Implementing the Rule of Law: The Role of Citizen-Plaintiffs
13 The Good Society (Fall 2004)
10 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2013
Date Written: March 4, 2013
This essay seeks to shift the focus away from the traditional emphasis on theories of judicial decision making and the role of judicial review, in order to highlight another mechanism for implementing the rule of law: citizen lawsuits against the state. To an extent that is unprecedented in our history, citizens interact more often with, and depend more upon, government officials. Constitutional harms are inflicted every day by government officials misusing the authority granted to them under legislation that is itself constitutional. Judicial review as a mechanism for securing constitutional rights is irrelevant in such cases. Allowing citizen plaintiffs to sue the government when it abuses its authority has become an indispensable element of constitutionalism, and an essential method of implementing the rule of law. But it is also a method that has generated much criticism. In what follows, I describe the growth of opposition to citizen suits against the state, and explain why these developments are so troubling.
Keywords: Section 1983, rule of law, constitutionalism, litigation
JEL Classification: K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation