The evolving international judiciary

Karen J. Alter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This article explains the rapid proliferation in international courts first in the postWorld War II and then the postCold War eras. It examines the larger international judicial complex, showing how developments in one region and domain affect developments in similar and distant regimes. Situating individual developments into their larger context, and showing how change occurs incrementally and slowly over time, allows one to see developments in economic, human rights, and war crimes systems as part of a longer-term evolutionary process of the creation of international judicial authority. Evolution is not the same as teleology; we see that some international courts develop and change, whereas others stay in their same role and with the same low level of activity for long periods of time. The evolutionary approach of this article suggests that building judicial authority evolves through practice and takes time and that the overall international judicial context and developments in parallel institutions shape the development of individual international courts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-415
Number of pages29
JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
StatePublished - 2011


  • International courts
  • international law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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