Volume 27 (2016) / Issue 4
Specialized courts have been a panacea of legal reform in Europe in the last ten to twenty years. Few studies have studied their performance and alleged advantages. This paper considers a particularly interesting example. It explores possible variations in terms of constitutional review across Brazilian state supreme courts. We focus on possible differences between decisions made by a non-specialized court en banc or by a specialized court panel (órgão especial), the latter being frequent in the larger states. An original dataset was constructed by the authors to empirically explore this question. The dataset considered 630 cases of abstract review judged between January 1, 2006, and December 31, 2010, across twenty-five state supreme courts of the Brazilian federation. The main purpose of our inquiry is to determine whether or not there are significant variations in the outcome of the cases of abstract review as a function of a specialized panel. We find some evidence that the existence of specialized panels matters for the likelihood and rates of dissent as well as duration of procedures, but not for other variables. Implications for legal reform are also discussed.
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