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Judicial Instability and Endogenous Constitutional Change: Lessons from Latin America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 September 2014


Legal scholars frequently advocate institutional reforms to modernize the judiciary and promote judicial independence. However, constitutional reforms also offer an opportunity for politicians to reshuffle the high courts. The negative consequences of constitutional change for judicial stability are explored using an original database of Supreme Court and Constitutional Tribunal members in eighteen Latin American countries between 1904 and 2010. Because unobserved factors potentially explain constitutional replacement as well as judicial turnover, a two-stage event-history model has been employed. The analysis integrates two literatures, studies of constitution-making and studies of judicial politics. The results show that constitutional change is a significant cause of judicial instability and court manipulation, even after potential endogeneity has been taken into account.

© Cambridge University Press 2014 

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University of Pittsburgh (email: and University of Bergen (email: Research for this article was supported by the National Science Foundation (SES 0918886), by a UCIS Hewlett International Grant, by the Global Studies Center and by the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. The authors are indebted to Daniel Brinks, Julio Ríos Figueroa, Ana Carolina Garriga, Rebecca D. Gill, Ezequiel Gonzalez Ocantos, Sebastián Linares, Ignacio Marván, Ximena Medellín Urquiaga, Gabriel Negretto, Lydia Tiede, and to the anonymous reviewers for their comments. Replication files for this article are available at Data replication sets and online appendices are available at


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