Toward Democratic Consolidation? The Argentine Supreme Court, Judicial Independence, and the Rule of Law
High Court Quarterly Review, Vol. 4, pp. 54-101, 2008
62 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2006 Last revised: 14 Oct 2010
Date Written: October 13, 2010
Too little attention has been paid to the role of judiciary in strengthening democracy and the rule of law in Latin America, with even less attention on the Argentine judicial system. In this paper, the role of the courts in consolidation will be examined through the Argentine case study. Part I outlines the current state of the literature on democratization and the rule of law with respect to Latin America, while Part II reviews what has been written about the Latin American judiciary and its influence on the rule of law. Part III evaluates the development of the judiciary and the rule of law in Argentina - focusing on the Argentine Supreme Court from its constitutional founding in 1853 through the end of the twentieth century. Part IV then evaluates the current-day Argentine predicament with respect to the Supreme Court's role during the turn-of-the-century economic crisis and President Kirchner's present judicial reform efforts.
The lessons learned from the Argentine case study are many and diverse, but several general themes deserve mention: (1) Democratic consolidation takes time to develop, and the judiciary plays an important role as an important horizontal check on presidential and legislative action. (2) Informal institutions and practices are far more important and explanatory than formal institutions. To understand the role of the judiciary in Argentina, one must look beyond court opinions and constitutional text to examine the historical, economic, and political context in which the judiciary functioned. (3) Public trust in a democratic institution is essential for the institution to be able to carry out its duty - in this case, for the judiciary to serve as a primary guardian of the rule of law.
Keywords: democracy, rule of law, Argentina, judicial independence, judicial reform
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation