Washington International Law Journal


In the decade following its inception, the Indonesian Constitutional Court has marked a new chapter in Indonesian legal history, one in which a judicial institution can challenge the executive and legislative branches. This article argues that judicial leadership is the main contributing factor explaining the emergence of judicial power in Indonesia. This article posits that the newly established Indonesian Constitutional Court needed a strong and skilled Chief Justice to build the institution because it had insufficient support from political actors. As the Court lacked a well-established tradition of judicial review, it needed a visionary leader who could maximize the structural advantage of the Court. Finally, the Court needed a heroic leader able to deal with the challenges and pressures from the government. This article examines the role of the four Chief Justices of the Indonesian Constitutional Court: Jimly Asshiddiqie (2003–2008), Mohammad Mahfud (2008–2013), Akil Mochtar (2013), and Hamdan Zoelva (2013–2015). Chief Justice Jimly Asshiddiqie and Muhmmad Mahfud set a high bar by playing the role of heroic Chief Justices. The departure of Asshiddiqie and Mahfud, however, marked the end an era of heroic Chief Justices. Both Chief Justices Akil Mochtar and Hamdan Zoelva could not maintain the role of heroic Chief Justice.

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