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Judicial Behavior under Austerity: An Empirical Analysis of Behavioral Changes in the Portuguese Constitutional Court, 2002–2016

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 October 2022

Susana Coroado
University of Lisbon
Nuno Garoupa*
Texas A&M University and Católica Global School of Law
Pedro C. Magalhães
University of Lisbon
Contact the corresponding author, Nuno Garoupa, at


The austerity policies pursued in several countries during the Eurozone crisis began to call attention to the role played by courts as relevant actors in the context of budgetary and financial stress. The case of the Portuguese Constitutional Court has often been singled out in national and international forums as one characterized by particularly intense activism in this respect. Allegedly, political conflict around austerity policies and the demand for their judicial review had fundamentally changed the role of the Portuguese Constitutional Court and the behavior of its judges. However, after examining these claims empirically, we find that, when properly assessed with scrutiny of comparable legislation in other periods, the judicial behavior on austerity policies exhibits a much less exceptional pattern than often argued. Constitutional review in Portugal seems to respond to institutional arrangements (i.e., those fostering a central role for ideological preferences and party loyalty) and not to specific business cycles.

Research Article
© 2017 by the Law and Courts Organized Section of the American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

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We are grateful to two anonymous referees, David Klein, António Araújo, Joaquim Pedro Cardoso da Costa, Pedro Lomba, Gonçalo Almeida Ribeiro, José Sousa e Brito, and Católica Global School of Law seminar participants for helpful suggestions. The data set assembled by the authors for use in this article is available at The usual disclaimers apply.


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