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When Do Courts Constrain the Authoritarian State? Judicial Decision-Making in Jordan and Palestine

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Under what conditions will authoritarian courts issue decisions that constrain state actors? This study breaks new ground in authoritarianism research by explaining when authoritarian states are—and are not—held accountable to legal norms. I leverage evidence from interviews with Jordanian and Palestinian legal actors, original data on judicial decisions, and two years of fieldwork shadowing judges as they conducted business in the courthouse. I find that courts in Jordan and Palestine are hardly regime pawns, as judges routinely prioritize their own interests above those of regime elites. My results also demonstrate that lawsuits revealing instances of intra-state disunity are particularly good vehicles for expanding judicial authority over state activity and, further, that appellate courts are uniquely less capable of constraining state actors./abs>


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2022

This article was made available online on November 10, 2021 as a Fast Track article with title: "When Do Courts Constrain the Authoritarian State? Judicial Decision-Making in Jordan and Palestine".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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