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Luciano Da Ros and Matthew C. Ingram

Scholarship on law and courts has paid little attention to subnational tribunals outside of the United States, especially state judiciaries in developing democracies. State courts are responsible for deciding the vast majority of cases and managing the country’s judicial budget. Using the federal republic of Brazil as the case of interest, the chapter examines subnational variation in judicial and legal outcomes using the interrelated areas of empowerment (institution building and formal powers), activation (legal venues and mobilization of legal actors), behavior (decision making and off the bench networks) and impact (the broader political and social consequences of the judiciary). Findings indicate that in spite of identical national laws, variation occurs in all four areas of inquiry because of the discretion of local judges and the varying activity of local judicial and legal institutions.  Empirically, the chapter documents variation across the Brazilian states and shows how scholars may use state courts to both test existing theories and to develop new theories in the fields of law and courts.