Corruption in the Courts: How Judges Promote Corruption Cases to Protect their Seats
Media coverage of corruption probes helps voters hold politicians accountable. Yet these probes are controlled by judicial actors, who can selectively release information to shape media reporting. When do judges promote news coverage of corruption cases? We argue that these probes allow judges to inflict reputational damage on accused politicians. As a result, judges have incentives to protect their seats by strategically sharing information about politicians who threaten to remove them. We test this argument in the context of Argentina's federal pre-trial courts. We introduce a novel measure of political threats to judges based on party-initiated efforts to remove them from office. Using a natural experiment in which cases are randomly assigned to judges and a novel dataset of criminal cases filed against national-level officials, we show that judges are more likely to publicize corruption cases when the defendant belongs to a party that has tried to oust them in the past. This effect is driven by judges who are the subject of misconduct investigations that are still ongoing and by cases in which the judge retains greater discretion.