When political questions and constitutional justice meet: the starting points of argumentation in a comparative perspective

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Author: Aldar Chirninov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2020-4-55-79

Keywords: constitutional justice; constitutionality; institutional competence argument; legal arguments; margin of appreciation; political question


Constitutional courts have to dispense perhaps one of the most politicized types of justice, which is dictated primarily by the nature of their mandate and the object of judicial review. Meanwhile, since the ideals of justice hardly find common ground with political expediency, they often tend to resort to various, and sometimes quite sophisticated, methods to evade political questions. But if the problem of the politicization of constitutional justice and the constitutionalization of politics has been much studied in legal scholarship, then the reasoning itself, either in favor of or against resolving political questions by constitutional review organs, remains without due research attention. Therefore, this article focuses on the starting points of argumentation regarding the possibility of solving political questions by initiating a constitutional review. The author identifies the reasons for the politicization of constitutional justice and determines the main means of its depoliticization. He analyzes the criteria used in a number of legal orders, namely in the United States, Canada, Israel, France, and Russia, to determine the justiciability of constitutional disputes complicated by a political element. By way of revealing the dialectics of considerations underlying the institutional competence argument, the author demonstrates the advantages and disadvantages of various methods for excluding political questions from a constitutional court’s agenda and evaluates the argumentative potential of the principles of democracy, separation of powers and the rule of law. It is shown that the very same principle can both encourage a constitutional review organ to intervene in the political process and, on the contrary, require the exercise of judicial restraint. The article concludes that the perception of a constitutional court judgment as either a legal or political act depends above all on the quality of presented legal discourse and on how a constitutional review organ builds its arguments and communicates with its audience.

About the author: Aldar Chirninov – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Researcher, Institute of Philosophy and Law, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Assistant Professor at Ural State Law University, Ekaterinburg, Russia.

Citation: Chirninov A. (2020) Razreshenie politicheskikh voprosov sredstvami konstitutsionnogo pravosudiya: iskhodnye punkty argumentatsii v sravnitel'no-pravovoy perspektive [When political questions and constitutional justice meet: the starting points of argumentation in a comparative perspective]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.4, pp.55–79. (In Russian).


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