J. G. Verner
Nov 1, 1984
Journal of Latin American Studies
A survey of the relevant literature indicates rather graphically that little scholarly attention has been given to an assessment of the independence of supreme courts in the developing areas. A familiar theme in the scant research which has been reported is not only the relative decline of these courts, but their political weakness and general dependence in Third World countries in the first place. Although the constitutions of most developing countries provide for independent, sometimes even coequal judicial branches of government, with clearly defined and significant powers, and with constitutional guarantees to protect their independence, the evidence suggests that no more than a mere handful of national courts in these countries are truly independent: that is, few courts are free to decide cases on the basis of the established law and the ‘merits of the case’, without substantial interference from other political or governmental agents. Gamer has concluded that usually the ‘highest power rests with a Prime Minister (or President) and a small inner circle of the cabinet, whose policy decisions are seldom challenged by courts, legislatures˜’ and ‘there are few constitutional/legal traditions to restrain this central power’. Almond has written that ‘central executives and bureaucracy tend to monopolize the “rule” functions at the expense of courts and legislature’.