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Constitutional Courts as Mediators
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    Ríos-Figueroa, Julio and Aguilar, Paloma 2018. Justice institutions in autocracies: a framework for analysis. Democratization, Vol. 25, Issue. 1, p. 1.

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This book offers a new theoretical framework for understanding the mediator role played by constitutional courts in democratic conflict solving. The book proposes an informational theory of constitutional review in which constitutional courts obtain, process, and transmit information to parties in a way that reduces the uncertainty causing their conflict. The substantive focus of the book is the role of constitutional courts in democracies where the armed forces are fighting internal armed conflicts of different types: Colombia, Peru, and Mexico in Latin America and also Israel, Turkey, and Pakistan. Through detailed analyses of the political context, civil-military relations, and the constitutional jurisprudence on military autonomy and the regulation of the use of force the book shows that constitutional courts can be instrumental in striking a democratically accepted balance between the exercise of civilian authority and the legitimate needs of the military in its pursuit of order and national security.


‘Combining a sophisticated approach to institutional theory with compelling case studies of the effects of constitutional courts on civil-military relations in Latin America, Julio Ríos-Figueroa achieves the uncommon - he changes the way that we think about both civil-military relations and the role of constitutional courts in the twenty-first century. It is a powerful example of how theory and empirics should be combined in studies of law and courts.’

Jack Knight - Duke University, North Carolina

'As soon as I finished Constitutional Courts [as Mediators], I cited it in two papers, neither of which had anything to do with Latin America or the military. Ríos-Figueroa's arguments and findings are that universal - and that important to the study of law and legal institutions. On top of it all, Ríos-Figueroa is such a terrific, accessible writer that Constitutional Courts [as Mediators] should find an audience with social scientists and members of the legal community. No doubt, both would benefit from his insights.'

Lee Epstein - Washington University, St Louis

‘In this book, Julio Ríos-Figueroa skilfully demonstrates that when constitutional courts are independent, accessible and powerful, they can act as creative judicial mediators, helping to resolve conflicts between militaries and civilian governments by reducing the uncertainty and misunderstanding that often surrounds their relations. In doing so, courts move the parties toward win-win agreements, even in the difficult context of internal security crises. This book bridges the subfields of judicial politics and civil-military relations in a novel and persuasive way, and I highly recommend it.'

David Pion-Berlin - University of California, Riverside

‘This book answers a crucial question: how can constitutional courts contribute to the tricky task of maintaining civilian control of the military, especially in a context in which the military is increasingly being called upon to take on domestic policing functions? The answer offered will surprise those who imagine that these courts provide final, unappealable answers on crucial questions of constitutional and human rights law, although it fits quite neatly into a growing trend to see courts as simply one of several important interlocutors in many-sided conversations on the key issues of a polity. The argument that courts can, under the proper circumstances, serve a mediating function is supported with well-done and interesting case studies, and a careful analysis of jurisprudence from Mexico, Colombia and Peru. Don’t miss this fascinating and important look at two of the most consequential political actors in Latin America today: constitutional courts and the military.’

Daniel Brinks - University of Texas, Austin

‘Julio Ríos-Figueroa has written an extremely rich and original book on constitutional courts in Latin America and beyond. His theory of ‘constitutional courts as mediators’ is based on three main variables - the accessibility of courts, their independence and their powers of judicial review - that, combined, offer excellent tools for understanding the working of different courts. His book represents an outstanding exercise of comparative legal and political analysis.’

Roberto Gargarella - Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, Buenos Aires

‘Conflict over of the scope of military authority is a fundamental problem of civil-military relations as well as a frequent source of regime instability. Drawing on insights from deliberative studies of constitutional courts, international mediation, and comparative judicial politics, Ríos-Figueroa argues that constitutional judges can powerfully improve this problem by helping the parties manage their many sources of uncertainty. Careful jurisprudence can ultimately ensure that the military is both a source of state strength and yet bound to a democratic rule of law. Doing this requires judicial institutions that ensure access, power and independence, as well as judges ready and capable of promoting dialogue and creative reform. Constitutional Courts [as Mediators] offers more than insightful academic exercise. It provides a template for positive change in a conflictual world.’

Jeffrey K. Staton - Emory University, Atlanta

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