Judicial responses to civil disobedience: A comparative approach

Res Publica 10 (4):379-399 (2004)
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Abstract

In this paper, I compare the extent of Anglo-American judicial engagement in response to civil disobedience with that of the French judiciary. I begin by examining what the civil disobedient can realistically expect to achieve in a court of law. I shall argue that his priority should be to require the judge, acting as a mouthpiece for the law, to respond to his complaints. To do this, the civil disobedient must be able to deny liability for the offence he has allegedly committed by urging a different interpretation of the law on the basis of an alternative -- but plausible -- reading of constitutional or human rights. If the civil disobedient can do this, he can claim a victory of sorts, even if his claims are ultimately unsuccessful. But legal culture can present a further barrier. Judges have different roles in different jurisdictions and therein lie further difficulties for the French civil disobedient.

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