Court-Packing and Democratic Backsliding: A Necessary Relationship? (online participation)

This paper distinguishes two types of court-packing based on their effects on constitutional democracy. A first type occurs when politicians manipulate the composition of courts in order to implement public policies. This has a negative effect on judicial independence without producing regime change. A second type occurs when politicians alter the composition of the courts in order to dismantle democracy. I explain the different effects of these two types of court-packing by comparing two Latin American cases. In Argentina, Carlos Menem (1989-1999) packed the Supreme Court in order to implement neoliberal economic reforms. In contrast, Hugo Chávez (1999-2013) in Venezuela packed the Supreme Court in order to have loyal justices to assist the executive in undermining of liberal democracy. The evidence I gathered comes from elite interviews, judicial rulings, newspapers, reports by international organizations, memoirs, and works by constitutional law scholars.