IFIT / WELCOME TO The Initiative on Apex Court Appointments

The Initiative on Apex Court Appointments

The Initiative on Apex Court Appointments 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 the selection and appointment of judges. Yet, there are no global or regional principles tailored to the unique characteristics of constitutional and apex courts.

IFIT experts, in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Transitions (CT) and a High-Level Advisory Panel, are filling the gap through the Initiative on Apex Court Appointments. The first step of the process will involve the development of a global set of guidelines on the appointment of constitutional and apex court judges. The second step – which will partly overlap with the first – will produce a set of principles tailored to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.


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 jurisdictions, constitutional and apex courts have a combination of distinguishing features that merit a tailored approach for judicial appointments: 1) they constitute the highest court on all constitutional matters in a particular country, 2) they are multi-member courts that typically adjudicate in plenary or in panels, and 3) they deal regularly with politically charged cases that have foundational consequences for democracy 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.

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

The global gap this initiative seeks to fill was first identified through prior work conducted by IFIT and CT with expert input from a group of retired and active constitutional and apex court judges from the SADC region, as well as several distinguished lawyers from IFIT’s brain trust in Zimbabwe. In choosing to fill the gap in principles for apex court appointments at both global and regional levels (with SADC as the initial regional case), the initiative seeks to ensure that the principles: 1) are able to cater to the unique needs and dynamics of different regions; 2) help facilitate a continuous ‘conversation’ between organisations, governments and experts working at international and regional levels; and 3) are ultimately used by states and incorporated into their laws, constitutions and/or national processes.

IFIT experts, in partnership with CT, are 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. King & Spalding is providing pro bono research support.

The work is expected to last up to 18 months and will comprise in-depth research and expert interviews and convenings, both globally and regionally. The final guidelines will be published in early 2023.

To become engaged or involved in the Initiative on Apex Court Appointments, please contact Alejandro Urrutia at [email protected].

High-Level Advisory Panel


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Peace Treaty Initiative