Consensus and dissent in the resolution of conflicts of competence by the Spanish Constitutional Court: the role of federalism and ideology

  • Julio López-Laborda
  • Fernando Rodrigo
  • Eduardo Sanz-ArcegaEmail author


Given the lack of unambiguously constitutional foundations, Spain’s Constitutional Court (TC) has being playing a leading role in building the regulatory framework of the Autonomic State. This paper analyses whether this function is sufficient to explain the level of agreement among TC justices when adopting their resolutions, and in particular, on reaching unanimous rulings. If so, the legalist/federalist model would be a more adequate model to explain the behaviour of TC justices than the other models proposed in the literature on judicial behaviour: the attitudinal and the strategic models. A database has been constructed for this purpose with the 390 positive conflicts of competence between the central government and the autonomous communities resolved by the TC from 1981 to 2017, which have been used to estimate various explanatory models of unanimous rulings. The results obtained show the importance of the legalist/federalist model when attempting to explain unanimity in the Court’s pronouncements, but they also offer evidence that there are other factors that also influence the level of agreement among TC justices, remarkably the ideological ones.


Constitutional Court Conflicts of competence Unanimity Federalism Ideology 

JEL Classification




The authors are very grateful to two referees of the Journal for very useful suggestions that have helped them to improve the paper. They also thank the Government of Aragon and the European Regional Development Fund (Public Economics Research Group) and the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, Project ECO2016-76506-C4-3-R (Julio López-Laborda) for their funding. A version of this paper was presented at a workshop organised by the Spanish Constitutional Court in Madrid on March 21, 2018, at the 9th Conference of the Spanish Association of Law and Economics, Lérida, Spain, June 28–29, 2018, and at the 26th Public Economics Meeting, Oviedo, Spain, January 24–25, 2019. The authors gratefully acknowledge Mercedes Serrano, Nuno Garoupa and the participants in the three conferences for their comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julio López-Laborda
    • 1
  • Fernando Rodrigo
    • 1
  • Eduardo Sanz-Arcega
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Public EconomicsUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain

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