Magdalen College Auditorium, High St, Oxford
Friday, 11 February 2011 - 3:00pm


The Role of Courts in a Democracy

In this public debate, chaired by Joshua Rozenberg, a panel of leading academics, judges, and policymakers will debate the role of courts in a democracy generally, and specifically, whether the American model of judicial supremacy is right or inevitable for the UK.

The debate will examine the growing trend towards the ‘judicialization of politics’, in which judges are increasingly implicated in settling policy disputes, especially in the context of constitutional rights. Critics point out that rights jurisdiction tends to make judges supreme in the policy process, thereby undermining the underlying basis of democracy (popular sovereignty). Questions to be addressed include:

  • Will this trend affect Parliament’s democratic sovereignty in the UK?
    And is the creation of the UK Supreme Court a step in this direction?
  • Will parliamentary sovereignty be undermined by the trend towards 'governing with judges', whereby elected politicians delegate to judges policy decisions that ought to be taken democratically insofar as they affect the public?
  • Are there any scenarios in which the UK government would be in the right to ignore or reverse the decisions of UK judges or the ECtHR?
  • How will these developments affect the balance of powers in the UK in the future?


Joshua Rozenberg, BBC Presenter and Legal Commentator (Chairperson)

Rt Hon. Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary and Visiting Professor, School of Political, Social and International Studies at UEA

Lord Justice Jacob, Court of Appeal

Richard Bellamy, Professor of Political Science and Director, School of Public Policy at UCL


The Hon. Mr Justice Philip Sales

Professor Tony Wright, Professor of Government and Public Policy, UCL

Professor R. Daniel Kelemen, Associate Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University