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Research project

RECONCOURT - Resistance and resilience of constitutional courts against autocratisation

The project, as part of a larger research on resistance and resilience against autocratisation, will focus on one crucial part of the institutional aspect of resistance and resilience that of constitutional courts as the ultimate authoritative interpreters of constitutions. The primary focus of this interdisciplinary research will be the regimes that have undergone or are currently undergoing autocratisation by examining the impact of democracy, rule of law on the courts’ resilience potential.

This project has received funding via the EUI Widening Programme call 2024. The EUI Widening Europe Programme initiative, backed by contributions from the European Union and EUI Contracting States, is designed to strengthen internationalisation, competitiveness, and quality in research in Widening countries, and thus foster a more cohesive European Higher Education and Research area.

Anti-democratic turns in political regimes undoubtedly affect constitutional courts (CCs), including supreme courts in non-centralised systems of judicial review, which operate within them. CCs, as the ultimate authoritative interpreters of the constitution, may be viewed as prime guardians against autocratisation, but their resilience vis-à-vis non-democratic challengers remains understudied. Moreover, in the (limited) studies to date, the dominant strategic narrative is that CCs’ resilience stems from a combination of factors outside their control and their anticipation of other political actors’ decisions vis-à-vis particular decisions. 

This research project aims to scrutinise and develop existing scholarship on judicial resilience, focusing particularly on CCs in regimes that are currently undergoing autocratisation or CCs that have distinct historical experiences with such processes. The project will examine the interplay among selected exogenous factors, such as the societal discourses about CCs and key political concepts, such as democracy and the rule of law, and their impact on the CCs’ resilience potential.

The project will also focus on the endogenous factors that constrain or enable CCs’ resilience, including self-perceptions of judges and other ‘court insiders’; the path dependencies of the particular CCs; alliances between CC judges internationally or CC and general court judges; and alliances between CCs and other stakeholders (including academics, civil society, international organisations).

The research is interested in negative cases as well, in which CCs' resilience turned out to be wanting and the courts became more or less complicit in the de-democratisation process, as has happened in Hungary since 2010, and in Poland between 2015 and 2023.  

In the framework of the RECONCOURT project two panels will be organised in the Annual Conference of the International Constitutional Law Society in Madrid on 8-10 July, 2024. 

The project team works in close cooperation with the TRIIAL 2 – TRust, Independence, Impartiality and Accountability of Legal professionals under the EU Charter project.  

The team

Group members

External Partners

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