On the Value of Constitutions and Judicial Review

Criminal Law and Philosophy 11 (4):817-832 (2017)
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Abstract
In his thought-provoking book, Why Law Matters, Alon Harel defends two key claims: one ontological, the other axiological. First, he argues that constitutions and judicial review are necessary constituents of a just society. Second, he suggests that these institutions are not only means to the realization of worthy ends, but also non-instrumentally valuable. I agree with Harel that constitutions and judicial review have more than instrumental value, but I am not persuaded by his arguments in support of this conclusion. I argue that Harel’s ontological claim is unsustainable, and that his axiological claim needs revision. Regarding the former, I show that constitutions and judicial review are only contingent constituents of a just society. Regarding the latter, I contest Harel’s specific account of the value of constitutions and judicial review. Harel grounds the non-instrumental value of constitutions in freedom as non-domination but, upon scrutiny, it emerges that their non-instrumental value lies elsewhere. Further, Harel holds that the non-instrumental value of judicial review stems from its embodying a right to a fair hearing. I argue that this right has non-instrumental value only under a particular set of circumstances. I thus conclude, contrary to Harel, that the non-instrumental value of judicial review is contingent on those circumstances obtaining.
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