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Courts under Constraints
Judges, Generals, and Presidents in Argentina

$37.99 (C)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics

  • Date Published: July 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107405202

$ 37.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This study offers a theoretical framework for understanding how institutional instability affects judicial behavior under dictatorship and democracy. In stark contrast to conventional wisdom, the central findings of the book contradict some assumptions that only independent judges rule against the government of the day. Set in the context of Argentina, the study uses the tools of positive political theory to explore the conditions under which courts rule against the government. In addition to shedding light on the dynamics of court-executive relations in Argentina, the study provides general lessons about institutions, instability, and the rule of law. In the process, the study builds a set of connections among diverse bodies of scholarship, including US judicial politics, comparative institutional analysis, positive political theory, and Latin American politics.

    • Identifies and documents a new empirical puzzle
    • Modifies the leading rational choice literature on courts by introducing a new form of strategic behavior, strategic defection
    • Tests the theory of strategic defection against several competing explanations using an extensive, systematic dataset
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    "Helmkes short but important work should be read by scholars working in judicial process, positive political theory, democratization, and comparative institutional analysis."

    "Gretchen Helmke's book is an important contribution to an emerging body of literature examining the current and historical check-and-balance role of Latin American judiciaries and its political and institutional underpinnings."
    Linn Hammergren, World Bank, Latin American Politics and Society

    "This book remains a valuable contribution to the literature on two fronts. First, Helmke has conducted admirable research, both quantitative and qualitative, on the Argentine judicial system, providing a wealth of information. Second, the book's unusual methodological breadth makes it an intriguing exploration of various tools' ability to answer different social-science questions."
    Deborah Norden, Whittier College

    "Clearly, the study of Latin American judiciaries is essential to understanding contemporary events in Latin American society. In Courts Under Constraints: Judges, Generals, and Presidents in Argentina, Helmke makes a valid argument that judicial independence in Argentina is not necessarily a requirement for the implementation of the checks and balances system."
    Michael R. Hall, Journal of Third World Studies

    "Courts Under Constraints is rapidly becoming an integral an influential component of comparative judicial politics scholarship. Helmke's single-country comparative analysis is theoretically and empirically appealing, with important insights for politics, public law, and Latin American politics."
    Druscilla Scribner, Latin American Politics and Society

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107405202
    • length: 242 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Ruling against the Rules:
    1. Introduction
    2. Actors, institutions, and mechanisms
    3. Design and overview of the argument
    Part II. The Logic of Strategic Defection:
    4. The standard strategic account
    5. A new pattern of inter-branch relations
    6. Modifying the separations-of-powers approach
    7. Judicial motivations
    8. Problems of information
    9. Conclusion
    Part III. A Theory of Court-Executive Relations: Insecure Tenure, Incomplete Information, and Strategic Behavior:
    10. Politics and uncertainty
    11. The model
    12. Discussion
    13. Conclusion: testable hypotheses
    Part IV. Judges, Generals, and Presidents: Institutional Insecurity on the Argentine Supreme Court, 1976–99:
    14. The gap between formal and informal institutions
    15. Judges under bayonets: the military 'Proceso', 1976–83
    16. Judges under the Alfosín government
    17. Judges under the (first) Menem government: the difficulty of democratic consolidation, 1989–95
    18. Judges under the (Second) Menem government: the path toward democratic consolidation?
    19. Conclusion: an analytic narrative of institutional insecurity
    Part V. The Reverse Legal-Political Cycle: An Analysis of Decision-Making on the Argentine Supreme Court:
    20. Data and methodology
    21. Timing
    22. Importance
    23. Participation
    24. Target of the threat
    25. Rival hypotheses: composition, legality, and the mix of cases
    26. Conclusion
    Part VI. The Dynamics of Defection: Human Rights, Civil Liberties, and Presidential Power:
    27. The military court and human rights
    28. The Alfonsín Court and human and civil rights
    29. The Menem-era court and presidential power
    30. Conclusion: did defection work?
    31. Epilogue: the court and the collapse of Argentina
    Part VII. Conclusion: Broader Lessons and Future Directions:
    32. Strategic defection and the reverse-legal-political cycle
    33. Strategic defection in comparative perspective
    34. Further implications, future directions.

  • Author

    Gretchen Helmke, University of Rochester, New York

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