IFIT / WELCOME TO The Initiative on Apex Court Appointments

The Initiative on Apex Court Appointments

The Initiative on Apex Court Appointments is a unique rule of law project that will fill the current gap in guiding principles – both globally and regionally – in the selection and appointment of constitutional and apex court judges.

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There is a multitude of useful regional and international principles and guidelines on judicial independence and the selection and appointment of judges. Yet, there are no global or regional principles tailored to the unique characteristics of constitutional and apex courts.

The Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT), in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Transitions and a High-Level Advisory Panel, are filling the gap through the Initiative on Apex Court Appointments. The first phase of the project involved multidisciplinary research, interviews and the development of an indicative set of global guidelines on the appointment of constitutional and apex court judges. The second phase will focus on promotion and uptake of the guidelines once they are finalised and officially launched in September 2024.


An apex court is the highest court on constitutional matters in a given country. It may be a supreme court, a constitutional court, or something else – depending on the legal system.

Across very diverse jurisdictions, apex courts have a combination of distinguishing features that merit a tailored approach for judicial appointments. For example: 1) they constitute the highest court on all constitutional matters in a particular country, 2) they are multi-member courts that adjudicate in plenary or in panels, and 3) they deal regularly with politically charged cases that have foundational consequences for democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the country. A number of national jurisdictions reflect some of these features in their appointment criteria and procedures on apex court appointments.

Existing principles, although valuable, have two limitations: 1) they tend to focus overwhelmingly on rules of procedural fairness and questions of individual merit, largely omitting criteria of character; and 2) they are generic in application and thus do not take account of the special considerations that pertain to the appointment of judges to apex courts.

The global gap this initiative seeks to fill was first identified through prior work conducted in 2021 by IFIT with expert input from a group of retired and active apex court judges from the southern African region, as well as several distinguished lawyers from IFIT’s brain trust in Zimbabwe. The initiative’s High-Level Advisory Panel, formed thereafter, includes several distinguished judges and jurists from the region. The first public presentation of the draft global guidelines took place at a regional convening in Angola in the fall of 2023. IFIT then organised and hosted a seminal high-level regional roundtable at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa in May 2024.

IFIT experts, in partnership with CT, have been facilitating the development of the principles with the support of a High-Level Advisory Panel composed of distinguished judges and jurists from a wide spectrum of legal systems. Yale Law School and the law firm King & Spalding LLP have provided pro bono research support. The Effective Institutions Project has provided financial support.

The final version of the global guidelines will be published on September 1, 2024. Thereafter the focus will be on global and regional promotion, implementation and uptake.

To learn more or offer your support for the Initiative on Apex Court Appointments, please contact Alejandro Urrutia at [email protected].