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Photo:Budapest: Hungarian Parliament“, by Jorge Franganillo licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original.

Curos, Peter. “Attack or reform: Systemic interventions in the judiciary in Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.” Oñati Socio-legal Series (2023).


Is it possible to distinguish whether a government is willing to eliminate its accountability or aims for public trust or efficacy growth? Moreover, which elements in the government’s actions differentiate valid criticism from an attack on the independence of the judiciary? This paper proposes an original approach toward recognizing an attack on the judiciary. While previous approaches focused on the reformer’s motivation, adherence to international standards, or the requirement of the “tribunal established by the law,” this approach is looking for a kernel of judicial independence and finds it in sufficient conditions for a judge’s free and impartial decision. In the paper, changes in Hungary and Poland will be compared to the Slovak judicial reform since 2020. While after three decades after the fall of state socialism, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia face similar problems of backsliding of the rule of law and emerging populism, different motivations, interpretations, and outcomes of the judicial reforms can be seen in Slovakia.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.