This article proposes a relational approach to studying judicial politics in non-Western societies—a framework for the systematic analysis of informal relations between judges and other actors, within and outside the judiciary, based on common political interests, ideas, social identity, and even clientelistic obligations. We reflect on how these relations might help explain a variety of outcomes of interest, such as the organization of courts, judicial behavior, and judicial reform. We also highlight some of the methodological challenges of this approach in collecting and analyzing comparative data. In doing so, we seek to build an agenda for research on informal judicial politics beyond Western democracies.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Literature Cited

  1. Adouki DE. 2013. Contribution à l'étude de l'autorité des décisions du juge constitutionnel en Afrique. Rev. Fr. Droit Const. 95:611–38 [Google Scholar]
  2. Alarcon B, Alvarez AE, Hidalgo M. 2016. Can democracy win in Venezuela?. J. Democr. 27:20–34 [Google Scholar]
  3. Armytage L. 2012. Reforming Justice: A Journey to Fairness in Asia Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  4. Auyero J. 2000. Poor People's Politics: Peronist Survival Networks and the Legacy of Evita Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  5. Basabe-Serrano S. 2015. Informal institutions and judicial independence in Paraguay, 1954–2011. Law Policy 37:350–78 [Google Scholar]
  6. Baum L. 1998. The Puzzle of Judicial Behavior Ann Arbor: Univ. Mich. Press [Google Scholar]
  7. Baum L. 2006. Judges and Their Audiences: A Perspective on Judicial Behavior Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  8. Bayart J-F. 2009. The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly Cambridge/Malden: Polity, 2nd ed.. [Google Scholar]
  9. Borgatti SP, Mehra A, Brass D, Labianca G. 2009. Network analysis in the social sciences. Science 323:892–95 [Google Scholar]
  10. Bowen RE. 2013. Judicial autonomy in Central America: a typological approach. Polit. Res. Q. 66:831–42 [Google Scholar]
  11. Brett P. 2015. Who are judicial decisions meant for? The “Global Community of Law” in Southern Africa Presented at ECPR Conf., Aug. 26–29 Montreal, Can.: [Google Scholar]
  12. Bugarič B, Ginsburg T. 2016. The assault on postcommunist courts. J. Democr. 27:69–82 [Google Scholar]
  13. Buscaglia E. 1996. Corruption and judicial reform in Latin America. Policy Stud 17:273–85 [Google Scholar]
  14. Butt S. 2015. The Constitutional Court and Democracy in Indonesia Leiden, Neth.: Brill Nijhoff [Google Scholar]
  15. Butt S, Crouch M, Dixon R. 2016. The first decade of Indonesia's Constitutional Court. Aust. J. Asian Law 16:21 [Google Scholar]
  16. Chua YT, Cruz BB, Ordenes-Cascolan MG, Rimban L, Santiago J, Tordessillas E. 2012. Political economy analysis of judicial appointments in the Philippines. VERA Files [Google Scholar]
  17. Comaroff J, Comaroff J. 2007. Law and disorder in the postcolony. Soc. Anthropol. 15:2133–52 [Google Scholar]
  18. Corrales J. 2015. Autocratic legalism in Venezuela. J. Democr. 26:37–51 [Google Scholar]
  19. Couso JA, Huneeus A, Sieder R. 2010. Cultures of Legality: Judicialization and Political Activism in Latin America Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  20. De Visser M. 2016. We all stand together: the role of the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and equivalent institutions in promoting constitutionalism. Asian J. Law Soc. 3:105–34 [Google Scholar]
  21. Dezalay S. 2015. Les juristes en Afrique: Entre trajectoires d'État, sillons d'empire et mondialisation. Polit. Afr. 138:5–23 [Google Scholar]
  22. Dick H, Lindsey T. 2002. Corruption in Asia: Rethinking the Governance Paradigm Annandale, Aust.: Federation [Google Scholar]
  23. Domingo P. 2004. Judicialization of politics or politicization of the judiciary? Recent trends in Latin America. Democratization 11:104–26 [Google Scholar]
  24. Domingo P, Sieder R. 2001. Rule of Law in Latin America: The International Promotion of Judicial Reform London: Univ. Lond. Inst. Lat. Am. Stud176 [Google Scholar]
  25. Dressel B. 2010. Judicialization of politics or politicization of the judiciary? Considerations from recent events in Thailand. Pac. Rev. 23:671–91 [Google Scholar]
  26. Dressel B,. 2012. The Judicialization of Politics in Asia New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  27. Dressel B, Inoue T. 2016. Informal politics and judicial decisions: insights from the Philippines Presented at Am. Polit. Sci. Assoc. Annu. Meet. Exhib Sept. 1–4 Philadelphia: [Google Scholar]
  28. Dyevre A. 2010. Unifying the field of comparative judicial politics: towards a general theory of judicial behaviour. Eur. Polit. Sci. Rev. 2:297–327 [Google Scholar]
  29. Ellett R. 2013. Pathways to Judicial Power in Transitional States: Perspectives from African Courts New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  30. Ellett R. 2015. Interviewing African judges: reflections on fieldwork and data collection in comparative judicial politics Presented at Am. Polit. Sci. Assoc. Annu. Meet Sept. 3–6 San Francisco: [Google Scholar]
  31. Epp CR. 1998. The Rights Revolution: Lawyers, Activists and Supreme Courts in Comparative Perspective Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  32. Epstein L, Segal JA. 2005. Advice and Consent: The Politics of Judicial Appointments Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  33. Erdmann G, Engel U. 2007. Neopatrimonialism reconsidered: critical review and elaboration of an elusive concept. J. Commonw. Comp. Stud. 45:195–119 [Google Scholar]
  34. Escresa L, Garoupa N. 2012. Judicial politics in unstable democracies: the case of the Philippine Supreme Court, an empirical analysis 1986–2010. Asian J. Law Econ. 3:1–37 [Google Scholar]
  35. Feldman A. 2016. The sirens' song: speech and space in the courthouse. OnCurating 9:64–78 [Google Scholar]
  36. Ferejohn J, Rosenbluth F, Shipan C. 2009. Comparative judicial politics. The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics C Boix, SC Stokes 602–27 Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  37. Fombad CM. 2014. Appointment of constitutional adjudicators in Africa: some perspectives on how different systems yield similar outcome. J. Leg. Plur. Unoff. Law 46:249–75 [Google Scholar]
  38. Fox J. 1994. The difficult transition from clientelism to citizenship: lessons from Mexico. World Polit 46:151–84 [Google Scholar]
  39. Friedman LM. 2006. Judging the judges: some remarks on the way judges think and the way judges act. Norms and the Law JN Drobak 139–60 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  40. Ginsburg T. 2003. Judicial Review in New Democracies: Constitutional Courts in Asian Cases Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  41. Ginsburg T, Moustafa T. 2008. Rule by Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  42. Gomez MA. 2011. Greasing the squeaky wheel of justice: lawyers, social networks and dispute processing in Venezuela. Lawyers and the Rule of Law in an Era of Globalization Y Dezalay, B Garth 19–38 New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  43. González-Ocantos EA. 2016. Shifting Legal Visions: Judicial Change and Human Rights Trials in Latin America Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  44. Granovetter M. 1973. The strength of weak ties. Am. J. Sociol. 78:1360–80 [Google Scholar]
  45. Gryzamala-Buse A. 2010. The best laid plans: the impact of informal rules on formal institutions in transitional regimes. Stud. Comp. Int. Dev. 45:311–33 [Google Scholar]
  46. Hale HE. 2011. Formal constitutions in informal politics: institutions and democratization in post-Soviet Eurasia. World Polit 63:581–617 [Google Scholar]
  47. Hale HE. 2014. Patronal Politics Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  48. Hammergren LA. 2007. Envisioning Reform: Improving Judicial Performance in Latin America College Park: Penn State Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  49. Harlow C, Rawlings R. 2007. Promoting accountability in multilevel governance: a network approach. Eur. Law J. 13:542–62 [Google Scholar]
  50. Helmke G, Levitsky S. 2004. Informal institutions and comparative politics: a research agenda. Perspect. Polit. 2:725–40 [Google Scholar]
  51. Helmke G, Levitsky S. 2006. Introduction. Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America G Helmke, S Levitsky 1–30 Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  52. Helmke G, Rios-Figueroa J. 2011. Courts in Latin America Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  53. Hertog S. 2010. Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats: Oil and State in Saudi Arabia Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  54. Hilbink L. 2007. Judges beyond Politics in Democracy and Dictatorship: Lessons from Chile Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  55. Hilbink L. 2009. The constituted nature of constituents' interests: historical and ideational factors in judicial empowerment. Polit. Res. Q. 62:781–97 [Google Scholar]
  56. Hilbink L. 2012. The origins of positive judicial independence. World Polit 64:587–621 [Google Scholar]
  57. Hilgers T. 2011. Clientelism in Everyday Latin American Politics London: Palgrave Macmillan [Google Scholar]
  58. Hirschl R. 2004. The political origins of the new constitutionalism. Indiana J. Glob. Leg. Stud. 1:71–108 [Google Scholar]
  59. Ingram MC. 2012. Crafting courts in new democracies: ideology and judicial council reforms in three Mexican states. Comp. Polit. 44:439–58 [Google Scholar]
  60. Ingram MC. 2016a. Crafting Courts in New Democracies: The Politics of Subnational Judicial Reform in Brazil and Mexico Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  61. Ingram MC. 2016b. Networked justice: judges, the diffusion of ideas, and legal reform movements in Mexico. J. Lat. Am. Stud. 48:739–68 [Google Scholar]
  62. Kanté B. 2008. Models of the constitutional jurisdiction in francophone West Africa. J. Comp. Law 3:2158–73 [Google Scholar]
  63. Kapiszewski D. 2012. High Courts and Economic Governance in Argentina and Brazil Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  64. Kapiszewski D, Silverstein G, Kagan RA. 2013. Consequential Courts: Judicial Roles in Global Perspective Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  65. Kapiszewski D, Taylor MM. 2008. Doing courts justice? Studying judicial politics in Latin America. Perspect. Polit. 6:741–67 [Google Scholar]
  66. Katz DM, Stafford DK. 2010. Hustle and flow: a social network analysis of the American federal judiciary. Ohio State Law J 71:467–510 [Google Scholar]
  67. Khoo BT. 1999. Between law and politics: the Malaysian judiciary since independence. Law, Capitalism and Power in Asia K Jayasuriya 205–32 New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  68. Klein JR. 2003. The battle for the rule of law in Thailand: the Constitutional Court of Thailand. The Constitutional Court of Thailand: The Provisions and the Working of the Court A Raksasataya, JR Klein 34–90 Bangkok: Const. People Soc. [Google Scholar]
  69. Kosař D. 2016. Perils of Judicial Self-Government in Transitional Societies Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  70. Lazer D. 2011. Networks in political science: back to the future. Polit. Sci. Polit. 44:61–68 [Google Scholar]
  71. Levitsky S. 2003. Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America: Argentine Peronism in Comparative Perspective New York: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  72. Li L. 2012. The “production” of corruption in China's courts: judicial politics and decision making in a one-party state. Law Soc. Inq. 37:848–77 [Google Scholar]
  73. Llanos M, Weber CT, Heyl C, Stroh A. 2016. Informal interference in the judiciary in new democracies: a comparison of six African and Latin American cases. Democratization 23:1236–53 [Google Scholar]
  74. Lupu Y, Voeten E. 2012. Precedent in international courts: a network analysis of case citations by the European Court of Human Rights. Br. J. Polit. Sci. 42:413–39 [Google Scholar]
  75. Lust E. 2009. Competitive clientelism in the Middle East. J. Democr. 20:122–35 [Google Scholar]
  76. Lust-Okar E. 2005. Structuring Conflict in the Arab World: Incumbents, Opponents, and Institutions Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  77. Lyne M. 2009. The Voter's Dilemma and Democratic Accountability: Latin America and Beyond University Park: Penn State Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  78. Magaloni B. 2008. Enforcing the autocratic political order and the role of courts: the case of Mexico. Rule by Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes T Ginsburg, T Moustafa 180–206 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  79. Melo MA. 2016. Crisis and integrity in Brazil. J. Democr. 27:50–65 [Google Scholar]
  80. Moore SF. 2015. An unusual career: considering political/legal orders and unofficial parallel realities. Annu. Rev. Law Soc. Sci. 11:1–14 [Google Scholar]
  81. Moustafa T. 2007. The Struggle for Constitutional Power: Law, Politics, and Economic Development in Egypt Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  82. Nunes RM. 2010. Ideational origins of progressive judicial activism: the Colombian Constitutional Court and the right to health. Lat. Am. Polit. Soc. 52:67–97 [Google Scholar]
  83. Olcay T. 2016. Resetting the Turkish judiciary. Blog Int. J. Const. Law July 1. http://www.iconnectblog.com/2016/07/resetting-the-turkish-judiciary/ [Google Scholar]
  84. Peerenboom R. 2010. Judicial Independence in China: Lessons for Global Rule of Law Promotion Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  85. Pereira AW. 2005. Political (In)Justice: Authoritarianism and the Rule of Law in Brazil, Chile and Argentina Pittsburgh, PA: Univ. Pittsburgh Press [Google Scholar]
  86. Peters JS. 2008. Legal performance good and bad. Law Cult. Humanit. 4:2179–200 [Google Scholar]
  87. Podgórecki A. 1994. Polish Society Westport, CT: Praeger [Google Scholar]
  88. Pompe S. 2005. The Indonesian Supreme Court: A Study of Institutional Collapse Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  89. Popova M. 2012. Politicized Justice in Emerging Democracies: A Study of Courts in Russia and Ukraine Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  90. Posner RA. 2008. How Judges Think Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  91. Pozas-Loyo A, Rios-Figueroa J. 2016. Birth and development of patronage networks in the Mexican federal judiciary, 1917–1994 Presented at Am. Polit. Sci. Assoc. Annu. Meet. Exhib. Sept. 1–4 Philadelphia: [Google Scholar]
  92. Prell C. 2012. Social Network Analysis London: SAGE [Google Scholar]
  93. Prempeh HK. 2006. African judges, their own cause: reconstituting independent courts in contemporary Africa. Int. J. Const. Law 4:3592–605 [Google Scholar]
  94. Prillaman WC. 2000. The Judiciary and Democratic Decay in Latin America: Declining Confidence in the Rule of Law Westport, CT: Praeger [Google Scholar]
  95. Pruksacholavit P, Garoupa N. 2016. Patterns of judicial behavior in the Thai Constitutional Court, 2008–2014: an empirical approach. Asian Pac. Law Rev. 24:16–35 [Google Scholar]
  96. Quansah EK, Fombad CM. 2009. Judicial activism in Africa: Possible defence against authoritarian resurgence? Presented at ANCL-RADC Annu. Conf., Judic. Good Gov., Aug. 25–27, Cape Town, S. Afr. http://www.ancl-radc.org.za/sites/default/files/Judicial%20Activism%20in%20Africa.pdf [Google Scholar]
  97. Radnitz S. 2011. Informal politics and the state. Comp. Polit. 43:351–71 [Google Scholar]
  98. Roux T. 2016. Constitutional courts as democratic consolidators: insights from South Africa after 20 years. J. S. Afr. Stud. 42:5–18 [Google Scholar]
  99. Russell PH. 2001. Toward a general theory of judicial independence. Judicial Independence in the Age of Democracy: Critical Perspectives from Around the World PH Russell, DM O'Brian 1–22 Charlottesville: Univ. Press Va. [Google Scholar]
  100. Russell PH, O'Brien DM. 2001. Judicial Independence in the Age of Democracy: Critical Perspectives from Around the World Charlottesville: Univ. Press Va. [Google Scholar]
  101. Sanchez Urribarri R. 2011. Courts between democracy and hybrid authoritarianism: evidence from the Venezuelan Supreme Court. Law Soc. Inq. 36:854–84 [Google Scholar]
  102. Sanchez Urribarri R. 2012. Politicization of the Latin American judiciary via informal connections. Legitimacy, Legal Development and Change: Law and Modernization Reconsidered DK Linnan 307–22 Abingdon/New York: Ashgate [Google Scholar]
  103. Scott JC. 1972. Patron-client politics and political change in Southeast Asia. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 66:91–113 [Google Scholar]
  104. Selznick P. 1943. An approach to a theory of bureaucracy. Am. Sociol. Rev. 8:147–54 [Google Scholar]
  105. Shambayati H. 2015. From informal networks to judicial parties: the Turkish case Presented at Int. Workshop Informal Netw. Non-West. Judic., March 26–27 Canberra, Aust.: [Google Scholar]
  106. Shambayati H, Kirdis E. 2009. In pursuit of “contemporary civilization”: judicial empowerment in Turkey. Polit. Res. Q. 62:767–80 [Google Scholar]
  107. Shapiro M. 1981. Courts: A Comparative and Political Analysis Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press [Google Scholar]
  108. Sieder R. 2010. Renegotiating “law and order”: judicial reform and citizen responses in post-war Guatemala. Democratization 7:137–60 [Google Scholar]
  109. Sieder R, Schjolden L, Angell A. 2005. The Judicialization of Politics in Latin America New York: Palgrave Macmillan [Google Scholar]
  110. Stokes SC. 2009. Political clientelism. Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics C Boix, SC Stokes 602–27 Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  111. Stroh A. 2016. Appointment policies and court legitimacy in Benin: a network analysis approach Work. Pap. No. 281, Ger. Inst. Glob. Area Stud Hamburg, Ger.: [Google Scholar]
  112. Tonsakulrungruang K. 2016. Thailand: an abuse of judicial review. Judicial Review of Elections in Asia PJ Yap 173–92 New York: Routledge [Google Scholar]
  113. Trochev A. 2011. Judging Russia: The Role of the Constitutional Court in Russian Politics 1990–2006 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  114. Trochev A, Ellett R. 2014. Judges and their allies. J. Law Courts 2:67–91 [Google Scholar]
  115. Verner J. 1984. The independence of Supreme Courts in Latin America. J. Lat. Am. Stud. 16:463–506 [Google Scholar]
  116. Victor JN, Montgomery AH, Lubell M. 2016. The Oxford Handbook of Political Networks Oxford, UK: Oxford Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  117. Vitug MD. 2010. Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court Quezon City, Philipp.: Public Trust Media Group [Google Scholar]
  118. Vitug MD. 2012. Hour Before Dawn. The Fall and Uncertain Rise of the Philippine Supreme Court. Quezon City, Philipp.: Cleverheads [Google Scholar]
  119. VonDoepp P. 2005. The problem of judicial control in Africa's neopatrimonial democracies: Malawi and Zambia. Polit. Sci. Q. 120:275–301 [Google Scholar]
  120. VonDoepp P. 2009. Judicial Politics in New Democracies: Cases from Southern Africa Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner [Google Scholar]
  121. Ward MD, Stovel K, Sacks A. 2011. Network analysis and political science. Annu. Rev. Polit. Sci. 14:245–64 [Google Scholar]
  122. Widner JA. 2001. Building the Rule of Law New York: Norton [Google Scholar]
  123. Widner JA. 2008. Building judicial independence in semi-democracies: Uganda and Zimbabwe. Rule by Law T Ginsburg, T Moustafa 235–60 Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press [Google Scholar]
  124. Wilson B, Gloppen S, Gargarella R, Kinander M, Skaar E. 2010. Courts and Power in Latin America and Africa . Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error