In practice or just on the paper? Some insights on the internal judicial independence

The relevance of the quality of legal system for economic and social progress has been widely recognized. However, the functioning of the judiciary, and judicial independence in particular, has been repeatedly questioned. Most of the literature does it on grounds of undue external influences. In this study we adopt a different focus and analyze a potential abuse of judicial independence inside the judiciary. The example comes from the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland in the period 2011-2014. Using various statistical tools, we check whether assigning judges to panels is consistent with the alphabetical rule that should govern judges’ appointment to cases. Our findings show that the rule was fully obeyed only rarely. We test several potential explanations that may account for that. The collected evidence suggests that the disruptions to the alphabetical order were not driven by any single factor.