Judging the Generals: Judicial-Military Interactions in Authoritarian and Post-Authoritarian States

My book project focuses on the question: under what conditions can courts test (and limit) the prerogatives of politically powerfulmilitaries in authoritarian and post-authoritarian contexts? . The project focuses primarily on the case of Pakistan – a country that has seen a surprising shift in the behavior of the superior judiciary over the past two decades,  from a position of close collaboration with a politically-domineering military to one of open contestation of the military’s authority. 

Drawing on twelve months of  archival work, interviews, and legal investigation in the field I find that three factors account for this  shift in judicial assertiveness: i) a demographic shift in the composition of the judicial elite s away from classes tied to the military (due to non-endogenous developments in the private sector), ii) a political shift in the norms prevalent in the lawyer’s communityand especially the Bar associations (due to inadvertent regime policies), and iii) an institutional shift towards increased judicial autonomy in the appointment and promotional process.

Based on this analysis I develop a new “audience-based” approach to explaining judicial activism, arguing  that judiciaries become ideologically motivated to challenge powerful militaries when institutions and networks, or “audiences,” determining the career trajectories and reputations of judges grow independent from the military. This theory corrects significant shortcomings in our understanding of the judiciary’s motivations and conceptualizes a new typology of courts that is applicable across political systems.  I test the generalizability of this framework in Egypt and Indonesia. This study generates new theory and presents new findings with important implications for democratic consolidation and the rule of law.