Judges Assessing the Independence of Judges

In the years 2020-2022, I work together with my colleagues Xavier Groussot and Lotta Maunsbach with the project Judges Assessing the Independence of Judges. Historical Foundations and Practical Procedures in Facing the Threats against the Rule of Law in Europe. The project runs at the Faculty of Law, Lund University, Sweden, and is financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.

Members of the research group are professor Xavier Groussot (EU law), associate professor Martin Sunnqvist (legal history) and assistant professor Lotta Maunsbach (procedural law).

Background to the project: Impartial and independent courts are cornerstones of the success of the European project. The recent renaissance of ‘illiberal states’, to use the words of Viktor Orbán in 2014, jeopardizes the application of the rule of law and risk destroying the foundations of the EU legal order. During 2018, the ECJ has developed two new lines of case law: On the one hand, the ECJ has made itself competent to rule on matters regarding the independence of the judiciary, which used to be part of the pure internal competence of the Member States. On the other hand, the ECJ has empowered national courts to realize a ‘rule of law’ check of other Member States, by assessing the independence and impartiality of the issuing judicial authorities in the context of the arrest warrant – a new task for courts of first instance. 

Aim of the project: We aim at analyzing this recent evolution using a European, historical and procedural perspective. We combine a historic analysis of the development of the rule of law and similar but not identical concepts Rechtsstaat and état de droit with an analysis of the roles of the EU institutions and the procedural aspects of of a ‘fair trial’ and the mutual trust (and distrust) between courts and judiciaries in different member states. This will be a fruitful way of getting a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in the protection of the independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Europe.

In a two-day online conference 28-29 September 2021, we wish to discuss historical and procedural aspects relevant to our project. How do we define the ‘rule of law’ and the ‘Rechtsstaat’ that we are discussing? What is the origin of these concepts? What approaches can courts use in dealing procedurally with a rule of law crisis in another country?

Om Martin Sunnqvist

Docent i rättshistoria
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