European Journal of Law and Economics

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 453–481 | Cite as

Domestic judicial defiance and the authority of international legal regimes



Tensions and occasional overt defiance of international courts suggest that compliance with international regimes is not a self-evident choice for domestic judges. I develop a formal theory of domestic judicial defiance in which domestic and supranational judges vie for jurisprudential authority in a non-hierarchical setting. The model emphasises the role of domestic non-compliance costs and power asymmetries in determining the conduct of domestic and international judges. I argue that the EU represents a special case of a particularly effective international regime. Weak domestic courts have little to gain from an escalated conflict with the European court of Justice. But even domestic judicial superpowers like the German Federal Constitutional Court have strong incentives to seek mutual accommodation with European judges. The analysis also yields new insights into concepts, such as “judicial dialogue” and “constitutional pluralism” that have featured prominently in the legal literature, and suggests new hypotheses for empirical research.


International law Domestic courts Defiance Judicial behaviour Non-hierarchical setting 

JEL Classification

K40 C72 C73 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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