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Unformatted text preview: COMPARATIVE POLITICAL STUDIES / May 20 Alter, Vargas / VARIATION IN EUROPEAN LITIGATION STRATEGIES Through the examination of one of the most successful cases of a European Community (EC) law litigation strategy, this article develops a general framework for understanding when and how the EC legal system will be successfully used by domestic groups to challenge national pol- icy. The authors show how the European legal system actually shifted the domestic balance of power in favor of equality actors, allowing a previously weak domestic group to influence the United Kingdoms gender equality policy at the height of Conservative Party rule. Expanding beyond the British case, the article develops a series of hypotheses about when the EC legal tool is likely to be used by groups to influence national policy, hypotheses that could account for cross-national variation in the impact of European Court of Justice jurisprudence on domestic policy in areas outside of equality policy. EXPLAINING VARIATION IN THE USE OF EUROPEAN LITIGATION STRATEGIES European Community Law and British Gender Equality Policy KAREN J. ALTER Smith College JEANNETTE VARGAS Yale Law School A s the project of European integration continues to advance, it has become increasingly clear that the dynamics of this transnational pro- cess are producing secondary effects for domestic politics. Yet there is remarkably little systematic analysis about how European integration is transforming the national political process. This article identifies one effect that European integration, specifically the creation of a European legal sys- tem, has had on politics within the states. By providing domestic groups with a tool that can be used to impose new costs on their government, the Euro- pean Unions (EU) legal system has transformed previously weak 452 COMPARATIVE POLITICAL STUDIES, Vol. 33 No. 4, May 2000 452-482 2000 Sage Publications, Inc. at RUTGERS UNIV on August 29, 2011 cps.sagepub.com Downloaded from organizations with little leverage into political players capable of directly influencing national policy. We describe this transformative process as shift- ing the domestic balances of power. The claim that the legal system can be a potent devise to influence national policy is hardly novel, especially to those familiar with American judicial politics. Yet the European Community (EC) legal tool differs from a tradi- tional litigation strategy, providing a unique means for groups to influence policy. There are different factors that influence whether an EC law litigation strategy will succeed. There are also advantages to using the EC legal tool that a domestic legal strategy does not offer. The EC legal system creates a means to circumvent opposition within the national judicial hierarchy, allow- ing a litigation strategy to succeed with the support of only a few lower level members of the judiciary. Furthermore, a change in policy based on EC law is much harder for national governments to reverse than a legal victory based...
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