Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Bradley C. Canon

Second Advisor

Dr. Kirk A. Randazzo

Abstract

In pursuing their goals, newly-created constitutional courts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics are affected by their institutional setting and capabilities. Yet, previous studies did not explore how constitutional courts develop over time and what noteworthy implications for politics and society result from their institutional growth. To address this gap in the literature, I measured a variety of organizational characteristics and constructed an index of institutional development for the twenty eight constitutional courts in the post-communist countries from the initial year of their transitions through 2005. I argued that high values on this measure (which I labeled the judicial viability score) should enable constitutional court judges to satisfy their policy objectives and improve public and elite perceptions of the judiciary’s role in new democratic systems. To demonstrate this empirically, I tested a series of statistical models of judicial influence to show that the level of court’s institutional viability has profound implications on its legal, political, and social impact.

My analyses indicated that the level of the constitutional court’s institutional viability is, indeed, an important determinant of the constitutional court judges’ ability to actively shape public policies and render decisions which are independent of, and in opposition to, the preferences of dominant political actors and government institutions. Additionally, the results demonstrated that the level of constitutional court’s viability significantly affects the perceptions of the ordinary citizens and business elites—ordinary citizens and business owners and managers are more likely to express confidence in the national legal system in countries with relatively institutionalized constitutional courts than citizens living in countries with weakly institutionalized constitutional courts. Thus, my research highlights the importance of studying the evolutionary process by which courts acquire institutional viability and, in doing so, contributes to our understanding of the factors shaping the development of democracy, the rule of law, and constitutionalism in the post-communist societies.

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