Judicial bodies as the third branch of political systems play an increasingly important role in contemporary politics in every part of the world and in the concepts of comparative politics (Ginsburg 2003; Sadurski 2002; Tate/Vallinder 1995). In spite of this importance, research about Constitutional Courts and Judicial Politics in Western and Eastern Europe is under-developed compared to the US where one finds very regular and lively debates. Whittington, Kelemen, Caldeira (2008: 10) state:: “…the subfield of comparative politics largely ignored law and politics, while the subfield of law and politics largely ignored law and courts outside the US”. This statement is confirmed by a short look at the number of articles being published on courts: While we find 56 articles in the years between 1995 and 2005 in the AJPS and APSR, at the same time there have been only 10 articles in West European Politics and the European Journal of Political Research.
European researchers being interested in the field of Courts and Judicial Politics has found so far neither at the national nor at the European level appropriate working structures to convene, meet and exchange ideas. They are isolated in their work and usually only meet at international conferences at APSA, at IPSA or at the Law and Society Association.
In reaction to this situation, the initiative to ask for the creation of an ECPR standing group has been taken by a group of scholars. The aim of the group is to overcome the limits described above by creating a network of scholars being interested in the field of Law & Politics and to promote comparative and cross-national research on this topic by the exchange of ideas, discussion of current issues and the facilitation of joint research. We sincerely hope the group will be helpful in stimulating the judicial politics field regarding issues, theories, methods and data. In detail, the group has the following aims:

  • to facilitate the exchange of ideas and flow of information
  • to foster collaborative work
  • to provide a catalyst for joint research proposals
  • to initiate new research agendas
  • to promote and consolidate judicial politics as a distinct area of the disciplin

To achieve this, four basic types of activities are planned:

  • An up-to-date website
    A website run by the group will contain relevant information about the group and its activities, a membership list, news, discussion forums, the newsletters, databases and the mailing list
  • Provision of a newsletter
    A newsletter will be provided with a frequency of two times a year. It will firstly contain an information section with news about upcoming conferences, job offers, announcements and datasets. Secondly, a literature section giving information about new publications of group members and book reviews and thirdly a regular update about relevant developments in the member states.
  • Endorsement of workshops at ECPR conferences
    The group will offer at least one section at the ECPR General Conference and apply for workshops at the Joint Sessions regularly. This will allow the members to keep in contact and facilitate cooperation regarding joint research proposals. In the long run it enables the group to develop and push research strategies.
  • Mailing list
    A mailing list can be used to distribute important information
  • Long-term activities
    After the consolidation of the group further activities might be initiated such as the organisation of specific conferences, summer schools or editing a peer-reviewed journal for the field of Courts and Judicial Politics.

Each of these activities will need the involvement of all the available good will to work on the long run. Neither the conveners nor the members of the steering committee alone will be able to build a lively academic community about Law & Courts without scholars volunteering to take care of some of the activities listed above.
Among them, organizing section and workshop for the ECPR general conference and joint sessions is crucial for our field. In this perspective we are glad that a section was accepted  at the ECPR general conference in Reyjavick in 2011 and that enough papers have been proposed. This is a clear signal that the ECPR and the academic community support the building of a strong European research network about judicial politics.

We sincerely hope the standing group, the newsletter and the section will contribute to stimulate and foster a fruitful and collaborative research dynamics in the Law & Courts field in Europe.