Performance-based budgeting is a label that groups different budgeting models, developed in the New Public Management era, that link the funding to the performance of agencies. If European justice systems have been unresponsive to apply managerial techniques to courts, this is particularly true for modern budgeting techniques. Courts’ budgets have been, and still are in many cases, drafted only on historical costs, and, although important for the court functioning, it has been one of the most neglected subjects in court administration studies. In recent years, some countries have been developing new approaches to justice systems and court budgeting, using a “performance-based” budget perspective, which relates the courts’ budget to the efficiency results, setting specific performance targets. Although fundamental to ensure transparency, accountability, and proper resource allocation among courts, these approaches have an impact on judicial independence and autonomy, because they may put pressure on judges’ productivity and efficiency, to the detriment of quality. Building on two case studies, Finland and The Netherlands, this paper aims to analyze how, and to what extent, the “performance-based” budgeting system is influencing the functioning of courts and the autonomy of judges.
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