Governing with Judges: Constitutional Politics in Europe
By Alec Stone Sweet
A theoretically complex but richly rewarding book. The top American specialist on Europe's constitutional courts, Stone Sweet examines their changing role and succinctly analyzes some of their most significant decisions. He contends that "parliamentary supremacy ... has lost its vitality" and points to a new reality: Laws need to be recognized by constitutional courts, which in turn serve as interpreters and shapers of national constitutions. And as courts join in the legislative process, the issue of their democratic legitimacy becomes all the more important. They have also played an essential role in protecting human rights, and the European Court of Justice has obliged the national courts to accept the supremacy of European Union law, thereby creating an enforceable charter of rights. But the question remains as to who holds the ultimate authority over the constitutionality of EU law. For example, the German Constitutional Court, in its 1993 ruling on the Maastricht treaty, flouted the European Court of Justice by asserting its jurisdiction over EU decisions and giving a strictly intergovernmental reading of EU law. The author concludes that lawmaking and policymaking have become judicialized as "legal discourse mediates partisan debate and structures the exercise of legislative power." One hopes the author soon plans a systematic comparison with the United States.