Judicial Activism in France

  • F. L. Morton


In the past fifteen years the Conseil Constitutionnel, or Constitutional Council, has risen from a politically obscure and insignificant institution to a central player in the governing process of France. Its primary function is to review legislation made by Parliament, the national legislature, for conformity to the French Constitution. Initially, the Council’s jurisdiction was limited to separation of powers issues. Recently it has assumed the added function of protecting individual rights and liberties, a jurisdiction that is not explicitly conferred on the Council by the Constitution. In exercising a form of judicial review over the acts of its legislative counterpart, the Council has come to occupy a position similar in function — but quite different in detail — to that of the American Supreme Court. Unlike its American counterpart, the Council has achieved its new role in the context of a two-hundred-year-old «political tradition of popular sovereignty that has been hostile toward any judicial control of the political branches of government. This paper analyzes the remarkable political development of the Constitutional Council in recent French politics and compares it to relevant American and Canadian experiences.1


Comparative Perspective Judicial Review Judicial Activism Constitutional Norm Popular Sovereignty 
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  1. 1.
    Different versions of this analysis may be found in F. L. Morton, ‘Judicial Review in France: A Comparative Analysis,’ American Journal of Comparative Law, 36 (Winter, 1988) 1: 89–110; and ‘Point de vue d’outre-Atlantlique sur le Conseil Constitutionnel,’ Pouvoirs: Revue Française D’Etudes Constitutionennelles et Politiques 46 (1988): 127- 45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  7. 8.
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Copyright information

© Kenneth M. Holland 1991

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  • F. L. Morton

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