David S. Law

in The Oxford Handbook of Empirical Legal Research

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199542475
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Law


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This article deals with the housing framework of laws, that is, constitutions. It distinguishes between constitution referring to the de jure, formal, written book of laws and codes that assume supreme authority within any structure, and constitution which defines a body of informal, conditional rules and laws that do not have supreme authority but are abided by, owing to various objective, subjective factors. Constitution reflects the gap between aspiration and actuality, and constitution attracts a higher degree of compliance and implementation. Studies have indeed found a negative relationship between formal rights protection and actual rights observance. The article reveals that rights guarantees are more prone to failure than success as they depend substantially on environmental and institutional conditions. This article emphasizes a symbiosis between judicialization and constitutionalization while a policy question needs to be judicial in nature if the judiciary has to decide on it.

Keywords: constitution; supreme authority; formal rights; judicialization; constitutionalization

Article.  10374 words. 

Subjects: Law ; Constitutional and Administrative Law

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