Siri Gloppen, Bruce M. Wilson, Roberto Gargarella, Elin Skaar, and Morten Kinander (2010)
New York: Palgrave Macmillan 231 p.
Why do courts hold political power-holders accountable in some democratic and democratizing countries, but not in others? And, why do some courts remain very timid while others—under seemingly similar circumstances—become “hyper-active”? These are questions of central theoretical and practical importance in a context of increasing juridification of politics in many parts of the world, combined with persisting problems of holding elected leaders to account. This book contributes to the ongoing debate over the institutionalization of democratic accountability and examines theaccountability function exercised by higher courts in Latin America and Africa.
“Why do some high courts hold political branches to account and others not? What explains the judiciary´s strong or weak defense of rights? And what role are courts playing –or not playing- in strengthening democracy in Latin America and Africa? This excellent volume advances a sophisticated comparative framework that seeks to explain the changing nature of courts’ accountability function across a wide range of countries. Focusing on courts as a part of a complex ‘accountability nexus’ involving institutions, power holders, and citizens, the authors convincingly argue that only complex, multi-causal frameworks can explain the changing behavior and role of courts. Through robust comparative analysis, this book significantly furthers our understanding of the role and potential of the judiciary in strengthening rights-based democracy and makes an important contribution to the existing literature.”–Rachel Sieder, Centro de Investigación y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS), Mexico
“This very interesting book is worth reading for any comparativist interested in courts, inter-branch relations, or democracy and good governance more broadly. It approaches courts from a slightly different perspective, avoiding the typical focus on independence, efficiency, or access, and arguing that we should pay attention to the extent to which courts fulfill their accountability function. The authors then define this accountability function and explore the role of courts in enhancing democracy, without falling into either a facile counter-majoritarian critique or an uncritical acceptance of courts as the source of all good things.”–Daniel M. Brinks, Associate Professor, Comparative Politics and Public Law, University of Notre Dame
“This volume represents an intellectual endeavour of great ambition and scope that enriches our understanding of judicial behaviour in developing countries with a focus on Latin America and Africa. It fills an important gap in the knowledge regarding changes in judicial behavior in connection to the accountability function of courts, and the corresponding strategies of different social and political actors in relation to new patterns of recourse to the law and judicial mechanisms. The theoretical depth grounded in cross-regional empirical breadth of the book provides a rich and comprehensive analysis of the issues around the accountability functions of courts. Most importantly, the volume develops a framework of analysis that examines the complex interaction between three sets of variables to explain shifting patterns of judicial behaviour, with consequences for the exercise of political power and the distribution of social and economic resources: a) the historical and political context; b) institutional variables to do with the structure of the courts and procedures and the constitutional and legal dimension; and c) the nature of the actors, in this case the judges. It is the complex interaction between the three sets of variables. The book represents a highly valuable contribution to the comparative and interdisciplinary study of judicial politics which will benefit both scholars and practitioners.”–Dr. Pilar Domingo, Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute, LONDON, UK
“The incisive question flowing through this thoughtful contribution to our understanding of the relationship between courts and democratic society is what motivates and enables courts to exert influence and hold accountable their partner arms-of-state? The true strength of this work–allowing understandable cross-pollination between the comparable jurisdictions by accurately presenting the political and social forces that compel courts to engage with political bodies. I commend the authors for their efforts, efforts which bring a fresh, data-proven perspective to the ancient challenge for courts in democratic society–what role judges?”–Pius Nkonzo Langa, Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa
“By comparing the sources of judicial independence across countries and continents in the global South, this book fills major empirical gaps. The authors grapple with complexity by showing how social context, institutional structure, and personal motivations interact when judges make decisions. A must read for anyone who wants to know how political accountability is established in developing countries.”–Michael Bratton, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African Studies at the Michigan State University.
“In recent years courts in less developed countries have transformed. The growth of their ability to control other governmental branches is just one of the evidences of this change. However, this transformation has not been even across countries. This book provides comparative and theoretical insights to explain the divergent paths in the accountability functions of courts. The result is a major contribution that highlights the nuances of this transformation process and the relevance of historical, institutional, and social variables in the understanding of judicial behavior. It shows not only the shades of this transformation but also its multiple fathers.”–Catalina Smulovitz, UTDT-Conicet Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires