Accepted paper:

The appointment of top level national judges across West Africa: the usual Anglophone-Francophone divide?


Alexander Stroh (University of Bayreuth)
Jan Budniok (Universit├Ąt Hamburg)

Paper short abstract:

Who gets on top level court benches in Africa? How are professional and socio-political expectations addressed? Do formal institutions or informal politics shape the appointments? Combined legal-institutional and biographic analysis seeks to explore what qualities matter to become a powerful judge.

Paper long abstract:

The role of courts in non-Western polities has received rising academic attention in recent years. Important research included the politicization and independence of courts as well as the judicialization of politics. In sub-Saharan Africa, the independence issue is still predominant. Though the importance of informal activities have been highlighted and the effect of personalities and personal relations has been acknowledged, formal institutional analyses are most advanced. Studies that put the acting people at the centre of research are surprisingly rare. This paper thus proposes a systematic survey and categorization of personal features that determine judicial careers in Africa. We focus on top level judges that are involved in constitutional review. We assume that appointments to these positions are particularly prone to face professional and political interests that require different, maybe even distinct personal characteristics. First, we map the legal requirements across all Anglophone and Francophone ECOWAS member states. Second, we approach informal and political features by analysing the specific biographies, careers and socio-political backgrounds of judges appointed to Benin's and Ghana's highest courts. The sub-regional focus has mainly pragmatic reasons but also represents an interesting variance of historical legacies and political developments with common judicial standards embodied in the Community Court of Justice. The selection of Benin and Ghana allows to focus on the common vs civil law divide under democratic conditions for which individual judge data was made available by original ethnographic work. Methodologically, the paper thus combines approaches from legal studies, social anthropology and comparative politics.

panel P045
Judicial elites in Africa: appointments and careers at superior courts