Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
United States
The Ohio State University
Courts, Policing, Violence Against Women, Gender Based Violence, Rule of Law, Public Security, Central America
Media Contact

Personal Info

About Me

Rachel Bowen’s research interests focus on the rule of law in Central America, including the politics of courts and judicial independence in environments of high crime and violence as well as the politics of violence against women and policing.  Since 2002, she has conducted field research on these topics in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.

Recent Publications

The Achilles Heel of Democracy: Judicial Autonomy and the Rule of Law in Central America

Book Manuscript under review

 The Achilles Heel of Democracy takes on recent literature on judicial politics for ignoring the importance of judicial autonomy from societal actors in favor of inter-branch judicial independence.  Far too often, judicial politics is conceived of as merely a type of inter-branch relations, in which the primary threats to judicial power come from the president or the legislature.  This book takes a different approach: it place the judiciary in the context of research on the state and society to argue that the rule of law is only possible when judges at all levels of the hierarchy have the autonomy to enforce the law – the crystallization of democratic will – against those with social, economic, or even criminal power and not just pure political power.  The consequences for democracy from deficient societal autonomy are fundamentally different from those that flow from insufficient inter-branch independence.  Where a judiciary that lacks independence will fail to hold government actors accountable, a judiciary without autonomy from society will only intermittently and partially enforce the rule of law, allowing organized and disorganized criminality to threaten the security of the state and its citizens.

“Judicial Autonomy in Central America: A Typological Argument”

Political Research Quarterly 66:4, pp. 830 – 841, December 2013

Media Coverage
Country Focus
Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica

Research Areas

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