Judiciary’s Achilles Heel: Executive Control Via Appointment Power

Sultan Mehmood (Paris Dauphine PSL University)

Abstract: To what extent does the presidential appointment of judges impact judicial decision making? We document a substantial increase in judicial independence as a result of a 2010 judicial selection reform in Pakistan which changed the selection procedure of the judges from the presidential appointment of the judges to the selection of judges by a judicial commission (consisting of peer judges). Using mandatory retirement age as an instrument for new appointments, we estimate the causal effect of the change in appointment procedure on judicial independence. We present evidence against key threats to identification. Analysis of the contents of the cases reveal that better enforcement of laws regulating land disputes with government agencies is a key mechanism driving these results. We find evidence consistent with the selection mechanism where the judges appointed by the judicial commission are significantly less likely to be politically active prior to their appointments compared to the judges appointed by the president. We also find that the regions where more judges are appointed by the judicial commission have higher investments in the housing industry. This is consistent with the anecdotal accounts that suggest that the new selection reform lowered the risk of land expropriation, particularly in the housing sector.