Academic and policy circles have been abuzz lately over whether unelected and unaccountable judges should play as great a role in policy making as they currently do. It was Canada's Supreme Court, for example, that decided in 2002 to extend voting rights to all prisoners. And when Parliament changed the definition of marriage to include gay and lesbian couples in 2005, it was reacting to decisions of provincial appeal courts. To understand this debate we need to appreciate the fundamentals of how courts operate. The Courts provides a well-informed account of the judicial system and its place in democratic life.
Ian Greene offers an insider's perspective on the role of judges, lawyers, and expert witnesses; the cost of litigation; the representativeness of juries; legal aid issues; and questions of jury reform. He also examines judicial activism in the wider context of public participation in courts administration and judicial selection and of how responsive the courts are to the expectations of Canadian citizens.
The Courts moves its examination of the judicial system beyond the well-trodden topics of judicial appointment, discipline, independence, and review to consider the ways in which courts affect daily life in terms of democratic principles. Although courts are often viewed as elitist and unaccountable, they are more valuable aspect of democratic practice than most citizens realize.
The key strength of this work is that it helpfully refocuses the debate by assessing whether the Courts are living up to reasonable democratic expectations in relation to this ‘decision-making’ function with as much detail and thoroughness as it carries out this task in relation to the Court’s somewhat sexier ‘policy-making’ function ... the book is easy to digest and comprehend due, in part, to its well planned structure.
1. Canada's Courts in Context
2. Public Participation in the Justice System
4. Responsiveness of Courts to Expectations: Independence, Behaviour, and Administration
5. Responsiveness of Judicial Decisions to Canadian Democracy
6. The Courts and Democracy
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