Workshop with the Aspen Institute examining policy issues including affirmative action, reproductive rights, and anti-terror legislation.
Report of the 2008 Annual Lecture in Law and Society by the Chief Justice of South Africa Pius Langa.
Courts are very often required to adjudicate complex social policy disputes, and there is no sign of the tide turning back. Such disputes arise under European Community law, in the private law of tort and contract, in constitutional law questions, and whenever policymakers must decide upon the content of an important new statute or even a bill of rights.
The question of how courts respond to national emergencies or crises is of profound importance in a democratic society. In the United States, the federal courts exercise the power of judicial review, giving them the authority to invalidate acts of legislatures or executives as unconstitutional. Given this, those groups who wish to ensure that government does not infringe on valued liberties during times of crisis often look to the federal courts to serve as a limitation on legislative and executive overreach.
Are civil juries today incapable of understanding the complex issues presented to them? Are the results obtained through civil jury trials unfair, ill-informed or tainted? Should the United States move instead toward specialized juries, or trial before specialized judges, in place of the present system?