From Transmission Belts to (Semi)Autonomous Actors – Chief Justices in Slovakia

Thhis paper analyses various roles of the Chief Justices in Slovakia after the split of Czechoslovakia. It explores whether Slovak Chief Justices still operate as “transmission belts” of the Slovak ruling political elites, like in the communist era, and how much influence they have over careers of rank-and-file judges. It shows that Chief Justices in semi-institutionalized democracies have a dual role – they communicate with external political actors and, at the same time, they have significant internal powers over the rank-and-file judges. More specifically, the paper tries to determine the scope of maneuver of Slovak court presidents and explores the links between selection and dismissals of court presidents and electoral cycles. Subsequently, it analyzes the influence of court presidents on selection, promotion and disciplining of judges. Finally, the paper discusses the role of Chief Justice and court presidents as strategic actors in comparative perspective.