Misrepresenting the Supreme Court's Record? A Comment on Sujit Choudhry and Claire E. Hunter, "Measuring Judicial Activism on the Supreme Court of Canada"

By Manfredi, Christopher P.; Kelly, James B. | McGill Law Journal, August 2004 | Go to article overview

Misrepresenting the Supreme Court's Record? A Comment on Sujit Choudhry and Claire E. Hunter, "Measuring Judicial Activism on the Supreme Court of Canada"


Manfredi, Christopher P., Kelly, James B., McGill Law Journal


Introduction

I.  Defining and Measuring Judicial Activism

II. Testing the Hypotheses

    A. Hypothesis 1: Judicial Activism Is High
    B. Hypothesis 2: Judicial Activism Is Increasing over Time
    C. Hypothesis 3: Section 1 Analysis as the Locus of Activism
    D. Hypothesis 4: The Override Has Been Delegitimized

Conclusion

The authors respond to the argument made by Professor Choudhry and Claire Hunter that there is no empirical evidence to support claims that the Supreme Court of Canada is engaged in judicial activism. They first argue that the particular quantitative definition of judicial activism used by Choudhry and Hunter focused exclusively on the impact of rights-based judicial review on primary legislation, and therefore misunderstood the purpose of counter-majoritarian judicial review, which is to protect minorities from any oppressive government action. In its place, following Peter Russell and other political scientists, they define judicial activism more broadly as the willingness of courts to impose constitutional limits on government action.

The authors further contend that Choudhry and Hunter misinterpreted the claims of political scientists who study the Supreme Court. Each of the four hypotheses tested by Choudhry and Hunter is an untoward characterization of claims made in the political science literature, and, even if one accepts Choudhry and Hunter's definition of judicial activism, the available data does not support their argument. The authors maintain that if legal scholars truly want to engage with political scientists, they must begin to look at the Supreme Court not only as a judicial institution, but as a political one as well.

Les auteurs repondent a l'argument du Professeur Choudhry et de Claire Hunter scion lequel aucune preuve empirique ne supporte des imputations d'activisme judiciaire a la Cour supreme. Ils soutiennent, en premier lieu, que la definition quantitative specifique utilisee par Choudhry et Hunter s'est exclusivement consacree a l'impact de la revision judiciaire de legislation primaire sur la base des droits de la personne. Ce faisant, Choudhry et Hunter ont mal compris le but de la revision judiciaire anti-majoritaire, qui est precisement de proteger les minorites contre toute forme de mesure gouvernementale oppressive. Les auteurs suggerent a sa place une definition plus inclusive, inspiree de Peter Russell et d'autres politologues, caracterisant l'activisme judiciaire comme la volonte du tribunal d'imposer des limites constitutionnelles a l'action gouvernementale.

Les auteurs soutiennent de plus que Choudhry et Hunter ont mal interprete les affirmations des politologues qui se sont consacres a l'etude de la Cour supreme. Chacune des quatre hypotheses evaluees par Choudhry et Hunter dans leur article est a leur avis une caracterisation malheureuse des affirmations faites dans la litterature en science politique et, meme en acceptant la definition de l'activisme judiciaire de Choudhry et Hunter, les donnees disponibles ne supportent pas leur argument. Les auteurs estiment pour leur part que si les theoriciens du droit desirent rellement ouvrir un dialogue avec les politologues, ils doivent commencer par considerer la Cour supreme non seulement comme une institution judiciaire, mais aussi comme une institution politique.

Introduction

I. Defining and Measuring Judicial Activism

II. Testing and Hypotheses

    A. Hypothesis 1: Judicial Activism Is High
    B. Hypothesis 2: Judicial Activism Is Increasing over Time
    C. Hypothesis 3: Section 1 Analysis as the Locus of Activism
    D. Hypothesis 4: The Override Has Been Delegitimized

Conclusion

Introduction

In their article, "Measuring Judicial Activism on the Supreme Court of Canada", Sujit Choudhry and Claire E. Hunter present data that, in their words, "raise some serious questions about the empirical assumptions made by critics of the Supreme Court. …

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