Substitute and Complement Theories of Judicial Review

45 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2017 Last revised: 4 Oct 2017

See all articles by David Landau

David Landau

Florida State University - College of Law

Date Written: 2017


Constitutional theory has hypothesized two distinct and contradictory ways in which judicial review may interact with external political and social support. One line of scholarship has argued that judicial review and external support are substitutes. Thus, “political safeguard” theorists of American federalism and the separation of powers argue that these constitutional values are enforced through the political branches, making judicial review unnecessary. However, a separate line of work, mostly composed of social scientists examining rights issues, argues that the relationship between courts and outside support is complementary — judges are unlikely to succeed in their projects unless they have sufficient assistance from political and social actors. The coexistence of these two different theories, which has gone unnoticed by scholars, has important implications for both U.S. and comparative constitutional theory. Close examination demonstrates that the simple classifications suggested in existing work — that the substitute logic applies to constitutional structure while the complement logic applies to rights, for example — are incorrect. Instead, courts face a much more complex reality, with both logics being distributed broadly across a range of issues, forms of support, and contexts. To be successful, courts must maximize their relationship with their external support structures, both by targeting issues where levels of support render review neither futile nor redundant, and by shaping their judgments to increase the amount of support they receive from political, civil society, and international actors. The paper draws on numerous examples drawn from both established and new democracies to demonstrate the plausibility of these tasks, and ultimately to highlight the utility of a theory of judicial review that emphasizes judicial consideration of external support.

Keywords: structural safeguards of federalism, constitutional theory, judicial review

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Landau, David, Substitute and Complement Theories of Judicial Review (2017). 92 Indiana Law Journal 1283 (2017); FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 825. Available at SSRN:

David Landau (Contact Author)

Florida State University - College of Law ( email )

425 W. Jefferson Street
Tallahassee, FL 32306
United States

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