Law clerks as an instrument of court–government accommodation under autocracy: the case of the Russian Constitutional Court
There is a normative expectation that constitutionalism does not co-exist well with autocracy. How do constitutional courts then uphold their integrity under authoritarianism? In this paper, I answer this question by taking the case of the Russian Constitutional Court (RCC) and showing how court–government accommodation in the new post-third wave autocracies can be achieved by limiting the amount of information the court receives from its secretariat. It follows from a detailed analysis of case selection in the RCC that the secretariat can function as an “insulator,” protecting the Court from political and reputational risks. The two features that make this possible are its invisibility to the judges and the clerks’ specific professional culture. The research is informed by an extensive series of in-depth interviews in the RCC, and benefits from the relocation of the RCC to St. Petersburg in 2008.