18.00, Rechtshaus, UG12

In recent years, we have seen a growing trend of political leaders attempting to undermine the independenceof judiciaries through various means, such as court-curbing and court-packing. This is particularly prevalent in authoritarian regimes, where courts are often already under significant pressure from the government. Additionally, some countries have withdrawn from international human rights courts or threatened to withdraw from international treaties.
In light of these challenges, this seminar will explore the role of courts and the strategies employed by judges to maintain their independence in the face of political pressure. How do courts navigate political pressure and maintain their independence in various political regimes? What techniques do judges utilize to resist efforts to curb their independence? In what ways do civil society and international actors play a role in protecting the rule of law and judicial independence? What are the broader effects on human rights and public trust in political institutions when the judiciary is not independent?

We will start by looking at judicial independence in a comparative perspective and examining the differences across political regimes. Through case studies, we will explore how political leaders attempt to constrain courts in both democratic and authoritarian contexts, and whether these strategies are successful. After this, we will explore the dynamics of courts, including how courts can sustain or acquire their independence, even in authoritarian regimes. We will also examine the role of courts in different policy fields, such as trade and investment, human rights, electoral disputes, or administrative lawsuits. Furthermore, we will look at possible motivations of judges, whether as promoters of ideology, societal norms, or their own career. We will delve into the role of lawyers, citizen groups, and civil society in promoting political, economic, and social rights through the legal system, both on a domestic and an international level. As part of the seminar, we will explore the backlash against international courts and the factors contributing to it.

Additionally, we will discuss public attitudes towards the judiciary across political regimes. The seminar concludes by exploring the strategies that such actors as the public, media, or international community could employ to safeguard judicial independence.

The seminar is addressed to students of the Schwerpunktbereichs VI, Law and Economics, but is also open to students from other specializations or departments, especially those interested in comparative judicial politics, international law, human rights law, authoritarian regimes, empirical social science or international relations. I also welcome international or exchange students. To pass the course you are required to prepare a term paper and give an oral presentation. The seminar will consist of five sessions, each held on Thursday, from 14-18.

If you are interested in the seminar, please register by sending an email to my address (yulia.khalikova@uni-hamburg.de) and indicating two topics you are most interested in. Please feel free to email me with any questions or suggestions.

complete seminar announcement (PDF)