Ideal justice in Latin America : interests, ideas, and the political origins of judicial activism in Brazil and Colombia
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What are the causes and consequences of judicial empowerment? What motivates the political decision to delegate authority to independent judiciaries, and what explains the subsequent behavior of these institutions? Going against current trends in comparative judicial politics, this dissertation answers these questions by taking ideas seriously. Dominant accounts of judicial empowerment and behavior associate the emergence of rights protecting judiciaries with the actions of powerful political actors concerned with the protection and promotion of their political self-interests. In contrast, my analysis of Brazil and Colombia links the emergence of such institutions to the actions of groups and individuals who subscribe to the principled belief that courts should focus their efforts on the protection and promotion of constitutional guarantees. These ideational carriers use their resources to convince institutional designers of the suitability of their proposals, and exert powerful influence over the institutional outcome of constitutional transitions. These actors also influence the actions of newly empowered courts to the extent that they are able to entrench their ideational allies on the bench during the uncertainty of the transition. These findings contradict the arguments that judicial empowerment is designed to weaken electoral opponents or to insulate the political process from popular pressures, and that judges are rational-strategic actors whose main concern is to protect their institutional integrity.