Weber by other means? The judicial construction of Latin American civil services

In the last decade, higher courts in Latin America have increasingly made use of both rights-based and impact litigation to engage in structural reforms of civil services. In doing so, the courts have begun to confront patronage practices and spoil systems in a way that second-generation reforms failed to do. This paper examines some aspects of this ongoing struggle for civil service reform. In pursuing this inquiry, the paper makes three normative claims. First, in implementing civil service reforms, the dominant political class in each country have exploited legal loopholes and introduced distortions into the system to render it ineffective. Secondly, the myriad cases of judicial activism in civil service litigation have sought to correct the distortions introduced into the system along the lines of the second-generation reforms. Thirdly, the cases in which higher courts have engaged in structural reforms haven’t resulted in improvements to the operations of civil services.