A living judiciary for a living law: constitutional transitions and governmental checks and balances

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Author: Roberto Toniatti

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2016-5-97-104

Keywords: constitutional transitions; governmental checks and balances; living judiciary; living law; the culture of judicial independence


Most countries in Europe, since 1945, have experienced a transition of constitutional régime. The outcome of such a process entails going beyond the 1800th century “law-governed state” (Etat de droit, Rechtsstaat) and achieving the establishment of the “constitutional law state” (Etat de droit constitutionnel, Verfassungsrechtsstaat). Mainstream European constitutionalism relies to a large extent – although not without controversial features – on judicial review of constitutionality as a means for ensuring the priority of the constitution over other sources of law, thus limiting the political discretion of the political lawmaker (Parliament), although democratically elected, and introducing the traditional principle of separation of powers into a wider framework of checks and balances, inclusive of non-majoritarian guarantees such as the judiciary at large and, in particular, constitutional courts. The text of the Russian constitution reveals a plurality of normative connections with the category of the “constitutional law state” resulting from a comparative research. The analysis suggests that also in Russia the rule of constitutional law as the supreme law of the land may have at least a potential impact on the concept of living law and on the role of a living judiciary, as well as on the construction of an institutional setting of non-majoritarian checks and balances founded on the interaction between the law-maker and the judiciary. A necessary element conditioning such transition is the culture of judicial independence, that may be regarded as the factor that combines and holds together all the facets of a system based on the rule of constitutional law (recruitment, training, managing the career of judges, presiding over judicial ethics and deontology, methods of legal interpretation).

About the author: Roberto Toniatti – Professor of Comparative Constitutional Law, Trento University, Italy.

Citation: Toniatti R. (2016) “Zhivoy” sud dlya “zhivogo” prava: konstitutsionnaya tranzitologiya i gosudarstvennye sderzhki i protivovesy [A living judiciary for a living law: constitutional transitions and governmental checks and balances]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, no.5, pp.97–104. (In Russian).


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