What are the positions of highest courts towards political reform? Answering this question requires to place courts in a common space with political actors. Americanists rely on individual votes to estimate justices’ positions. Comparativists face challenges: First, votes are not published everywhere. Second, positions from judicial votes map into a legal but not a policy space. Addressing both challenges we show how to estimate positions of highest courts using features of decisions available across countries. Our strategy is to leverage the position political actors take when submitting amici briefs to judicial decisions. We apply our strategy to briefs and decisions published by the German Federal Constitutional Court between 1991 to 2009. Estimated ideal points suggest that justices are not mere agents of their partisan nominators. We further show how the distance between a government and the court explains why courts hold hearings, extending established scholarship where alternative approaches fail.
Submitted for Review.