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Access_open Restraint as a Source of Judicial ‘Apoliticality’

A Functional Reconstruction

Journal Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy, Issue 2 2020
Keywords Urgenda, Miller v. Secretary of State, Norm of judicial apoliticality, Ronald Dworkin, Judicial restraint
Authors Maurits Helmich
AbstractAuthor's information

    Few legal theorists today would argue that the domain of law exists in isolation from other normative spheres governing society, notably from the domain of ‘politics’. Nevertheless, the implicit norm that judges should not act ‘politically’ remains influential and widespread in the debates surrounding controversial court cases. This article aims to square these two observations. Taking the Miller v. Secretary of State and Urgenda cases as illustrative case studies, the article demonstrates that what it means for judges to adjudicate cases ‘apolitically’ is itself a matter of controversy. In reflecting on their own constitutional role, courts are forced to take a stance on substantive questions of political philosophy. Nevertheless, that does not mean that the ‘norm of judicial apoliticality’ should therefore be rejected. The norm’s coherence lies in its intersocial function: its role in declaring certain modes of judicial interpretation and intervention legitimate (‘legal’/‘judicial’) or illegitimate (‘political’).


Maurits Helmich
Maurits Helmich is promovendus aan de afdeling Sociologie, Theorie en Methodologie van het Recht aan de Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam.
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