Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Political Science, State University of New York (SUNY) / University at Albany

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Political Science, University of New Mexico / Albuquerque
The Politics of Subnational Judicial Performance in Brazil and Mexico

The proposed research will examine the politics of judicial performance at the subnational level in Brazil and Mexico from 1985 to 2005. In the last twenty years, democratization and market liberalization have dominated the political and economic landscape of Latin America, and strong judicial performance -measured in terms of access, efficiency, and independence ­ is vital to both processes. Strong judiciaries secure the rule of law under democracy by enhancing the capacity to vindicate individual liberties, and they promote the smooth functioning of markets by enforcing contract and property rights. Despite the central importance of judicial performance for both political and economic development, however, little systematic research exists on the sources of judicial strength. There is widespread concern in nascent democracies and international financial institutions that the judiciary is the Achilles' heel of both democratic consolidation and economic development. Thus, the failure to understand the conditions that strengthen judiciaries imperils the political and economic future of these countries. In large, federal countries of Latin America, much of the daily work of judicial systems is done at the level of state courts. This is particularly true for cases that affect ordinary citizens and small firms -those sectors most dependent upon judiciaries to protect their interests. Despite the importance of state courts, however, they are underexplored sites of judicial variation. Why does judicial performance vary across states and across different types of litigation? What are the conditions that promote strong state courts? Conversely, what conditions are associated with dysfunctional state courts? This project nests two in-depth case studies within large-N, econometric analyses in each country. The research draws upon the comparative leverage gained from a subnational level of analysis and integrates the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative analysis.