Seeking the Court’s Advice
248 pages, 6 x 9
3 charts, 8 tables
Release Date:15 May 2019

Seeking the Court’s Advice

The Politics of the Canadian Reference Power

SERIES: Law and Society
UBC Press

Can Parliament legalize same-sex marriage? Can Quebec unilaterally secede from Canada? Can the federal government create a national firearms registry? Each of these questions is contentious and deeply political, and each was addressed by a court in a reference case, not by elected policy makers.

Reference cases allow governments to obtain an advisory opinion from a court without a live dispute and opposing litigants. There are few, if any, parameters on what governments can ask courts in these cases, and governments often wield this power strategically. Through a reference case, elected officials can insert the courts and the judiciary into political debates that can be both contentious and normative. With novel insight and analysis, Kate Puddister argues that judicial review can help elected policy makers achieve political ends, beyond the legal clarification provided by a reference decision.

Seeking the Court’s Advice is the first in-depth study of the reference power, drawing on a comprehensive assessment of over two hundred reference cases from 1875 to 2017. Puddister demonstrates that the actual outcome of a reference case – win or lose – is often secondary to the political benefits that can be attained from relying on courts through the reference power.

This book will appeal to researchers, scholars, and students of law and politics, Canadian politics, legal studies, political science, Canadian history, and public policy. Legal professionals, public officials, and members of the media will also find the book to be a valuable resource.

Kate Puddister is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Guelph. She has written on a wide range of topics related to law and politics, Canadian politics, and criminal justice policy. Her work has appeared in the Canadian Journal of Law and Society, Canadian Public Administration, and Publius: The Journal of Federalism.
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