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The Judicial Response to Police Killings in Latin America
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  • Page extent: 302 pages
  • Size: 234 x 156 mm
  • Weight: 0.61 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 344.805/232
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: KH619.4 .B75 2008
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Police shootings--Argentina
    • Police shootings--Brazil
    • Police shootings--Uruguay

Library of Congress Record

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 (ISBN-13: 9780521872348)

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published October 2007

Manufactured on demand: supplied direct from the printer

$113.00 (C)

This book examines the effect of social inequality, political influence, and institutional design on the effectiveness of legal systems in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. It demonstrates the inequality existent in these systems, as well as the occasional successes. Its focus is on the criminal prosecution of violent police officers, but it draws implications for democracy, the rule of law, court functioning, and police violence. The book describes judicial, prosecutorial, and police structures and operation, as well as the nature of and response to lethal police violence in each location.


1. Effectiveness and inequality in the legal system; 2. Charting injustice in Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay; 3. Informational and normative shifts across jurisdictions; 4. Buenos Aires - political interference and informational dependence; 5. Sao Paolo - normative autonomy and informational failures; 6. Uruguay - strong results from a weak system; 7. Cordoba - high levels of inequality in a strong system; 8. Salvador da Bahia - social cleansing under political and judicial indifference; 9. Binding leviathan.


"Daniel Brinks has written a superb book by any standard. Theoretically generative, Brinks presents original ways of thinking about access to justice, judicial independence, judicial decision-making, courts, police violence, the legal complex, and inequality before the law. Methodologically rich, the variegated qualitative and quantitative data on five cities in three countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay) allow Brinks to elaborate refined and contingent hypotheses that should spawn research across the world. Pragmatically significant, Brinks shows that democratic politics remain incomplete without protection of core civil rights just as the rule of law rests on particular configurations of politics. This book establishes grounds for a long overdue rapprochement between comparative politics and sociolegal scholarship. It is essential reading for specialists on all countries where the struggle for basic legal freedoms continues unabated."
Terence C. Halliday, Center for Law and Globalization, American Bar Foundation and University of Illinois College of Law

"This is an impressive study, both for its theoretical conceptualization and its empirical findings. It has broad implications for the study of courts and the legal process in Latin America, and for the debate about the importance of institutional design factors to the understanding of political systems."
Nancy Maveety, Tulane University

"Daniel Brinks’ book on the rule of law in Latin American democracies shows how rights, even if legally recognized, often remain purely formal rights due to disparities in economic power and a lack of investment of state resources. The combination of political and legal analysis, still rare in comparative politics, is particularly innovative and fruitful. And the data Brinks has collected allows him to depict the real workings of the justice system and to assess the effect of the social and political context on judicial decisions. This is an important work that tackles a hard question and makes a major contribution to the burgeoning literature on democracy and the rule of law."
Gerardo L. Munck, School of International Relations, University of Southern California

"Although the literature on the rule of law in Latin American is growing fast, this book breaks new ground on both a theoretical and empirical level, presenting research on the judicial response to police homicides in Buenos Aires and Cordoba in Argentina, Montevideo in Uruguay, and Sao Paulo and Salvador in Brazil. Most detailed studies of the judiciary focus on only one jurisdiction, while Brinks´ study compares five in a consistent manner. The work is innovative in defining and operationalizing the concept of legal tolls. It makes the important argument that the differential response to police killings in the courts is due primarily to the socioeconomic inequalities between claimants, and that this more important than, for example, the institutional design of the court systems or the nature of the functionaries within them. This book will make fascinating reading for anyone interested in judicial behaviour, the rule of law, public security, and Latin American politics and society."
Anthony Pereira, University of East Anglia

"A highly original argument that gives voice to the poor and stern warning to scholars and policy-makers about the inadequacy of judicial response in three states. A compelling blend of legal exactitude, social science theory and compassion."
Nancy Bermeo, Nuffield Professor of Comparative Politics, Oxford University

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