Benjamin G. Engst, Caroline Wittig, Christoph Hönnige, Thomas Gschwend
Courts as Veto Players: A Game Theoretic Model

41st ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, University of Mainz, March 11th to March 16th, 2013

It is widely known in political science that individual attitudes play a crucial role in decision making processes. Thus, also in research on judicial politics one can find several studies that have shown personal traits to be highly influential for judges and their behavior. One product of the judicial decision making process are separate opinions. This paper wants to contribute to understanding the occurrence of such separate opinions by focusing on the individual level. It approaches the question: What are the personal characteristics and experiences that lead judges to publicly express their disagreement with the decision? The analysis builds on the assumption that there is a certain norm of consensus, and hints at such an informal rule do exist. According to interviews with judges of the German Federal Constitutional Court the judges strive for unanimity when discussing a case (Kranenpohl 2010). In Germany there are only a few studies on individual traits and judicial decision making (Rottleuthner 1987, Landfried 1994, Hönnige 2006). However, they give reason to believe that there is indeed an effect of personal characteristics on the judges’ decisions. By elucidating which individual traits motivate judges to deliver separate opinions, this paper extends the research on those factors’ impact on separate opinions. And it offers additional understanding of the role of personal characteristics on judicial decision making processes in general.