1st Edition

Manipulating Courts in New Democracies Forcing Judges off the Bench in Argentina

By Andrea Castagnola Copyright 2018
    148 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    148 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    When can the Executive manipulate the composition of a Court? What political factors explain judicial instability on the bench? 

    Using original field data from Argentina's National Supreme Court and all twenty-four Provincial Supreme Courts, Andrea Castagnola develops a novel theory to explain forced retirements of judges. She argues that in developing democracies the political benefits of manipulating the court outweigh the costs associated with doing so. The instability of the political context and its institutions causes politicians to focus primarily on short-term goals and to care mostly about winning elections. Consequently, judiciaries become a valuable tool for politicians to have under their control.

    Contrary to the predictions of strategic retirement theory, Castagnola demonstrates that there are various institutional and non-institutional mechanisms for induced retirement which politicians have used against justices, regardless of the amount of support their party has in Congress. The theoretical innovations contained herein shed much needed light on the existing literature on judicial politics and democratization. Even though the political manipulation of courts is a worldwide phenomenon, previous studies have shown that Argentina is the theory-generating case for studying manipulation of high courts. 

    1. Introduction

    2. Judicial turnover in new democracies: forcing judges off the bench

    3. The political history of the manipulation of the Argentinean Supreme Court

    4. Forcing justices off the bench: empirics from the Argentinean Supreme Court

    5. The persistent manipulation of courts: empirics from the provincial Supreme Courts in Argentina

    6. The institutional determinants of judicial turnover at the subnational level

    7. Conclusion


    Andrea Castagnola is an assistant professor at the School of Politics and Government at Universidad Nacional de San Martin, Argentina. She was assistant professor at Flacso-Mexico and holds a Post-Doc from the University of Bergen, Norway. Her research focuses on judicial politics in Latin America and Comparative Politics. Her work has been published in journals such as British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Journal of Politics in Latin America and Política y Gobierno.

    "Castagnola's book analyzes the systematic use of a subtle instrument to change the composition of courts. She studies a mechanism for vacancy creation that depends on the drive of local executives rather than on the decisions of judges and that involves the use of informal pressures rather than institutional instruments. She superbly illustrates how weak executives use the instrument to build friendly courts and how in hegemonic party systems, executives use it to control factions. In a nutshell, the book introduces a new tool for the kit."

    Catalina Smulovitz, Plenary Professor, Universidad Torcuato Di Tella

    "This book answers a key question: why and when do politicians force justices off the bench? The answer offered contributes to, but also challenges, our knowledge regarding courts and their political role in democratic polities. The book nicely specifies the institutional conditions under which politician’s motivations prompt them to get "their own court" and supports the arguments with well-done and interesting quantitative and qualitative analyses on Argentinean Supreme and state courts over a long period of time. The book delves into the unchartered territory of the relationship between judges’ stability in office and their independence, a critical topic in today’s troubled democracies."

    Julio Ríos-Figueroa, Associate Professor of Political Science, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas

    "… Castagnola’s analysis of "vacancy creation" in Argentina aims to generate new theory, looking beyond formal institutional design and the strategic literature and bridging the gap between US-based and Latin American– based theories of judicial politics."

    Latin American Research Review