The past decade has been defined by democratic backsliding and the reemergence of authoritarianism around the globe. Freedom House marked 2021 as the 18th consecutive year of global democratic decline, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing polarization, and rising inequality. In the face of such trends, what role can a healthy, independent judiciary play in halting the rise of anti-democratic leaders and preserving the rule of law?
Students enrolled in the policy lab Global Trends in Judicial Reforms had the opportunity to investigate answers to this question by conducting comparative research on 21st century judicial reform efforts. Which nations have pursued innovative new strategies to improve the functioning of their judiciaries? Topics for research included advances in judicial independence, vetting, appointment mechanisms, balance of power structures, constitutional review, access to justice, and other factors affecting the rule of law.
Research Trip to Colombia
Students in past versions of the lab had identified Colombia as potentially a successful model of judicial reforms. Therefore, in 2023 the lab culminated with a field research trip to study reforms in Colombia. There, a team of Stanford law and university students engaged in qualitative interviews with judicial scholars, judges, representatives from NGOs, justices, and legal experts to assess tradeoffs and prioritize options across different adjudicatory models.
The goal is to create a Judicial Reform Database that will provide broader context for recommendations and hopefully serve as an informative, lasting compendium for future scholars. Reports include case studies on judicial reforms in a country and literature reviews of a particular area in judicial reforms.