How Hungarian Political Elites Manipulated the Judiciary to Consolidate Power

July 9, 2021
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by Leo Schlueter and Jorge Gomez • 3 min read

In two previous articles, First Liberty’s legal experts discussed how court-packing in Venezuela and Argentina led to authoritarian rule and the unfortunate loss of liberty for millions of people.

But if the lessons of these two countries weren’t enough to warn Americans about the dangers of a politicized judiciary, our team has uncovered another country where court-packing went wrong.

In 2011, the governing majority in Hungary’s national legislature packed the Hungarian Constitutional Court (HCC), increasing the size of the country’s highest court from eleven (11) members to fifteen (15). What’s more, they rigged the rules so that the party in power could ram through judges at will, without having to work out compromise with the opposition, minority party.

For people of faith concerned about rising threat of tyranny here in the U.S., the power-grab in Hungary is a cause for alarm because it shares shocking similarities to the radical Left’s plan to stage a Supreme Coup of the entire judiciary—a plot that will help them stack the deck and change the law to ensure their preferred political party can stay in power.

Below is a “Roadmap to Tyranny”—a quick overview of how proponents of court-packing took a page straight from Hungary’s authoritarian playbook and are putting it into practice here in America:

Road To Tyranny Roadmap

One thing is evident and undeniable from Hungary’s case study: The country has been in a state of “democratic backsliding” for the past decade. Ever since Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party took control in 2010, the rule of law, constitutional checks on authority and the independence of the judiciary have been under constant assault.

But here’s the biggest takeaway: Hungary’s road to tyranny started when one party took the disastrous first step of manipulating its judicial system.

Fidesz political elites needed to ensure that nothing could get in their way—and that meant contorting the system of law and ousting “unfriendly” judges who’d challenge their full consolidation of power.

Overthrowing the judiciary is the tool of tyrants and authoritarians. International judicial scholars have extensively documented that one of the most persistent patterns that emerges in illiberal states is the practice of court-packing.

The consequences of court-packing in Hungary, Venezuela and Argentina show us that no nation is immune to tyranny—and the “Land of the Free” will quickly march toward tyranny unless we resoundingly expose the lies of the Left’s court-packing scheme.

America’s judicial system is revered around the world. But if our nation is to remain a beacon of hope—a shining city on a hill where the Constitution protects everyone’s right to live out their faith and express their views without punishment and censorship—then we must step up to help ensure our judiciary does not become a political circus.

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