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Judicial Reform as Political Insurance

Argentina, Peru, and Mexico in the 1990s

Jodi S. Finkel

Publication Year: 2008

During the 1990s, judicial reform swept Latin America. While some of the region's supreme courts have been able to exercise increased power as a result of these reforms, others have not. Why do some instances of judicial reform appear to be leading to the development of a powerful judiciary while others have failed to do so? In this careful analysis, Jodi S. Finkel investigates judicial reform in Argentina, Mexico, and Peru. She suggests that while ruling parties can be induced to initiate judicial reforms by introducing constitutional revisions, they often prove unwilling to implement these constitutional changes by enacting required legislation. To understand the outcomes of judicial reform, as well as to predict where reforms are likely to empower courts, it is necessary to examine the political incentives faced by politicians at the implementation phase. Finkel argues that the implementation of judicial reform may serve the ruling party as an insurance policy, in that a strong judicial branch reduces the risks faced by a ruling party once it loses power and becomes the opposition. Finkel suggests that as the ruling party's probability of reelection declines, the likelihood of the enactment of reforms resulting in an empowered judiciary increases.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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Contents and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

I thank the many people who inspired, assisted, and supported me while I was working on this project. The fi rst are my parents, Betty and Max, two people on whom I could always count. A big thank-you also goes to my brother, David, for believing in the value of my research, for editing my entire dissertation, ...

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Introduction. Latin America and Judicial Reform: Why Would Politicians Enact Institutional Reforms That Appear to Limit Their Own Political Power?

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pp. 1-20

Judicial reform, defined here as institutional changes claiming to increase the independence and authority of the judicial branch, swept Latin America in the 1990s. Argentina, Peru, and Mexico, for example, each engaged in constitutional revisions that appeared to empower their judiciaries. ...

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Chapter One: Explaining Latin America’s Recent Judicial Reforms

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pp. 21-38

This chapter presents two potential explanations for understanding the judicial reforms that swept Latin America in the 1990s. The first section outlines an argument based on the transition to a market economy and the pressures of international financial institutions (IFIs). First it provides an overview of the literature on ...

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Chapter Two: Judicial Reform in Argentina in the 1990s

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pp. 39-62

Argentina’s tumultuous twentieth-century political history has been marked by a weak and subservient judiciary that has traditionally served to uphold laws passed by illegitimate civil and military governments alike. Beset by chronic instability and repeated replacement, the Argentine Supreme Court has been unable to develop ...

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Chapter Three: Judicial Reform in Peru in the 1990s

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pp. 63-88

After twelve years of military rule, Peru returned to democracy in 1980 with free and fair elections. For the next ten years, the country was governed by the two traditional parties but neither proved capable of solving the problems of double-digit inflation, economic crisis, or internal terrorism that beset the country. ...

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Chapter Four: Judicial Reform in Mexico in the 1990s

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pp. 89-110

Immediately on taking office in December 1994, President Ernesto Zedillo delivered to the Mexican Congress a comprehensive judicial reform package of dramatic constitutional changes affecting the independence and authority of the judicial branch. The Supreme Court was granted the power of judicial review in specifically ...

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Chapter Five: The Paradox of Latin America’s Judicial Reforms: Lessons Learned

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pp. 111-118

On the surface, Latin America’s judicial reforms present a paradox: why would politicians enact institutional reforms that appear to limit their own political power? We can better answer this question by separating judicial reform into its two component stages, initiation and implementation. This book’s investigation of ...


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pp. 119-138


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pp. 139-152


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pp. 153-157

E-ISBN-13: 9780268079635
E-ISBN-10: 0268079633
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268028879
Print-ISBN-10: 0268028877

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 694144491
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Judicial Reform as Political Insurance

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Subject Headings

  • Justice, Administration of -- Latin America.
  • Political questions and judicial power -- Latin America.
  • Latin America -- Politics and government -- 1980-.
  • Justice, Administration of -- Argentina.
  • Justice, Administration of -- Peru.
  • Justice, Administration of -- Mexico.
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