Regimes and the Rule of Law: Judicial Independence in Comparative Perspective

Posted: 4 Jun 2010

See all articles by Gretchen Helmke

Gretchen Helmke

University of Rochester

Frances McCall Rosenbluth

Yale University - Department of Political Science

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2009

Abstract

According to popular wisdom, judicial independence and the rule of law are essential features of modern democracy. Drawing on the growing comparative literature on courts, we unpack this claim by focusing on two broad questions: How does the type of political regime affect judicial independence? Are independent courts, in fact, always essential for establishing the rule of law? In highlighting the role of institutional fragmentation and public opinion, we explain why democracies are indeed more likely than dictatorships to produce both independent courts and the rule of law. Yet, by also considering the puzzle of institutional instability that marks courts in much of the developing world, we identify several reasons why democracy may not always prove sufficient for constructing either. Finally, we argue that independent courts are not always necessary for the rule of law, particularly where support for individual rights is relatively widespread.

Suggested Citation

Helmke, Gretchen and Rosenbluth, Frances McCall, Regimes and the Rule of Law: Judicial Independence in Comparative Perspective (June 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1600560 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.12.040907.121521

Gretchen Helmke (Contact Author)

University of Rochester ( email )

300 Crittenden Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

Frances McCall Rosenbluth

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States
203-432-5256 (Phone)

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