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What do the European Judges Strive for - An Empirical Assessment


Katarina Zajc


Caseload backlogs and the quality of judicial decision-making have attracted worldwide scholarly attention for quite some time. The puzzle lies in explaining the observed persistence of backlogs alongside the quest for improvement in judicial decision-making. This is especially true since many countries, while trying to cope with this challenging issue, continue to enact regulatory provisions to seemingly improve the judiciary. The principal and agent theory suggests that the incentives of the agent (courts) and the principal (citizens) are going to be aligned under certain circumstances. This article analyzes the incentive mechanisms of continental judicial administration in view of traditional principal-agent theory and provides additional insights into the current legal, behavioral and economic discussion. Specifically, the article analyzes whether the current incentives for judges are in line with theoretical predictions. If one takes for granted that the European-continental judicial systems can be treated as bureaucratic systems, then discussion should, apart from judicial salary increases, focus upon interpretation of the observed differences in evaluation of judges in different countries, and upon the main incentives for judges’ good performance and promotion. This article offers a multidisciplinary analysis of current European and most recent Finnish guidelines on effectiveness and quality of judicial administration, and provides a law and economics assessment of proposed guidelines. Moreover, the identified multiplication effect of sticks in judiciary setting offer an additional argument for cautious application or even complete abolishment of such an inducement mechanism.

- By Katarina Zajc and Mitja Kovac

How to Cite: Zajc, K., 2011. What do the European Judges Strive for - An Empirical Assessment. International Journal for Court Administration, 3(2), pp.3–19. DOI:
Published on 15 Apr 2011.
Peer Reviewed


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