“Do the judges have too much power? Are they unaccountable activists usurping the role of an elected parliament? Have they become enemies of the people?
These are the questions Joshua Rozenberg, the pre-eminent legal correspondent, grapples with in his new book on the constitutional role of the judiciary. The title is taken from the Daily Mail’s front page of 2016, declaring three High Court judges enemies of the people after they ruled that the government could not trigger Article 50 without parliament’s approval. Yet the book delves deeper than Brexit.
Rozenberg offers a magisterial overview of key cases in legal history. With the clarity expected of an honorary silk, he explores judgments on issues ranging from murder to divorce, disability discrimination to Naomi Campbell’s privacy, Prince Charles’s private letters and cakes supporting gay marriage. The chapter on “assisted dying” cases is especially useful, as it illustrates an inherent tension between the Supreme Court and parliament. The breadth of Rozenberg’s analysis means this book is a must-read for law students or the eager lay reader.
More than just offering interesting case analysis, the book attempts to explain how judges make law. With quotations from judges themselves, Rozenberg analyses a range of judicial approaches and presents different characters from the bench who have played a role in developing the common law.
Clear throughout is Rozenberg’s respect for the judiciary. Yet voices fiercely critical of its supposed recent “activism” are also heard, with lengthy quotations from former Supreme Court justice Jonathan Sumption and the Judicial Power Project. It is only in the last chapter that Rozenberg puts his cards on the table and states that the judges are not our enemies, but “just about the only friends we have.”
Enemies of the People? How Judges Shape Society
by Joshua Rozenberg (Bristol UP, £14.99)