Judges of superior courts in Africa are part of the national elites and surprisingly underexplored across disciplines despite of their important political and societal role. This panel explores appointments, careers and the consequences of the socio-political composition of superior court benches.
Surprisingly, constitutional review bodies and other apex courts beyond the U.S. Supreme Court attracted very little scholarly attention from the social sciences for a long time. After all, constitutional and supreme courts have become important political players around the world and, of course, this "rise of world constitutionalism" (Ackerman) has not excluded Africa. Thus, scholarly production about African cases is increasing, but relatively slowly. Kanté and Ngenge took legal-institutional perspectives. Others, including Ellett, Fall, Gloppen, Roux, and VonDoepp, analysed the socio-political relations in general. Yet, individual African judges have rarely been studied despite Widner's seminal work on Tanzania's former Chief Justice Nyalali.
Though the institutional set-up varies across Africa, most apex courts share the legal authority to review laws and other political acts or to mediate in politics. This turns superior court judges into key socio-political actors. So, the panel seeks to promote the emerging debate on judicial elites in Africa (e.g. Dezalay 2015) by connecting to work on other regions (e.g. Epstein/Segal 2005, Malleson/Russell 2006) without neglecting specific conditions on the continent. Therefore, interdisciplinary exchange among legal scholars, social anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists shall be further intensified.