Document Type

Article

Publication Date

January 2007

Abstract

A comparative assessment of the successes and failures of the judicial reform efforts of El Salvador and Brazil in the 1980’s produces striking results. The reforms varied greatly in scope and were conducted in very different socio-political and economic backgrounds. While El Salvador’s reforms seemed narrow and ill-planned, on paper it appeared that Brazil’s broad reforms would be a successful model for any country with a fledgling democracy. Brazil’s reforms were an exercise in constitutionalism, implementing genuine separation of powers and receiving legislative and executive support. I was very surprised that these different approaches produced strikingly similar negative effects on the people’s assessment of the judiciary. From this outcome I concluded that while judicial reform of a corrupt or inefficient judiciary is an important step in ensuring the rule of law in society, it can not be the vehicle through which democratic reform is implemented. Quite to the contrary, for successful judicial reform to take place there must be considerable penetration of the law in society through enforcement of unbiased legislation, consistency in the laws and their enforcement, and sufficient time for the reform to have an effect on society.