Judicial Independence in Unstable Environments, Argentina 1935-1998


Iaryczower, Matias, Pablo Spiller, and Mariano Tommasi. “Judicial Independence in Unstable Environments, Argentina 1935-1998.” American Journal of Political Science 46 (2002): 699–716.

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Argentina's constitution and electoral rules promote a fragmented polity. It is in those environments that independent judiciaries develop. Instead, most analysts do not consider the Argentina judiciary as independent. In this article we attempt to explain this contradiction by showing that this perception is inappropriate. We develop a test of the hypothesis that the judiciary is independent by empirically examining the political incentives faced by individual justices in their decision making. Our results show an often-defiant Court subject to constraints. Our measure of defiance is the probability of a nonaligned justice voting against the government. We find that judicial decision making was strategic. The probability of voting against the government falls the stronger the control of the president over the legislature, but increases the less aligned the justice is with the president. Thus, politics and process matter in understanding Argentina's Supreme Court decisions. Institutions matter in Argentina as well.

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Last updated on 02/15/2015