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Endogenous Sources of Judicial Power: Parapolitics and the Supreme Court of Colombia

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Courts’ legal-constitutional authority, strategic interactions with elected branches, and ideational factors are acknowledged as rival theoretical frameworks of judicial power, i.e. courts’ legal and practical power to make and enforce decisions, including politically assertive ones. This article presents an alternative explanation for judicial power and assertiveness, arguing that judicial power can be endogenous to judicial processes, as legal-constitutional authority, strategic interactions, and ideational shifts are rooted in the unfolding of a judicialized political conflict.

The article assesses the sources of judicial power by examining the Colombian Supreme Court’s rulings and off-bench activism during the parapolitics scandal, in the course of which the Court investigated about one-third of Congress. It finds the parapolitics process itself redefined the justices’ interests, self-perceptions, and, consequently, limits of jurisdiction.

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Appeared or available online: December 12, 2019

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