Date on Senior Honors Thesis


Document Type

Senior Honors Thesis

Degree Name



Political Science

Degree Program

College of Arts and Sciences

Author's Keywords

Colombia; judiciary; reform; proposal; judicial; Latin America


A current body of research examines Colombia’s judicial institutions and focuses on the successes and failures of past reforms. While the literature is overwhelmingly negative, scholars have managed to put forward pieces of a potential solution. I draw on these analyses to answer the question, “what is the best possible course of action for Colombia’s future judicial reform projects?” Throughout this paper, I draw on Colombian newspapers, think-tank reports, survey research, and academic studies to formulate a cohesive answer. This existing literature identifies that Colombia’s weak judiciary stems from Spanish colonialism’s lasting influence, the reactive and defensive nature of judges, and persistent political instability. While past reforms have addressed general problems within the nation, I find that Colombia could benefit from a targeted, phased reform agenda. I conclude Colombia’s judiciary needs a serious round of comprehensive reforms to address its lack of competence, accountability, and transparency. Moreover, future reforms could benefit from a reformed budget and increased civil society participation. These adjustments could then facilitate public trust in the government, thus propelling its legitimacy.

Lay Summary

Since the 1980s, numerous Latin American countries have initiated difficult and lengthy processes of democratic transition. While some have introduced sweeping reforms to address serious problems within their justice systems, governments still struggle to administer justice efficiently. Despite the newly drafted constitutions aiming to guarantee the protection of citizens' rights, there is a significant gap between constitutional promises and the actual behavior of judicial officials. Citizens suffer from this failure of justice the most, as they routinely encounter widespread corruption, inefficiency, and apathy from their government officials. Nowhere is the corruption, inefficiency, and apathy greater than in Colombia. My thesis will explore the past and present judicial reform attempts in Colombia. I will closely analyze how historical and institutional factors have played a central role in the country’s attempt at reform. I will also examine the introduction of the Constitutional Court, its strengths and weaknesses, the general failure of reforms, and the ongoing debates in Colombia regarding the proper path toward reform. Finally, I propose a series of reforms that the Colombian government could take to address the system's most serious and challenging problems.