1142 The Judiciary and Democracy

WG Law and Politics

Room: C4.02


When we speak of the judiciary we refer to the branch of the State that carries out every process pertaining to justice administration. This entity allows the government, through specific authorities, to be in charge of protecting the fundamental rights and obligations of citizens. It is also in charge of carrying out law suits where the latter elements are observed. In this sense, conducting studies on the judiciary and its political role implies analysing the practices of its agents and of society. The court houses, ministers and judges are the juridical bodies whose function is completing that task. However, it is important to understand the context in which they perform to carry out their juridical decisions.


The main objective of this panel is to present works that focus on the analysis and observation of the judiciary branch and its relations with politics in the development of democratic societies.


In many countries, the politicization of the judiciary branch has incorporated practices that in some cases exceed the functions of judges and magistrates.


To what extent does the politicization of the judiciary branch contribute to the maturation of democracies or, could it prevent the institutions from strengthening? (Session organized by Angélica Cuéllar).


(May be extended to the next time slot, same room)


Chair: Angélica Cuéllar | Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México


Claudia Maria Barbosa | Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná - PUC/PR

A Juristocracia brasileira e o risco da erosão da democracia no país




Costuma-se associar de maneira virtuosa a expansão do Poder Judiciário, a constitucionalização de direitos e a efetividade do Estado Democrático de Direito, premissa negada neste trabalho. A hipótese central aqui analisada é oposta: a expansão do Judiciário dá-se à custa do enfraquecimento do poder político, e paradoxalmente revela um protagonismo político inédito do próprio Judiciário, incompatível com o equilíbrio entre os Poderes, necessário no Estado Liberal.  Esse fato fragiliza a Constituição e provoca a erosão do Estado Democrático. Para o fortalecimento do Poder Judiciário concorrem as elites política, econômica e jurídica do país, as quais se articulam de modo a, no poder, defenderem os seus próprios interesses, frequentemente contrários aos interesses do povo. Em um ciclo vicioso, esse comportamento favorece um governo de juízes, que se encarrega de proteger os interesses dessa elite – que são também os seus interesses, assegurando um regime político que o cientista político canadense Ran Hirschl denominou juristocracia. Na juristocracia a Constituição, os direitos ali defendidos e o próprio Estado Democrático são redefinidos no interesse das elites, pelo Judiciário, como se fossem “questões jurídicas”,  elidindo dessa forma o custo político de justificar governos impopulares perante o povo. O Judiciário atua então para legitimar governos elitistas. Assim, governos por vezes formalmente democráticos atuam contrariamente aos interesses do Povo, fragilizando as Constituições, que já não estão aptas a proteger os cidadãos, ou seus direitos, e tampouco a garantir o equilíbrio entre os Poderes de Estado. Nesse desenho institucional os interesses do Povo ficam desprotegidos, condicionados à vontade do Judiciário que, por sua vez, é o Poder menos responsável e controlado do Estado Democrático. A escassez de mecanismos de accountability social sobre o Judiciário favorece o abuso de poder por parte das autoridades judiciárias, colocando em risco a República, assentada no governo responsável, e a Democracia, classicamente baseada em um governo voltado aos interesses da maioria. O cenário da juristocracia pode estar tristemente representado no Brasil atual, e essa condição coloca em risco a Democracia brasileira. 

Karina Ansolabehere | IIJ-UNAM

Diffusion of doctrinal innovations in Latin American Judiciaries




Literature on judicial politics in Latin-America has mainly focused on the influence of political and ideational factors in judicial decision making. However, less attention has received the internal politics and organization and politics of the judiciaries, as well as, their influences on the diffusion of doctrinaire innovations between higher courts and courts of appeals.
From an original database on Latin-America, this paper presents and analysis of the relationship between internal politics and organization of the judiciaries and diffusion of doctrinaire innovations.
The hypothesis of the paper is that a more hierarchical organization and centralization of institutional decision making produce top-down doctrinal diffusion.

Alberto Abad Suarez | UNAM Instituto de Investigaciones Juridicas

The Mexican Supreme Court as protector of human rights: New uses of amparo trial (2011-2018).



According to most Sociology of Law literature on Courts, for a constitutional system to be called democratic, it is very important to have an effective judiciary that is able to perform at least two functions: a) to control other branches, and b) to  protect human rights. Since the mid 90s, the Mexican Supreme Court has had an incremental roll in both activities, although it still faces harsh complains about its inefficacy in in both fields. Due to the current crisis on human rights in Mexico, its roll as protector of human rights in a very strong demand.
In 2011, Mexico  had two very important Constitutional reforms. The first one, promulgated June 6th, modified some rules of the amparo trail to make it more accesible for social individuals and groups, to distribute the workload in the Federal judiciary in a better fashion and to inaugurate a process that allows the Supreme Court to declare erga omnes laws unconstitutional, among other important changes. The second one, promulgated June 10th of the same year, upgraded the human rights in international treaties to Constitucional level and strengthen the obligations all authorities in the country have to protect human rights. Both reforms were largely sought and created a big expectation. The paper I'm writing explores the ways both reforms impacted the work of the Supreme Court in the recent years and explains why the expectations for a radical change are not reachable but why as well there are features in the new behavior that could help for a better performance.

Josafat Cortez Salinas | UNAM-FCPyS

La innovación organizacional de la Suprema Corte de Justicia como explicación del cambio en las decisiones judiciales.





La ponencia sostiene que los cambios en las decisiones judiciales de la Suprema Corte de Justicia  se pueden explicar por  la presencia de un nuevo juez innovador que introduce un cambio organizacional en su equipo de trabajo para difundir nuevas ideas jurídicas y para lidiar con las rutinas internas del Poder Judicial que por procesos de socialización se propaga en otras ponencias y tiene impacto en las decisiones en materia de derechos humanos. Este nuevo dispositivo organizacional genera nuevos procesos de socialización al interior de la Corte y modificaciones en las decisiones de los jueces. En está investigación se destacan las estrategias institucionales que hace un nuevo juez cuando llega a la Corte para difundir nuevas ideas jurídicas y lidiar con los hábitos y rutinas de la institución. Colocar la atención en los procesos internos y en las dinámicas internas de la corte permite se pueden explicar los cambios en las decisiones judiciales en contextos con una cultura jurídica formalista/positivista.

Andrea Pozas | IIJ-UNAM

Julio Ríos | DEP-CIDE

Anatomy of an Informal Institution: The “Gentlemen’s Pact” and Patronage Networks in the Mexican Judiciary, 1917-1994




The selection, promotion, and discipline of judges are critical determinants of their independence and performance. Judicial councils, appointments commissions, and other similar formal institutions have been created around the world to foster meritocratic judicial selection (Garoupa and Ginsburg 2015, 110). Several studies have focused on the effects of their design (Hammergren, 2006; Pozas-Loyo and Ríos-Figueroa, 2011). However much less is known about the informal institutions that also play an important role in the selection, promotion, and discipline of judges. Specifically, the informal institutions that predate the creation of the judicial councils may help explain the specific institutional design of the council and its performance because informal institutions can either co-determine, or compete with, behavior promoted by formal ones (e.g. Gryzmala-Buse, 2010; Helmke and Levitsky, 2006).
In this paper we aim to give account of the birth and development of one of these informal institutions: the so-called “Gentlemen’s Pact” and patronage networks in the Mexican Federal Judiciary from the enactment of the Constitution of 1917 to 1994. During this period, the Mexican Supreme Court was formally granted the power to appoint, oversee, and promote or sanction district and circuit court judges of the federal judiciary. To do so Supreme Court judges developed an informal institution according to which each Justice took turns to appoint or promote a judge, knowing that this choice would be unanimously accepted. This informal institution built patronage networks within the federal judiciary that developed in tandem with the hegemonic party system, and the growth of the federal judiciary.
The paper has three parts. In the first, we provide explicit definitions of key terms and specify our arguments. In the second, we provide evidence of the birth and development of the “Gentlemen’s Pact” and of patronage networks in the Mexican federal judiciary. The second section draws on original archival data that we have collected from the so-called “Secret Sessions” of the Mexican Supreme Court from 1917 to 1994, that were the Court’s sessions devoted to administrative matters. In the last section, we discuss a couple of hypotheses that could explain the transformation that we document of the patronage networks throughout the period under study, and point to other avenues for future research regarding the persistence of informal institutions on and its effects.

Germán Silva García | Universidad Católica de Colombia

Justice and politics in Colombia. Struggles and paradoxes concerning the independence of Justice




Unlike most Latin American countries, since the late 50's in the 20thcentury, Colombia enjoyed legal and political structures, along with its peculiar judicial undercurrents, which enhanced independence in the administration of justice. This led to develop broadminded and advanced justice practices, protecting fundamental rights and democracy. High tribunal were well esteemed and represented an important milestone in Colombia´s sociopolitical landscape. Consequently, the administration of justice stood as an impregnable bastion of public liberties for decades. 
Elites represented in different governments persistently tried to subordinate the judiciary but were unsuccessful. Numerous attempts by means of constitutional reforms failed. At a very high cost in human lives, judicial independence was preserved even in the face of successive armed assaults against the Palace of Justice, initially by a guerrilla group which was promptly repressed by the Army, in November of 1985. Unable to subdue the administration of justice to the government's social control policies, national elites then attempted to organize parallel justice mechanisms to deal with strategic issues, according to their particular vision of social order, while simultaneously continuing in pains to weaken the judicial branch.
However a well-intended reform, which in good faith sought to promote transparent and straightforward practices among high level public servants, equipped the high courts with powers to appoint top officials of other branches of public power. This reform swiftly corrupted the courts and seriously damaged their independence. Thus, corruption achieved what military assaults, violent attacks and murders by drug gangs and political reforms had been unable to accomplish in the past . Paradoxically, attempts to diminish the powers of the judiciary, as elites always pretended, did not lead to this outcome. On the contrary, granting greater powers to the high courts perversely proved to be of utmost efficacy. Yet this outcome would not have materialized had corruption of the high tribunals remained untangled with the agendas of contending political factions, struggling to capture government power and neutralize their challengers.

Andrei Koerner | Universidade Estadual de Campinas, SP, Brasil

Celly Cook Inatomi | Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Unicamp, Brasil

O Jurídico e a democracia nos trinta anos da Constituição brasileira




A Constituição brasileira completa trinta anos em 2018 em meio a incertezas quanto à continuidade da democracia, como desdobramento da crise política de 2015-16. Nesta crise, os juristas e as instituições judiciais exerceram papel central para desestabilizar a presidente da República e a coalizão política que a apoiava, em nome de uma luta judicial e policial contra a corrupção. Agora se mostram divididos, mas permanecem alinhados, em sua maior parte, com as forças conservadoras. Suas ações evidenciam sua incapacidade de estabelecer um padrão coerente de interpretação da Constituição que garanta o estado de direito e a promoção da cidadania. Esta comunicação discute as mudanças das instituições judiciais desde 1988 e as principais teses sobre a atuação dos juristas na crise brasileira . Propõe-se uma abordagem histórico-discursiva, que compreende, mas ultrapassa as dimensões institucionais, estratégica e de classe do jurídico, para a compreensão das suas ambivalências na ordem constitucional de 1988.

Sandra Serrano | FLACSO México

The interaction of the Inter-American Court of Human Right and constitutional courts in Mexico and Colombia




Human rights contained in international treaties are an essential part of contemporary Latin American constitutions. This recognition provides an implicit relationship among constitutional courts, as they are responsible for overseeing the compliance of a same political and legal human rights framework: the Inter-American System of Human Rights. From a supranational position, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has become the most important court in the region for the protection of human rights and the interpretation of the rules established in the American Convention on Human Rights. Given the importance of the Inter-American Court, the constitutional courts in the region have seen the need to take into consideration the Inter-American resolutions to adapt their rights regime. This group of legal-political relations have become a dialogue, sometimes direct and other indirect, between the constitutional courts in the region. The aim of this paper seeks to explore this dialogue from its implications for the strengthening of the constitutional courts. The paper will analyze the dialogue as a process in the constitutional courts of Colombia and Mexico.



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