Can Courts Be Bulwarks of Democracy?

54 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2018

See all articles by Jeffrey K. Staton

Jeffrey K. Staton

Emory University - Department of Political Science; Göteborg University - V-Dem Institute

Christopher M. Reenock

Florida State University - Department of Political Science

Jordan Holsinger

Florida State University

Staffan I. Lindberg

Göteborg University - Varieties of Democracy Institute; Göteborg University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 2018

Abstract

Independent judges are thought to promote democratic regime survival by allowing perceived violations of rules limiting arbitrary power to be challenged non-violently in a fair setting, governed by transparent rules. Yet, judges are often subjected to public shaming and politically motivated removals. Courts are sometimes packed with partisan allies of the government, their jurisdiction is nearly always subject to political control and their decisions can be ignored. For all of these reasons, scholars have identied patterns of prudential decision-making that is sensitive to political interests even on the most well-respected courts in the world. If these forces all operate on judges, what, if any, are the conditions under which judges can be conceived of as defenders of democracy? How could judges subject to political pressures stabilize a democratic regime? This document summarizes a book that addresses these questions. We argue that despite these pressures judges can enhance regime stability by incentivizing prudence on behalf of elites, both those who control that state, i.e., leaders, and those on whose support leaders depend. Empirically, we leverage original data on judicial behavior, judicial institutions, and policy using a sample of all democratic political systems for over 100 years. We re-examine empirical claims of existing models of courts and democracy as well as original claims derived from our own work.

Suggested Citation

Staton, Jeffrey K. and Reenock, Christopher M. and Holsinger, Jordan and Lindberg, Staffan I., Can Courts Be Bulwarks of Democracy? (July 2018). V-Dem Working Paper 2018:71. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3213165 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3213165

Jeffrey K. Staton (Contact Author)

Emory University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6559 (Phone)
404-727-4586 (Fax)

Göteborg University - V-Dem Institute ( email )

United States

Christopher M. Reenock

Florida State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

567 Bellmy Building
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States
850-644-4542 (Phone)
850-644-1367 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://mailer.fsu.edu/~creenock/

Jordan Holsinger

Florida State University ( email )

Tallahasse, FL 32306
United States

Staffan I. Lindberg

Göteborg University - Varieties of Democracy Institute ( email )

Sprängkullsgatan 19
Gothenburg, Gothenburg 405 30
Sweden

HOME PAGE: http://www.pol.gu.se/varianter-pa-demokrati--v-dem-/

Göteborg University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 711
Gothenburg, S-405 30
Sweden

HOME PAGE: http://www.pol.gu.se

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