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The Best Laid Schemes … Gang Aft A-gley: Judicial Reform in Latin America – Evidence from Costa Rica


‘Judicial independence is a means to a strong judicial institution, which is a means to personal liberty and prosperity.’ United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

Starting in the 1980s, and accelerating through the 1990s, international financial institutions (IFIs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and development agencies funnelled considerable resources into judicial reform and rule of law programmes in virtually every Latin American and Caribbean country. The assumption was that reformed court systems would foster free market economic development strategies. This article examines the impact of two frequently advocated aspects of judicial reform, judicial access and judicial independence, on economic policy making in Costa Rica. We argue that there is a potentially significant disjuncture between the sponsors' expectations of the judicial reforms' economic impact and the observed outcomes.

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The authors wish to thank the following individuals who offered insightful comments on previous drafts of this article: Richard Messick, Linn Hammergren, Luis Fernando Solano Carrera, President of the Sala IV, Ronan Wilson, Kerstin Hamann, Rachel Sieder and the anonymous referees of JLAS. We would also like to thank John Collins for research assistance. Wilson would like to thank the Office of Sponsored Research, University of Central Florida, for funding part of this research through grant no. 11-80-936/11809002.
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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
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