Judicial Independence of State Administrative Courts in Mexico

Date

2013-05

Authors

Mena-Mora, Amalia 1975-

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Abstract

The purpose of this research is to examine the key factors that influence judges’ decision- making in subnational arenas. I extend extant arguments about judicial independence at the federal level to the subnational level. I argue that both individual and contextual variables have an effect on judicial independence. The individual traits of judges, specifically length of service in the state court, influence judicial independence. More specifically, judges’ longer terms of service increase judicial independence. In addition, I also expect that contextual variables such as political fragmentation (lack of unified government), life tenure, and methods of appointment that do not involve the participation of the state executive at the subnational level also enhance judicial independence. I approach judicial independence through the analysis of judges’ decisions. The idea is to infer whether judges are deciding cases independently from the preferences of the state executive. To do this, I collect information about whether a judge decides in favor or against the state administration when a plaintiff claims an alleged violation by the state government. From this perspective, the exercise of judicial independence in a particular circumstance depends on whether or not judges make their decisions autonomously. Using individual and aggregate data of judges from six Mexican state administrative courts in the 2006-2008 period, this study finds preliminary evidence that judges ’characteristics and contextual factors are associated with judicial independence. More specifically, judges with longer periods of service in the state court will be less likely to vote in favor of the executive. In addition, the contextual variables make the relationship weaker or stronger: under legislative majority governments, the state effect of the association between length of service and vote for executive will be weaker. A similar effect was found for the factor in which the executive participates in the appointment. However, under state courts with life tenure rules, the state effect will be stronger. The preliminary findings of this dissertation may help to better understand the nested influences of judicial independence in subnational courts not only in Mexico but in other new democracies and identify new avenues for research.

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Keywords

Judicial independence, State courts, Administrative courts, Mexico, Judges' behavior, Tenure, Divided government, Method of appointment

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