Past, Present, and Justice in the Exercise of Judicial Responsibility

26 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2017 Last revised: 11 Dec 2018

See all articles by Grégoire Webber

Grégoire Webber

Queen's University - Faculty of Law; London School of Economics - Law School

Date Written: December 21, 2017


Reflecting on the foundations of legislative and adjudicative responsibility helps articulate the responsibility of the legislative body for the community’s future, a future to be directed by the law as it is now to be. By contrast, the power to adjudicate conclusively on the breach of a law discloses a responsibility of a different orientation, a responsibly to relate to the present dispute the law as it was at that time past when the violation of the law allegedly occurred. This basic division of responsibility — for the community’s future; for relating the community’s past acts to present disputes — is a division informed by the need to address different needs in human communities. Among those needs will be the requirement to realise justice and rights. A community may qualify as a matter of legal jurisdiction the changes a legislature may introduce for the community’s future and confer on a court the power to determine when legislation exceeds the legislature’s jurisdiction. Where those qualifications are open-ended — as they are in many bills of rights — the exercise of judicial responsibility is partially unmoored from the past and open to the future. In such circumstances, adjudicative authority is being exercised, not with a view to the past, but to the future. It is here that the institution designed to take responsibility for the future may understand itself to be empowered to reply to the exercise of judicial responsibility by engaging in a dialogue on the community’s future.

Keywords: legislature, legislation, court, adjudication, dialogue, bills of rights, constitutional rights, separation of powers, HLA Hart, Rule of Change, Rule of Adjudication

Suggested Citation

Webber, Grégoire, Past, Present, and Justice in the Exercise of Judicial Responsibility (December 21, 2017). Queen's University Legal Research Paper No. 2017-094, LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 16/2018, Available at SSRN: or

Grégoire Webber (Contact Author)

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

128 Union Street
Kingston, Ontario K7L3N6


London School of Economics - Law School ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom


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