Theorizing Judicial Councils as Fourth Branch Institutions: The Best Defence Against Capture?

Many countries have transferred powers concerning judicial careers and court administration to judicial councils. These independent bodies were supposed to depoliticize the judiciary, maintain a balance between judicial independence and accountability, and ideally increase the quality and efficiency of the judicial branch. However, recent scholarship shows that judicial councils often fail to fulfil these expectations and, instead, become and easy target of various extra and intra-judicial pressures. This paper argues that that independence of judicial councils needs to be institutionally secured both towards the political branches of power, and towards the judiciary itself. It is thus necessary to protect the judicial council against the Scylla of politicization and the Charybdis of corporativism. We argue that redesigning the judicial council as a fourth branch institution has the best potential to secure this balance.