The study represents a first effort to explore societal sources of support for judicial independence under authoritarianism. Contemporary Russia, which is characterized by legal dualism, under which judges pay close attention to the governing law when resolving mundane cases but routinely twist this law beyond recognition in politicized cases, presents an ideal case study. Drawing primarily on two national representative surveys, fielded in 2008 and 2018, the author finds that a majority of Russians believe their judges to be under the control of political officials. Higher education and prior court experience are key predictors of skepticism. The study complicates the relationship among these factors by singling out Russians with legal education. Despite their high levels of knowledge and experience, law graduates are more likely to believe in judicial independence than other university graduates. This suggests the importance of drawing a contrast between those with profound knowledge, such as lawyers, and those with superficial knowledge. Thanks to their educational socialization and deeper understanding of the messy reality of courts, Russian lawyers are more forgiving of the courts’ shortcomings.

You do not currently have access to this content.