Counter-Terrorist Judicial Review as Regulatory Constitutionalism

Forthcoming in Fergal Davis & Fiona de Londras (eds), Critical Debates on Counter-Terrorist Judicial Review (2014; CUP)

14 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2014

See all articles by Fiona de Londras

Fiona de Londras

Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, UK

Date Written: March 20, 2014


Since 9/11, courts inquiries, politics and independent reviewers have been working to try to maintain and enforce constitutionalist principles in the face of counter-terrorist powers. Experience has shown that politics has struggled to resolve the challenges these powers pose to constitutionalism — broadly understood here as a rule of law based commitment to limited, accountable and transparent power — so that courts have become central to resolving these tensions. In large part, courts have been asked to deal with counter-terrorist policies and laws directly imposed on litigants by respondent states, in relation to which some commentators have claimed courts are being less deferential than might have been expected. Adjacent to these kinds of cases, however, is the complex situation of the suspected terrorist with some kind of relational connection to one state who is either detained abroad by another state or by his own state, which intends to transfer him into the custody of another. These cases are truly acute; they bring into question not only the fine lines of rights protection and security activity, but also complex and vital questions of institutional competence heightened by the ‘foreign affairs’ context. Their acute nature allows for them to be an especially stern test for any claims that courts are in fact engaging in muscular counter-terrorist judicial review. Thus, in this chapter, I explore such cases across three jurisdictions in an attempt to explore what it is that courts are doing.

Through an analysis of three cases from Canada, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK), I argue that courts are quite carefully carving these kinds of cases into conceptual pieces — which I classify as internal and external questions — to engage in what I term regulatory constitutionalism. Here internal questions speak to the relationship between the suspected terrorist and the respondent state, whereas external questions concern the relationship between the respondent and third party states as it relates to the suspected terrorist. When dealing with internal questions, I argue courts are muscular notwithstanding the broader ‘external’ context in which they are considered, but when it comes to external questions a substantial amount of deference is apparent. This begs the question of whether such internal muscularity is worthwhile if external deference remains, however I argue that understanding counter-terrorist judicial review as a mechanism of regulatory constitutionalism provides at least some reassurance to constitutionalists.

I define regulatory constitutionalism as a process through which information about governmental behaviour can be gathered, standards outlining the appropriate parameters of governmental authority outlined by reference to constitutionalist principles of limited and accountable power, and governmental behaviour ultimately modified to align more clearly with the constitutionalist ideal outlined in these standards.

Keywords: terrorism, judicial review, courts, regulatory constitutionalism, constitutionalism

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

de Londras, Fiona, Counter-Terrorist Judicial Review as Regulatory Constitutionalism (March 20, 2014). Forthcoming in Fergal Davis & Fiona de Londras (eds), Critical Debates on Counter-Terrorist Judicial Review (2014; CUP). Available at SSRN:

Fiona De Londras (Contact Author)

Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, UK ( email )

Birmingham, AL B15 2TT
United Kingdom


Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics