- judicial review
- A key function of the courts. It refers to the power of the courts to interpret the constitution and to declare void actions of branches of government if they are deemed to be in conflict with its requirements. Some countries have a very strong system of judicial review, which is particularly important in federal systems. In the United States, it is the job of the Supreme Court to ensure that each layer of government keeps to its respective sphere and to settle any dispute that arises between them. It has often struck down legislation as ‘unconstitutional’.In Britain, there is a much narrower and more limited version of judicial review, enabling the courts to declare the actions of ministers unlawful but not allowing them to question the validity of the law itself. No court has declared unconstitutional any act lawfully passed by the British Parliament, the sovereign law-making body. But since the 1980s, there has been an increasing resort to the process of judicial review, many of the cases dealing with actions taken by government departments and local authorities. The Home Office is the department that has been most challenged in the British courts, attracting as it does some three-quarters of all challenges to government decisions. The doctrine has caused embarrassment to a succession of ministers and on occasion resulted in public confrontations between the courts and the politicians.
Glossary of UK Government and Politics . 2013.