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If one examines the legal landscape of contemporary Europe, one will be struck by the institutional salience of Constitutional Courts. In a long evolution that started after the First World War and that reached its climax after the fall of Communism, most European countries have established these special courts in order to protect their national Constitutions against offensive legislation. Europe is now clearly associated with a “centralized model” of constitutional review, where only one court has authority to strike down a statute as unconstitutional, while the United States exemplifies the “decentralized model”, where all courts are empowered to set aside legislation if it violates the Constitution.


Paper presented in the panel on “The Judicial Power in a Democracy” at SELA 2004, The Limits of Democracy, in Oaxaca, Mexico.