KAS New York

Event Reports

Contemporary Challenges to the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

by Andrea Ellen Ostheimer, Monica Castillejos
UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, KAS New York, NYC BAR Association

Contemporary Challenges on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers from a Global Perspective

Separation of powers implied for decades that checks-and-balances in the system exist and that particularly the executive is held accountable. These days, the perspective shifts towards defending the independence of the judicial sector. Restrictions to judicial independence are not only limited to political directions on judicial decision making, bribery, corruption, limited capacities and a lack of economic security for judges. Even where judicial autonomy does exist it does not automatically imply asserting independence by the respective judges. The limitations that we see are often of an internal and/or external character. Threats have become sophisticated and bear a direct impact on the political landscape of the country. Partisan political appointments of judges – especially on the highest echelons have repercussions on the selection and quality of political leadership. They bring ramifications on national as well as on international level.

It is in this context that the New York office of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung supports the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur for the independence of judges and lawyers, Diego Garcia Sayan. Together with the New York City Bar Association, KAS New York organized an international expert conference that analyzed the contemporary challenges to the independence of the judiciary from a Global Perspective and discussed how the existing instruments such as the UN Basic Principles for the independence of the judiciary could be strengthened (Greentree, 9th-11th of February 2019).

At a time when the liberal democratic order and with it the independence of the judicial sector come under threat it becomes pertinent to seek again ways and means that allow us to safeguard achievements, to equip the judiciary with the right mechanisms of defense against these contemporary challenges, and to restore confidence of citizens into the judiciary as into the political and democratic system as such.