Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Comparative Political Sciences and Political Systems of Eastern Europe

Judicial Autonomy under Authoritarian Attack

In January 2021, the Chair of Comparative Political Science and the Political Systems of Eastern Europe launched the new interdisciplinary research project "Judicial Autonomy under Authoritarian Attack" led by Prof. Dr. Silvia von Steinsdorff. The three-year research project is funded by the Einstein Foundation Berlin and Stiftung Mercator and will be carried out by a six-member research team as well as visiting scholars from the academic network of the Department of Social Sciences (ISW) and the Law and Society Institute (LSI) of HU Berlin.

The research project analyses the legal reforms and policy changes of European judicial systems at national level over the last 20 years. It aims to document populist-authoritarian attacks on judicial independence and to identify any patterns in the mechanisms, goals and effects of the respective judicial reforms. Are there any "toxic" judicial, institutional and political constellations which are particularly susceptible to weakening an independent judiciary? Using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods of empirical social research, cross-case data will be collected and comparatively analysed, concerning the institutional set-up of judicial systems in 47 Council of Europe member states from 2000-2020. The comparative analysis is expected to contribute significantly to a better understanding of the "democratic backsliding" in Europe as well as to the development of effective counterstrategies.


Research Team:

  • Prof. Dr. Silvia von Steinsdorff
  • Dr. Gülçin Balamir Coşkun
  • Dr. Ertuğ Tombuş
  • Kaja Kaźmierska
  • Friederike Augustin


Duration: 2020–2024

Funding: Einstein Foundation Berlin, Stiftung Mercator