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The Canadian Living Tree Doctrine as a Comparative Model of Evolutionary Constitutional Interpretation

Abstract

This paper starts with a general contextualisation of how Canadian constitutional law acquired an important role in global constitutional conversations in recent decades. It then considers, in particular, the well-known Canadian Living tree doctrine as a model of evolutionary constitutional interpretation, and argues that it is a relevant case study for our purposes since it is able to precisely link the ‘history, evolution, influence and reform’ of constitutional law in a comprehensive doctrine. The doctrine's comparative influence will be analysed in particular: the Living tree is especially relevant, since its comparative influence is traceable both in the work of courts that are historical participants in transnational judicial conversations, and courts that are new players in the game.

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Canadian Federalism in Design and Practice: The Mechanics of a Permanently Provisional Constitution

Abstract

This paper examines the interaction between constitutional design and practice through a case study of Canadian federalism. Focusing on the federal architecture of the Canadian Constitution, the paper examines how subnational units in Canada actually compete with the central government, emphasizing the concrete strategies and tactics they most commonly employ to get their way in confrontations with central authority. The evidence affirms that constitutional design and structure make an important difference in the tactics and tools available to subnational units in a federal system, but that design is not fully constraining: there is considerable evidence of extraconstitutional innovation and improvisation by governments. Furthermore, changes in practice initiated by Canadian subnational actors have produced changes in the allocation of national and subnational authority that are plausibly characterized as constitutional in magnitude. The paper concludes that the design of the Canadian federal system may inadvertently undermine its capacity to stabilize itself at any particular point of constitutional evolution, making it ‘permanently provisional.’

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Normative and Institutional Dimensions of Rights’ Adjudication Around the World

Abstract

The implications of incommensurability for rights’ adjudication tend to be overlooked in much of contemporary constitutional theory. This paper criticizes the dominant “one right-answer” approach to conflicts of rights, and develops an alternative approach that is better suited to constitutional rights’ adjudication in contemporary pluralistic legal orders. It is submitted that the normative reasons for having courts undertake the value-choices implicit in constitutional rights’ adjudication, and for preferring certain legal methodologies over others, must reflect the role of courts in resolving social disputes in the light of specific aspects of the economic, social, and legal life of the polities in which those courts operate. It is further argued that any theory that builds from this approach needs to answer two inter-related questions: when is constitutional rights’ adjudication by courts appropriate, and how rights’ adjudication should be pursued.

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Clarifications on the Legal Terminology in the Constitutional Court Jurisprudence

Abstract

The legal terminology represents a specialised language by which both the lawmaker and the person implementing the law focus on a pre-established communication channel which guarantee for the stability, the accessibility and the predictability of the law, as well as on the juridical security. In the situations when the law moves away from various reasons from the unanimously agreed meaning, imbalances are triggered in practice. In order to re-establish the balance of the law, the Constitutional Court intervenes in decisive situations. Thus, our instance of constitutional contentious has been seized on the exception of non-Constitutionality of the provisions of the art. 249 par. (1) of the Criminal Law in 1969 and of the art. 298 of the Criminal Law. The authors of the exception asked the Court to notice that the provisions of the art. 298 of the Criminal Law are constitutional only in the measure when the phrase “it fails to accomplish it” from their contents mean “it accomplishes it by breaking the law”.

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Constitutional Coup? The Case that Promulgated a New Constitution for Montana

Abstract

This Article examines one of the most important state court cases ever decided. In Montana ex rel. Cashmore v. Anderson, the Montana Supreme Court exercised its original jurisdiction to order, by a 3-2 margin, that the state’s original constitution be replaced with one the people apparently had failed to ratify. In doing so, the court yielded to interest groups that favored replacing the original state constitution with an instrument based on radically different premises. Political threats may have caused the swing justice to vote for the new constitution, but even if that did not occur, the case represents a striking example of the failure of the rule of law. The Article also proposes reforms that may reduce the chances of a recurrence.

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Polish Democracy Under Threat? An Issue of Mere Politics or a Real Danger?

Abstract

Poland has recently experienced a constitutional crisis. The crisis involves the role of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) in the election of judges and amendments to the Constitutional Tribunal Act which threatens the independence of the Tribunal. The situation is exacerbated by changes in the media, civil service, police, and prosecution laws introduced by the ruling party. This article analyses the changes, as well as the domestic and international reactions to the crisis, and considers whether the heavy criticism of the PiS is justified, or whether it results from, for instance, specific characteristics of the Polish political system and an unfavourable opinion in Europe about the Law and Justice party.

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Constitutional conflicts in the European Union: Court packing in Poland versus the United States

Abstract

Court packing greatly threatens democracy. This paper examines, compares and draws conclusions from two attempts: The PiS government is near to packing Polish courts; President Roosevelt tried but failed to pack the U.S. Supreme Court in 1937. In most democracies a head of government with a legislative majority and strong party control can pack courts, giving complete control. The United States escaped; Roosevelt lacked complete party control. Poland is unlucky; PiS is strongly controlled. Peaceful domestic protest is necessary, but Poland’s hope is from EU-level institutional pressure, supported by major democracies, to reverse packing and prevent further seizure of power.

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A New Start for Perspectives on Federalism

Abstract

Perspectives on Federalism is closing its seventh year and its issue 2/2015 confirms the interdisciplinary nature of this intellectual enterprise. This issue is a very rich one, as it includes legal, historical and philosophical contributions. In spite of the evident diversities of these articles, we can identify three main connecting themes: latest developments in EU law, history of thought and European integration, and constitutional developments in national and supranational contexts.

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An Opportunity for Reflection – A Special Issue on “The Constitution of Canada: History, Evolution, Influence and Reform”

Abstract

Canada is and will for the foreseeable future be a peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy whose Constitution Act, 1867, now 150 years old as of 2017, has become a model for the modern world. The Constitution of Canada has exerted considerable influence on other countries, particularly since the coming into force of its Constitution Act, 1982, which included the celebrated Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Just as Canada drew from foreign and international experiences in drafting its Charter, the world has learned a great deal from Canada, not only as to rights protections but also as to the separation of powers, the judicial function, and the structure of government.

In light of these impressive achievements, an international symposium on the Canadian Constitution was held in Pisa at the Scuola Sant’Anna under the auspices of the Sant’Anna Legal Studies project and with the support of the DIRPOLIS (Law, Politics and Development) Institute at the Scuola Sant’Anna, the Canadian Embassy in Italy, and the International Association of Constitutional Law. This special issue collects some of the papers presented on that occasion.

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The Kelsenian Model of Constitutional Review in Times of European Integration – Reconsidering the Basic Features

Summary

The paper deals with the changes in the centralized (Kelsenian) model of constitutional review resulting from a state’s membership of the EU, which unequivocally demonstrates the decomposition of the classic paradigm of constitutional judiciary. The main point raised in the paper is that European integration has fundamentally influenced on the four above-mentioned basic elements of the Kelsenian model of constitutional review of legislation, which are the following: the assumption of the hierarchical construction of a legal system; the assumption of the supreme legal force of the constitution as the primary normative act of a given system; a centralised model of reviewing hierarchical conformity of legal norms; coherence of the system guaranteed by a constitutional court’s power to declare defectiveness of a norm and the latter’s derogation. All its fundamental elements have evolved, i.e. the hierarchy of the legal system, the overriding power of the constitution, centralized control of constitutionality, and the erga omnes effect of the ruling on the hierarchical non-conformity of the norms. It should be noted that over the last decade the dynamics of these changes have definitely gained momentum. This has been influenced by several factors, including the “great accession” of 2004, the pursuit of formal constitutionalization of the EU through the Constitutional Treaty, the compromise solutions adopted in the Treaty of Lisbon, the entry into force of the Charter, and the prospect of EU accession to the ECHR. The CJEU has used these factors to deepen the tendencies towards decentralization of constitutional control, by atomising national judicial systems and relativizing the effects of constitutional court rulings within national legal systems. The end result is the observed phenomenon, if not of marginalisation, then at least of a systemic shift in the position of constitutional courts, which have lost their uniqueness and have become “only ones of many” national courts.

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