Lord Sumption on the limits of the judicial role

Public Law for Everyone

In his recent Sultan Azlan Shah Lecture, Lord Sumption addresses “The Limits of Law”—or, more accurately, given the content of the lecture, the limits of the judicial role. Sumption seeks to establish that there is limited scope for judges legitimately to adjudcate upon questions concerning the balance to be struck fundamental rights and conflicting interests. The lecture is interesting and carefully argued, and is worth reading in full. The burden of the argument, however, is apparent from the following passage which can be found towards the end:

I have already mentioned Professor Ronald Dworkin, whose death last year deprived us of one of the most formidable defenders of rights-based law defined by judges. He defended it against those who would leave this to the legislature, by arguing that judges were at more likely to get the answer right. “I cannot imagine”, he wrote, “what argument might be thought to…

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