“Judges as Equilibrists: Explaining Judicial Activism in Latin America”

Intense forms of judicial activism have emerged in Latin American (LA). Judges dictate Structural Remedies Decisions (SRDs) ordering to create, design, and implement public policies to redress structural human rights violations.
In a region marked by judicial instability, SRDs can be seen as strong challenges to government and, thus, prompt retaliation. They can also damage judges’ reputation as they might be criticized by influential conservative groups opposing progressive structural reforms.
What drives judges to pursue or avoid this kind of risky activism? I propose the Equilibrist Approach, an alternative model to standard judicial behaviour accounts in LA. It incorporates the legitimacy building dimension of the strategic game and predicts some level of assertiveness, but one that is careful about elites’ preferences and those of the mass public and opinion leaders. I use the institutional fragile Argentine Supreme Court to test the model