ARE INSTITUTIONS WORKING? An evolutionary approach to the role of constitutional courts in preventing democratic decay

The paper develops a new theoretical framework for constitutional politics that draws insights from evolutionary theory and articulates a descriptive approach to the development of judicial institutions that aims normative neutrality. The goal is to demystify the power held by constitutional courts and further develop the ways by which institutional designers and public officials may push judicial institutions not only to work in a more trivial sense but also to be effective in preventing democratic decay. The paper presents the case of the Brazilian Supreme Court to provide a context-based argument and clarify its practical implications. It addresses the role of the court during the first 18 months of the new Federal Government that came to power in January 2019. As an overview of the court's relationship with other political actors during this period, it critically engages with the argument that Brazilian institutions are working notwithstanding recent episodes of court-curbing.