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Trustee Courts and the Judicialization of International Regimes: The Politics of Majoritarian Activism in the ECHR, the EU, and the WTO, Journal of Law and Courts (2013)


The article focuses on judicial politics in three international regimes. The courts of these regimes are trustee courts, operating in an environment of judicial supremacy with respect to states. An international trustee court meets three criteria: (1) the court is the authoritative interpreter of the regime’s law; (2) the court’s jurisdiction is compulsory; and (3) it is virtually impossible, in practice, for contracting states to reverse the court’s important rulings. After developing a theory of trusteeship, we turn to how judges have used their powers. Although there is variation, each court has engaged in “majoritarian activism,” producing law that reflects standard practices or a high degree of state consensus but that would not have been adopted by states under unanimity decision rules. Majoritarian activism helps judges to develop the law progressively, to mitigate potential legitimacy problems, and to render efforts at curbing the growth of their authority improbable or ineffective.

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