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POL2104 (21)

Gretchen, Rosenbluth reading notes.doc

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Political Science
Dominique Arel

Regimes and the Rule of Law Judicial Independence in Comparative PerspectiveGretchen Helmke and Frances Rosenbluth More recent scholarship highlightsthat whether the government has the meansto bend the judiciary to its will depends notonly on appointment power but also on variablessuch as the ability of the political branchesto agree among themselves on how to deter orupend judicial rulings Judicial independence in democracies is simplyfar more variable than this preliminary formulationsuggests Specifically it depends onthe ability of the political branches to colludeagainst the courts and their expected electoralpenalty for doing so Institutionally fragmentedgovernments are less capable of reiningin independentminded courts but even unitarygovernments may face voting publics witha strong preference for legal neutrality The role of judicial independence regardingthe rule of law in other types of regimes howeveris different On the one hand courts likeconstitutions may provide a focal point aroundwhich citizens can coordinate to protect theirRights In dictatorships and inunstable democracies where a culture of democraticnorms may not exist an independent judiciarycommitted to rights protection may providean important substitute Rule of law obtains only when law is unavailableas an instrument of control by any particularactor but rather functions as a contractualbenchmark for all members of society Put differently judicial insulation from politicsmay be more important in countrieswhere electoral competition is muted in someway but in such countries one of the centralpillars supporting judicial independenceinstitutional fragmentationis missing Likewiseif courts are meant to somehow make upfor the lack of a popular rights culture then
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