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ECPR Futures Lab 2020

Impacts of Courts on Policy Implementation in a Federal State: Evidence from the Disability Insurance in Switzerland

Karin Byland
University of Geneva
Karin Byland
University of Geneva
Roy Gava
Universität St Gallen
Frédéric Varone
University of Geneva

Switzerland is characterized by a strong federalism. Swiss cantons have extensive autonomy in implementing federal laws, thus contributing to heterogeneity in cantonal political structures, administrative practices and, eventually, policy outputs. This paper analyses if and to what extent the judicial decisions of the Federal Supreme Court influence policy processes and outputs at the cantonal level, and potentially lead to a convergence of policy implementation in the various Swiss cantons. Empirically, it focuses on the dynamics of social policy reforms, legal mobilization and disability benefits litigation between 2000 and 2011. The study assesses quantitatively the citizens’ claims for disability insurance, the implementation decisions by cantonal agencies and the appeals against the cantonal decisions. Furthermore, it analyses rulings of the Federal Supreme Court in order to determine the leading applicants as well as the outcomes of these cases. Such a case analysis provides leverage for exploring legal mobilization and the role of law and courts in social policy reform and policy implementation.
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