Vol. 15 No.8 (August 2005), pp.743-745
COMPARATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW: CASES AND MATERIALS, by Michael Louis Corrado. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2004. 264pp. Paper. $28.00. ISBN: 0-89089-710-7.
Reviewed by Hootan Shambayati, Department of Political Science, Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
This is the third volume in a series on comparative law compiled by Michael Corrado and published by the Carolina Academic Press. The stated aim of this volume is to provide American and non-American students with a casebook comparing American and European experiences with judicial/constitutional review. Compiling a casebook or a selection of readings is, of course, a difficult task and one can always think of other material that should have been included. On the whole, Professor Corrado should be commended for his selection of material.
The publisher’s decision to list Corrado as the author is unfortunate. It gives the erroneous impression that this book is an in-depth comparative study of different experiences with constitutional review. The book contains very little original writing and is basically composed of selections from published material by other authors. As Corrado himself points out, his task has been that of an editor (p.ix) not an author.
Similarly, the failure to include a detailed table of contents including a listing of the original authors and their articles is unfortunate and means that finding the specific excerpts is rather difficult, requiring a search of the entire book. The only clue as to what is included in the book is provided in the “Acknowledgments” section that lists the original publication information for the material used.
Basically, this book is a collection of excerpts from published articles on constitutional review. Although excerpts from a small number of court decisions and the relevant constitutional provisions are also included, much of the book is composed of short—in the opinion of this reviewer often too short—excerpts from well-known English-language journal articles. These articles are organized into four chapters. The first three chapters trace the demise of parliamentary supremacy and the rise of constitutional review in France, Germany, Italy, and the United States. The fourth chapter deals with review under international law and as a consequence of the expanding role of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.
Chapter 1 discusses the concept of parliamentary supremacy. It includes excerpts from a number of articles on the topic and the relevant decisions of the French Council of State. The aim of the chapter, according to Corrado, is to provide a “background understanding of what the world would be like without [constitutional review], and why some might prefer a world of that sort” (p.ix). Given the importance of France and the French Revolution in the development of the notion of the absolute supremacy of [*744] the parliament, the chapter naturally focuses on France.
Chapter 2 is intended as an introduction to the American system of decentralized judicial review. The chapter also provides the basis for comparisons between the American and the European systems of constitutional review. Chapters 3 and 4 consider the emergence of constitutional review in France, Germany, Italy, and the European Union. Despite the inclusion of a chapter on the US system, the main audience for this book is the American law student who might be interested in studying constitutional review in other countries.
As for the contents, I am not a law professor and cannot judge the utility of this work in a law school class. As a political scientist, however, I find several aspects of this book problematic. The most interesting part of this book is the inclusion of some of the important decisions of the relevant courts. These decisions, some of which have been translated by Corrado from the originals, include excerpts from some 25 decisions, including classics such as MARBURY v. MADISON (US Supreme Court), COSTA v. ENEL (European Court of Justice), and, of course, the decisions of the various courts on abortion. The inclusion of these cases should allow the reader to compare how different courts have tried to deal with similar issues.
One difficulty in achieving this goal is that the secondary material included in the book and the manner in which they have been excerpted ignores the political context of constitutional review. As a political scientist, what I find particularly disappointing about this book is that no attention is paid to the overall political systems in which individual constitutional tribunals operate. Recent literature on new democracies points to the possibility that the courts, particularly constitutional courts, play very different roles under different political conditions. Similarly, the selections pay little attention to the institutional design of the courts and the consequences for the role of constitutional tribunals in a particular polity. For example, does the American-style life tenure produce a tribunal that plays a different role than its European counterparts where tenure is usually limited to a fixed term? Or, does docket control make the judges more or less likely to deal with politically controversial cases? Unfortunately, the selections in this book do not address questions like these.
Comparing decisions of the tribunals covered in this volume is further complicated by the absence of truly comparative studies among the selections. Despite the title, very few of the articles excerpted are actually comparative. Most of the articles are based on single country studies. Furthermore, since most of these articles were originally intended for an American audience, it is the American system that is often used as the basis for comparison. This, of course, is a characteristic of the field of comparative judicial studies in general. The importance of the United States in the development and the study of constitutional review means that the American system will always play a privileged position in this field of study. Nevertheless, the volume would have benefited from the inclusion of articles that compare various forms of [*745] centralized review with each other, instead of focusing on a single country.
Similarly, as already mentioned, the volume focuses on France, Germany, Italy, and the United States. These countries, of course, will be included in any discussion of comparative constitutional review. At the same time, in recent years we have had some excellent studies of constitutional review in many other countries that do not necessarily fit the models established by these four countries. A discussion of the role of constitutional review in the new democracies of Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America, would have increased the value of the book and would have allowed for an examination of constitutional review in different political settings.
For the future editions of this book, I would also recommend a more extensive commentary by the “author” that would justify the selection of cases, legal decisions, and topics covered and that would actually bring out some of the similarities and differences among the cases studied.
COSTA v. ENEL,  ECR 585.
MARBURY v. MADISON, 5 US 137 (1803).
© Copyright 2005 by the author, Hootan Shambayati.
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