Populism and the Courts in Latin America


Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 12:00pm to 1:20pm

For a recording of this event, please click here.

Populist presidents have assaulted (or seriously threatened) judicial independence in much of Latin America in the early twenty-first century. What drives these attacks? How do courts resist them? And why have some judiciaries proven more resilient in the face of populist governments than others?

Speakers: Julio Rios Figueroa, Associate Professor of Law, ITAM; Diego Werneck Arguelhes, Associate Professor of Law, Insper Institute for Education and Research, São Paulo; Lilliam Arrieta, Law professor at the Central American University of El Salvador
Discussant: Gretchen Helmke, Professor of Political Science, University of Rochester
Moderated by: Steven Levitsky, Director, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies; Professor of Government, Harvard University

Julio Ríos-Figueroa currently is Associate Professor at the Department of Law at ITAM in Mexico City (with a leave of absence from CIDE). He received his PhD in Politics from New York University (NYU). His research focuses on comparative judicial politics, the rule of law, and empirical legal studies with an empirical focus on the Latin American region. Ríos-Figueroa is the author of Constitutional Courts as Mediators. Armed Conflict, Civil-Military Relations, and the Rule of Law in Latin America as well as co-editor with Gretchen Helmke of the volume Courts in Latin America both published by Cambridge University Press. He has been a Hauser Research Scholar at the NYU School of Law, Visiting Professor at the Juan March Institute in Madrid, O’Gorman Fellow at Columbia University’s Institute of Latin American Studies, and Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at Stanford's CASBS. He was the editor of Política y gobierno (2014-2018).

Diego Werneck Arguelhes is an Associate Professor of Law at the Insper Institute for Education and Research, in São Paulo (Brazil). Before joining the Insper law faculty, he was Associate Professor (2011-2019) at the Fundação Getulio Vargas Law School in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (FGV Direito Rio). He is the founding co-director of the Brazilian Chapter of the International Society for Public Law (ICON-S).

Mr. Arguelhes was a visiting researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public and International Law (Heidelberg, Germany) (2016.1), a Visiting Fellow at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School (Spring 2017), and a Hauser Global Law Fellow at NYU Law School (Fall 2017). In the Spring of 2019, he was a Visiting Professor at the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland).

His research focuses on judicial politics and judicial behavior, the design of judicial institutions, and constitutional theory. Mr. Arguelhes holds an LL.B. and a M.A. (Public Law) from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), and LL.M. and J.S.D. degrees from Yale Law School. He received a Fundação Estudar fellowship for his LL.M. program.

Lilliam Virginia Arrieta de Carsana is a PhD in Law Summa Cum Laude and Master's degree in Research in Law, at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain; Bachelor at Law at the Jesuit University in San Salvador, El Salvador; Senior Researcher at the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development during 10 years; Legal Clerk at the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador during 9 years; 19 years of experience as a law professor; Author of several books and articles on topics related to economic law, freedom of expression and democracy; Recipient of several national and international academic recognitions and awards for her career and publications, including a special award for her doctoral dissertation; Currently head of the Salvadoran Office of Lawyers Without Borders – Canada.

Gretchen Helmke is Professor of Political Science at University of Rochester. She received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 2000. Her research focuses on political institutions, democratic consolidation and erosion, the rule of law, and Latin American politics. Her most recent book is Institutions on the Edge: The Origins and Consequences of Institutional Instability in Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2017). She is one of the co-founders of Bright Line Watch, a non-partisan organization that brings together leading political scientists to monitor democratic practices in the United States from a comparative perspective. Bright Line Watch is supported by grants from the Democracy Fund and the Hewlett Foundation and has received media coverage from The New York Times, Washington Post, the Atlantic, Boston Globe, and Vox. Helmke has received fellowships from the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame, the Weatherhead Center at Harvard University, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.. Her other books include: Courts in Latin America, co-edited with Julio Rios-Figueroa (Cambridge University Press, 2011), Courts Under Constraints: Judges, Generals, and Presidents in Argentina (Cambridge University Press 2005), and Informal Institutions and Democracy: Lessons from Latin America (Johns Hopkins University Press 2006), co-edited with Steven Levitsky.

Steven Levitsky is the Director of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. As the David Rockefeller Professor of Latin American Studies and Professor of Government, his research focuses on democratization, authoritarianism, political parties, and weak and informal institutions. He is author (with Daniel Ziblatt) of How Democracies Die (Crown, 2018), a New York Times Best-Seller that has been published in 25 languages, Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes after the Cold War (with Lucan Way) (Cambridge, 2010), and Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America: Argentine Peronism in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge, 2003), and co-editor of Informal Institutions and Democracy in Latin America (with Gretchen Helmke) and The Resurgence of the Latin American Left (with Kenneth Roberts). He has written frequently for the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Vox, The New Republic, The Monkey Cage, La República (Peru) and Folha de São Paulo (Brazil). He is currently writing a book (with Lucan Way) on the durability of revolutionary regimes. Levitsky received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

Presented in collaboration with Weatherhead Center for International Affairs