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Authoritarian Regimes and Courts

The scholarly body of literature on courts in authoritarian regimes is thin, primarily as the result of an almost universal assumption among political scientists and comparative law scholars that democracy is a necessary prerequisite for judicial independence and, as a result, judicial politics. However, nearly every empirical study of judicial institutions in authoritarian settings indicates that courts do more than simply institutionalize regime control vis-à-vis an opposition. To varying degrees, courts are also used to perform several other important governance functions: to consolidate administrative discipline within the state's own bureaucratic machinery, to maintain elite pacts and promote elite cohesion, to reduce the political cost of controversial political reforms, to bolster a regime's claim to “legal” legitimacy, and to provide the institutional infrastructure necessary for marketdriven ...

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