Transparency in the Era of Populist Politics: What role for the Judicial Branch?

For several decades, transparency has been at the heart of efforts toward open and accountable governing. In the current era of populist politics, by contrast, there is a dominance of contestation of expertise, politicisation of courts and ‘post-factual’ public discourse. The debates on Brexit are one illustration, but many other European countries are part of the same trend. ‘Traditional’ transparency, such as freedom of information, is either irrelevant in how populists garner public support or, as some have argued, transparency itself has undergone an ‘ideological drift’ and no longer adequately serves progressive aims. Judges have become a target too leading to some unprecedented pushbacks, such as the first ever pan-European protest including judges from across Europe protesting against the judicial reform in Poland. This paper focuses on what role the judiciary may play in this context in the courtroom and beyond by looking at several cases of countries in the European Union.