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Judging Constitutional Conventions

43 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2017  

Farrah Ahmed

Melbourne Law School

Richard Albert

Boston College - Law School; Yale University - Law School; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law

Adam Perry

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law

Date Written: September 26, 2017

Abstract

The study of constitutional conventions is anchored in an assumption that has so far remained unchallenged: Commonwealth courts will recognize and employ conventions but never enforce them. We show in this Article that the dominant view today is doubly mistaken: there is no such shared “Commonwealth approach” to the treatment of constitutional conventions nor do Commonwealth courts refrain from enforcing conventions. Drawing from Canada, India and the United Kingdom, we disrupt the foundations of the scholarly understanding of conventions by demonstrating that Commonwealth courts have recognized, employed and indeed also enforced conventions. Beyond this new discovery, we make the normative claim that Commonwealth courts sometimes should enforce conventions, an additional contrast between the dominant view and ours. We argue that courts should act as executors of the will and judgment of constitutional actors, and limit themselves to enforcing only power-shifting conventions, which transfer power from those who have legal power to those who can legitimately wield it. This new role of an executor court brings clarity, stability and predictability to the exercise of official powers that are rooted in constitutional convention rather than constitutional law.

Keywords: Constitutional Conventions, Doctrine of Legitimate Expectations, Constitutional Change, Patriation Reference, Canadian Constitution, Indian Constitution, UK Constitution, Miller, Brexit, Second Judges Case, Third Judges Case, Disallowance, Reservation

Suggested Citation

Ahmed, Farrah and Albert, Richard and Perry, Adam, Judging Constitutional Conventions (September 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3043190

Farrah Ahmed

Melbourne Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.unimelb.edu.au/melbourne-law-school/community/our-staff/staff-profile/username/Farrah

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02459-1163
United States
617.552.3930 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.richardalbert.com

Yale University - Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.yale.edu

Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho

Calle 12 # 1-17 este
Calle 12 0 83
Bogota D.C, Cundinamarca 3456
Colombia

HOME PAGE: http://190.7.110.123/irj/portal/anonymous/fac_derecho

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utoronto.ca

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150
Israel

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.idc.ac.il/en/schools/law/pages/home.aspx

Adam Perry

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St Cross Building
St Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UL
United Kingdom

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