What are interdependent courts?

Courts need resources from the external environment to survive, and in turn they contribute their own resource–the resolution of disputes through adjudication–to society.

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“Interdependence is the reason why nothing comes out quite the way one wants it to.” —  Jeffrey Pfeffer and Gerald Salancik

It is a common refrain that the judiciary should be independent: judicial decisions should be fair, impartial, and not influenced by other branches of government or powerful interests.  But even courts that are independent in their legal decision making are not fully free from the influences of their environment.  Courts are resource-dependent: they rely on legislatures for funding, staffing, and jurisdictional authority.  They rely on attorneys for professional support and expertise.  They rely on prosecutors and the public to produce a steady stream of cases for the courts to resolve.  And they rely on all these groups for their most important resource: legitimacy.

In this sense, courts are more accurately described as interdependent.  They need resources from the external environment (organizations and people outside the court system) to survive, and in turn they contribute their own resource–the resolution of disputes through adjudication–to society.

This fact is both obvious and underappreciated.  Interdependence affects court structure, administration, organization, strategy, behavior, and external relationships.  The primary purpose of this blog is to highlight instances of court interdependence worldwide.  And we will try to test out some theories and refine our conclusions as we go along.

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