Research Handbook on Law and Courts
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Research Handbook on Law and Courts

Edited by Susan M. Sterett and Lee D. Walker

The Research Handbook on Law and Courts provides a systematic analysis of new work on courts as governing institutions. Authors consider how courts have taken on regulating fundamental categories of inclusion and exclusion, including citizenship rights. Courts’ centrality to governance is addressed in sections on judicial processes, sub-national courts, and political accountability, all analyzed in multiple legal/political systems. Other chapters turn to analyzing the worldwide push for diversity in staffing courts. Finally, the digitization of records changes both court processes and studying courts. Authors included in the Handbook discuss theoretical, empirical and methodological approaches to studying courts as governing institutions. They also identify promising areas of future research.
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Chapter 4: Drug policy, violence, and support for the judiciary in Latin America: the “drug trafficking trap”

Aldo F. Ponce


Prohibitive drug policy has spread throughout Latin America. Many countries heavily penalize consumption, and a few have even militarized the war against drugs. In this chapter I examine whether drug policy’s negative externalities-which include greater violence, victimhood, and perceptions of drug trafficking as a major problem-erode public perceptions of fairness of courts as well as trust in the justice system in Latin America. This study shows that the impact of drug policy on the perceptions of justice institutions and the political system is complex. While victimhood deteriorates trust in the justice system, concerns of drug trafficking as a major problem affect these perceptions in the opposite way. Furthermore, victimhood and perceptions of drug trafficking as a major problem tend to strengthen support for the broader political system. Aggressive law enforcement seems to allow Latin American governments to harvest this support, as this policy shows determination in dealing with drug trafficking problems. However, more aggressive law enforcement leads again to greater violence and victimhood. This vicious circle, which I call in this study the “drug trafficking trap,” leads to increases in both violence and law enforcement over time.

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