Vol. 11 No. 6 (June 2001) pp. 299-301.

JUSTICE BEYOND OUR BORDERS. JUDICIAL REFORMS FOR LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN by Christina Biebesheimer and Francisco Meja (Editors). Washington D. C.: Inter-American Development Bank, 2000. 183 pp. ISBN: 1-886938-80-6.

Reviewed by Elin Skaar, Department of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles.

If you're a political scientist and you pick up this book expecting to find an analysis of judicial reform in Latin America and the Caribbean, you'll be disappointed. The book is not written for political scientists, neither is it about Latin America. Rather, it is aimed at political analysts interested in judicial reform carried out on other continents that may be relevant to Latin America. The guiding question is what may Latin America learn from other countries' experiences? Hence the title JUSTICE BEYOND OUR BORDERS.

The justification of this paperback with a rather attractive cover and layout is to provide those working on justice reform in Latin America with viable models from reform processes around the world. This is a timely topic since practically every Latin American country has over the last decade taken steps to reform its judicial system, through minor tinkering or major overhauls. Regional sharing of technical expertise and experience has been quite extensive, but experts working in the region have lamented the lack of information about what is going on elsewhere. Consequently, the Inter-American Development Bank, committed to strengthening justice systems and the rule of law, hired a handful of experts to study reform processes around the world. This book is a summary of their findings. It has a dual objective. The first is "to look at what has been working in other places" and the second is to evaluate "what may be appropriate for the reform process in the region" (p. iv). The idea is laudable, but the implementation of the first objective is arguably more successful than that of the second.

This may partly be due to an unclear thesis. It seems as if the editors-whose only contribution to this volume is a brief introduction-have given virtually free hands to the experts hired. The result is three very different chapters, which despite interesting individual accounts, combined fail to give a joint impression of coherence. Each chapter is written by different authors, with different objectives, employing different methods, different levels of generality, and different styles. The chapters span a general survey of various reforms, a thematic study, and a case study.

The first chapter authored by John Linarelli and Carolyn Herzog (both of the International Law Institute, ILI) survey model practices in judicial reform. They cover a wide range of areas, such as case tracking and judicial management, procedural reform in civilian and criminal matters, court and non-court based alternative dispute resolutions. Hardly a stone is left unturned. Examples are drawn from a selection of diverse countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Italy, Norway, Singapore, Australia, Finland, Japan, Germany, Belgium, and Spain. The authors claim that they will cover twelve

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main areas of reform, roughly divided into model practices in civil justice, best practices in criminal justice and - perhaps most useful - best practices applicable to both civil and criminal proceedings. Linarelli and Herzog argue that many of the practices discussed in this ambitious survey may be attractive for implementation in Latin America. However, it is not clear how. The mix of reform models and country examples lacks a clear line of argument and justification of case selection. The chapter headings are confusing rather than clarifying. The balance of the discussion is tilted in favour of civil justice-perhaps not all that surprising given the authors' background. The information provided in the Appendices seems to have no obvious connection to the text. Yet, the main weakness of this chapter is that the authors fail to draw the explicit link between the many best- practice reforms that they sketch and how or where or why the reforms might be useful to Latin American policy reformers. For instance, it is rather odd that the authors spend time discussing the specialization of courts, using US business courts as a model, knowing that the majority of Latin American (save, perhaps, those of Brazil and Argentina) and certainly most of the Caribbean judicial systems are probably too small and poorly staffed to make such specialization a priority area within judicial reform. By contrast, criminal procedure reform, which has been a priority of many Latin American countries and thus would seem to justify a discussion of models from other parts of the world, is given scarce attention. In sum, though it touches upon many important aspects of judicial reform, the first chapter is too general to provide a potentially interested reformer with the necessary depth of ideas and recommended tools. More importantly, it fails to provide a convincing argument for when each model should be applied.

In Chapter 2 Robert J. Rhudy, an expert on legal assistance to low- income people in civil cases, narrows his focus to the need of expanding access to justice and suggests various legal aid models for Latin America. He describes and analyses ten different models, focusing on the differences in (private versus public) funding, main actors, and main beneficiaries. The ten models are summarized in comprehensive tables giving a useful and systematic overview over their main strengths and weaknesses. Following the general discussion of the different types of models, Rhudy engages in a down-to-earth debate on how different -regional or national-factors may influence the development of legal aid models in Latin America. (Note: the Caribbean is hardly mentioned anywhere in the book itself, only in the title). Some of the most important factors influencing successful implementation of a new model, argues Rhudy, are respect for the rule of law, the status of the judiciary (including judicial independence, integrity, competence, efficiency and respect), status and operation of the legal profession, the status of legal aid, and the nature of the client population. His main argument, drawn from the theoretical discussion and supported by findings from three carefully selected case studies of legal aid and community legal education programs (from the Netherlands, Canada, and the U. S.), is that a mix of models seems to be most effective way to deliver legal aid and access to justice services. Given that access to justice is a major problem in many Latin American countries due to unequal distributions and conservative judicial systems which traditionally have been more concerned with serving the more powerful political and economic classes than the poor, this chapter is of particularly high value to reformers. The discussion is broad enough, the focus narrow enough, and the details many enough for the chapter to have practical value.

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The main guiding question of Chapter 3 is what makes judicial reform successful? In the search of an answer, Juan Enrique Vargas Viancos provides an in-depth analysis of the various aspects of the judicial reform process in the Basque country and clearly shows how it may be relevant to Latin American countries. The key to success in the Basque Country, argues Vargas, "can be found more in the overall reform strategy than in his content" (p. 120). This is his main message to reformers. In order to implement successful reform, one needs to think of both short-term strategies that will get on board all the relevant actors, and at the same time stick to long-term commitments to ensure continuity and implementation. The first requires detailed and careful planning, with the help of outside expertise, if necessary. To achieve the latter, political commitment at a high level is required. Displaying an impressive knowledge about the Basque reform process as well as the problems riddling Latin American reformers, Vargas successfully draws the link between the two regions. Because the Basque country shares many of the same characteristics as most Latin American countries (this includes problems of the judiciary as well as legal tradition and culture), the lessons learned from this part of Europe are of particular relevance to Latin American reformers. In short, this third and last chapter succeeds in providing an exciting, interesting, and relevant account of the Basque case written in a lively language, interspersed with a wide array of tables, figures, and charts.

Together, the three chapters present a potpourri of reform ideas, drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources as well as country experiences. However, the information is rather unevenly utilised, distributed, and presented. The scarcity of detail in chapter one contrasts sharply with the, at times, excessive details in the last chapter. For instance, Linarelli and Herzog sum up eight different models of legal funding in a little over one page (pp. 38-39). Vargas, by contrast, engages the reader in minute accounts of the number of square meters of judicial buildings renovated or the number of rooms in each judicial building of various Basque cities. Rhudy in the middle chapter seems to have struck a healthy balance between the two, combining an interesting theoretical discussion with empirical summary from a large-n as well as details from three selected case studies, all nicely tied together. However, in spite of big differences in method and levels of generality employed by the three chapters, the information in this book comes across as solid, well researched, and credible. The authors of each chapter have been allowed to draw on their comparative advantages and different areas of expertise. Have they succeeded in their aim in offering good policy advice?

To sum up, a political scientist might have wished for more causal arguments and deeper analysis, especially in the first chapter. A law student would, perhaps, be bewildered by the lack of theoretical discussion of legal terms. But to be fair to the editors, "this book does not argue the case for investing in the rule of law. The book is intended for the practitioner and written for those working on justice reform and in need of better tools with which to do it" (p. xi). On balance, therefore, I think this book will prove useful to practitioners specifically interested in either legal aid reform or administrative reform, as discussed and analyzed in the two last chapters. By contrast, those reformers wanting more in- depth information and guidance to best practices in civil or criminal justice may use the first chapter as a general point of departure, but are advised to also seek other more detailed and complete sources than those provided by JUSTICE BEYOND OUR BORDERS.

Copyright 2001 by the author, Elin Skaar.