Searching for Constitutional Meaning in Institutional Design: The Debate Over Judicial Appointments in the United Kingdom
14 Int'l J. Const. L. (2016)
18 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2016
The United Kingdom is undergoing a period of dramatic constitutional change. A spate of reforms ushered in by the Blair government at the turn of the twenty-first century challenged conventional notions of British governance and constitutional structure. In the shadow of these changes, one new and bedeviling institutional task is to reconcile an independent judicial branch, growing in power, with a system of parliamentary sovereignty. This article will analyze the debate over judicial appointments in order to shed light on the position of the modern British judiciary, and the new U.K. Supreme Court in particular, within the British constitutional system. Questions of institutional design expose deep divisions over the perceived extent of judicial power, the relationship of the judiciary to Parliament, and the constitutional justifications for diversity on the bench. Although a weak consensus was achieved in the Crime & Courts Act 2013, stability in the appointments regime is likely temporary. The contested nature of the modern British constitutional system will ensure ongoing debate.
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