Judicial Review and Democracy: Allies or Enemies?

judicial reviewViktor Kazai at spring’s first Tuesday Times Roundtable | Gabriella Mateo, PantherNOW

Gabriella Mateo | Contributing Writer

Tuesday Times Roundtables, FIU’s collaborative weekly event with the New York Times, started the leading meeting of this spring semester with a complex analysis of judicial review.

Upon judicial unrest across the world, FIU’s Office of Global Learning Initiatives dedicated February 6th’s congregation to the intricacies of court systems’ role within democratic politics, basing off the New York Times article “The Curious Rise of a Supreme Court Doctrine That Threatens Biden’s Agenda” by Adam Liptak. 

Viktor Kazai, a Hungarian post-doctoral researcher specializing in comparative constitutional law, gave insight into the importance of judicial systems in upholding democratic legitimacy. 

Kazai, who works in the Civil Liberties Union for Europe, acknowledged the conflict that exists within justice being served equally and properly.“Ideally politicians must comply to certain ethical rules,” he said. 

To encourage speaker-audience interactions, Kazai introduces a series of controversial moral issues that were decided by courts around the globe and asks his viewers their personal opinions on whether the decisions were just. 

By employing the United States’ Dobbs v. Jackson, Hungary’s Church Law case, Israel’s Quantinksy v. Kresset, and others, Kazai demonstrated how universal the enforcement of constitutional rights through court systems is. 

In all these cases, there was an instance of judges reviewing past decisions and overturning them due to their unconstitutional status. This led to the discussion of the legitimacy of democracy and whether or not it is growing with the assistance of courts.

Kazai acknowledged the unrepresentative nature of judiciary systems versus legislative, as most bodies of parliament are voted in while judges are appointed based off skill. With other aspects such as the untransparent nature of courts, the unaccountability of judges, and the small number of members appearing for full populations, one finds it hard to defend the judiciary.

Despite all of this, Kazai urged listeners to protect the judicial branches as he believes they promote democracy. 

The senior advisor stated five different ways that courts aid democratic prowess: the strengthening of an individual’s participatory rights, the guarantee of media freedom, the protection of fairness within elections, the fostering of integrity and transparency in public life, and the scrutiny of the legislative decision-making process.

Kazai demonstrated the importance of the protection of democracy and finished by utilizing a quote from Alexander M. Bickel, an expert on the United States Constitution.

“When the Supreme Court declares unconstitutional a legislative act, it thwarts the will of representatives of the actual people of the here and now; it exercises control, not on behave of the prevailing majority, but against it.”

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