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Title: Informal mandates & judicial power : the constitutional courts of Costa Rica, Chile, and Uruguay (1990-2016)
Author: Quesada-Alpízar, Tomás
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 7405
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Standard explanations of judicial behaviour (i.e. legal, rational-choice, attitudinal, and institutional models) are overly static and exogenous, interested in instances of sudden change in judicial behaviour, as triggered by appointments, legal reforms, or shifts in the political context. While these models are useful in understanding the external incentives affecting judicial behaviour, they are unsuitable for explaining sustained judicial empowerment beyond temporary strategic calculations. In response, recent 'ideational' approaches, especially studying constitutional courts, highlight the importance of judges' ideas about their role - not their ideologies or policy preferences - in instilling a mission, rather than an incentive-oriented view of the judicial function. Yet, despite their more dynamic approaches, those methods have overlooked how ideational change in the 'outside' world translates into change 'inside' this type of courts. Due to those limitations, this study proposes a complementary explanation of judicial empowerment: a theory of informal mandates and endogenous empowerment. Viewed through this lens, change and variation in judicial empowerment within and across cases are explained by the construction, expansion, and endurance - or absence and collapse - of collective internal understandings of the court's role and mission. Such understandings are developed as legal doctrines and articulated under broader informal mandates by 'mission leaders'. Gradually, these informal mandates can expand and gather majority support from strategic partnerships formed between 'mission leaders' and 'supporting leaders' - usually justices with high seniority. The more these informal mandates expand and endure inside the court, the less exogenous factors and strategic incentives over-determine its behaviour in the long-run. Judicial empowerment, thus, is better understood as a process that develops and expands gradually, endogenously, and informally, with a mission-oriented purpose. The theory is applied in the constitutional tribunals of Costa Rica, Chile, and Uruguay from 1990 to 2016. These countries have similar rule-of-law conditions, but their constitutional tribunals differ considerably in the strength and endurance of their informal mandates and, as a result, have attained different levels of judicial empowerment.
Supervisor: Power, Timothy ; Gonzalez-Ocantos, Ezequiel Sponsor: University of Oxford
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Judicial power ; Judicial politics ; Comparative Constitutional Law ; Constitutional courts