ECPR Joint Sessions
University of Nottingham, Nottingham
25 - 30 April 2017

Intra-Party Judicial Decision-Making and Conflict Resolution: A Political Approach

Conflict Resolution
Political Parties
Party Members
Felix-Christopher von Nostitz
Université catholique de Lille – ESPOL
Felix-Christopher von Nostitz
Université catholique de Lille – ESPOL
Nicole Bolleyer
University of Exeter
Nils-Christian Bormann
University of Exeter

An examination of independent intra-party tribunals can offer major insights into how parties manage conflict to maximise intra-party cohesion. Despite the limited possibilities for judges to reject cases, they do so on a regular basis. Hence, the question emerges whether rejections are truly due to formal reasons or if judges are exposed to political pressures, undermining their neutrality and effectiveness as a conflict resolution mechanism. Therefore, we offer a political account of whether and why tribunals accept or refuse to handle cases in the first place. Starting from the three party goals of policy, office and votes (Müller and Strøm, 1999) we theorize how political factors shape whether party tribunals are willing to make decisions on cases or not. We test our hypotheses using a unique data set covering 1088 tribunal decisions in six German parties since the introduction of compulsory party tribunals in the 1967 Party Law. We use a mixed-effects probit model with random intercepts for each party to estimate the likelihood of case acceptance. Our analysis finds that political factors related to office, policy and vote aspirations affected decision-making at the acceptance stage of intra-party tribunals. For instance, we find that judges in ideologically united parties are less likely to accept cases because they feel less pressured to engage with conflict and can more easily ignore it, while they are more likely to accept a case after the party has lost government, as a move to the opposition is often linked with party renewal and reconnecting with its members. Our findings partly challenge the political neutrality of the court and raise questions as to what extent it is possible to effectively transplant court structures into an organisational setting. Hence, effective conflict resolution leading to intra-party cohesion plays a critical role in achieving policy, office and vote goals.
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