Form, Formula and Constitutional Ethos: The Political Question/Justiciability Doctrine in Three Common Law Systems
32 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2011 Last revised: 14 Apr 2015
Date Written: November 10, 2010
This article addresses the judicial penchant for formula-based decision making, evident in all fields of law. I distinguish between legal constructs, doctrines or rules on the one hand and formulas, tests and criteria designed as tools for the application of such constructs on the other hand, and focus on the strategic and political aspects of formulas. The design and retention of a formula can be strategically motivated, as formulas have a distancing effect, enabling judges to decide under a façade of objectivity. The judicial replacement of an operating formula can operate a signaling device; by transforming a legal formula, the judge proclaims to all available audiences that the revolution is of such proportions that it requires a rethinking of previous modes of reasoning. The article also identifies a possible link between the longevity of a formula in public law and the well-being of the constitutional ethos of the legal system in which the formula has evolved. These aspects are considered in the context of the formulas used to apply the political question/justiciability doctrine, a doctrine directly linked to perceptions of the role of the judiciary in the public decision-making sphere. The analysis of the life of justiciability formulas in the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom offers insights into the interface between law and politics, inherent to public law, and serves to emphasize the utility of the study of legal form as an aid to normative study.
Keywords: Comparative Law, Constitutional Law, Justiciability, Law and Politics, Political Question, Public Law, United Kingdom, United States, Israel
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