Judicial institutions which provide legal mechanisms for conflict resolution play an important role in maintaining the social order of complex societies. Weaknesses in the performance of their duties can contribute to social conflict developing into outright violence that will be beyond the management of law and the courts. In this sense it is strategic to study the judicial system and the decision-making processes of its judges if one wants to understand the ways conflicts are dealt in a certain place and time. In this article we focus our attention on the role of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court as custodian of the Constitution and the discourses that its decision-making construct when dealing with human rights issues. Specifically we set out to understand how the opinions of Brazilian Supreme Court Justices are constructed when deciding cases concerning freedom of religion. The timeline considered covers 31 years, from 1988 to 2019, a period that begins with the promulgation of the new constitution in 1988 (which symbolically reinstated democracy in the country after the end of the period of military rule that began in 1964) up to the present day. We begin by presenting the legal definition of freedom of religion in Brazil which constitutes the normative background of the discussion. We then discuss our project, stressing the methodological approach we have adopted and finally we present our data findings. We identified 39 cases in total of which 11 were selected and analyzed using the methodology of Semiolinguistic Discourse Analysis in order to define the semantic field related to freedom of religion in Brazil. Even though the number of cases is not large it is possible to identify some features of Brazilian legal culture which are also recurrent when dealing with religious freedom. One of these features is the absence of consensus-building logic in the Justices’ opinions—we attribute this to what we term the disputatio mindset—which contributes to continuing institutional instability and legal insecurity. Our findings suggest that these Supreme Court decisions frequently lack the strong level of rational consistency that lower courts require if they are to identify clear guiding principles that can control the outcomes of new cases
Occasionally traced back to Byzantine times, the rule that penal statutes are to be interpreted strictly in favor of the subject, also known as the rule of lenity, now finds expression in common law countries across the world. This Article compares the origins and evolution of the rule in Australia and the United States. The comparison is timely because of the current uncertainty in both jurisdictions about the rule’s rationale and scope and because of an emerging global trend towards the “constitutionalization” of common law rules of interpretation. In the course of the analysis, various facets of the rule are discussed, including its common law origins; jurisprudential development; purported constitutional foundations; and modifications by state and federal statutes. Tracing the rule’s development in each country reveals significant commonalities, but also important differences, in the respective approaches to the interpretation of criminal statutes. Most importantly, despite similarities in the two countries’ constitutional structures, the rule has assumed constitutional significance in the United States but not in Australia. Identification of this marked difference provides an opportunity to reflect on the separation of powers, and the federal structure, of each country.
This lecture given at Birmingham City University School of Law, March 21, 2019 considers the origins of the right to silence in the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of the United States and compares the constitutional protections against self-incrimination with those of the United Kingdom. It notes that the effect of the changes introduced by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 is that there is now a fundamental divergence in approach between the two jurisdictions and concludes that as the twenty first century progresses, defendants on both sides of the Atlantic will be less likely to exercise their rights without consequence and then when they do choose to speak it will be at their peril.
The modern way of life and reflected in modern political philosophy is directed by capitalist activity of both commodities and persons. Entities that do not have commodity value are worthless to the capitalist enterprise, regardless of any intrinsic value in themselves. Modernity is capitalist modernity. Modernity has given preference for objects/commodities over persons. This paper will argue for opening-up the landscape for alternative experiences to capitalism, as an attempt to move away from the capitalist enterprise. That is, be able to provide open space for people to use other than the buying and selling of commodities---where the commodification process breaks down and opens-up spaces for alternative experiences besides the capitalist experience. In other words, this work will attempt to serve as critique of Enlightenment philosophical discourse---that is, serve as a critique of the Age of Enlightenment serving as the foundational head of modernism---a plea for the rebellion against the quantification and mathematization of reality under modernist and industrial societies. It will use the modern landscape as the first effort to break free from the capitalist enterprise.
The prevalent approach to the concept of the rule of law among legal theorists puts attributes first, assigning certain features of laws and sometimes legal systems as rule-of-law virtues. Inquiring at a more basic level, this paper advances a novel, structuralist view of the rule of law. While honoring theoretical constraints that guard against diluting the rule-of-law concept too thinly as a remedy for myriad societal ills, this approach shows that the concept implicates inequalities sustained by a society’s social, economic, and political structures. This is accomplished by demonstrating that the rule-of-law project holds a structural position in the collective normative discourse as a vehicle by which people morally evaluate the interplay between the actual capabilities of individuals and groups to participate in law, and the legal system’s treatment of those individuals and groups.
Law’s procedural outputs may formally provide the public with access to the legal system, but the rule-of-law project goes to the actual capabilities of the people to access the system in reality, to have a fair opportunity to participate in the inputs into the system, and to have that participation impartially adjudicated. Conditions impacting a diversity of stakeholders – and particularly the most disadvantaged within the population – perturb the virtues typically associated with the rule-of-law ideal when those conditions, and the power exercised to maintain them, impair capabilities for fair, dignified, and equal access to legal processes.
Understanding the rule of law in structuralist terms, as an informal moral operator, (1) makes sense of the schism we normally accept between the concepts of law and the rule of law, (2) reorients the source of rule-of-law thinking from theorists bent on fixing a conceptual definition to communities engaged in first-order interactions with the legal system, (3) helps explain why citizens come not only to expect law to constrain official coercive powers but also to demand that law promote their actual capabilities to participate in the legal system on an egalitarian and dignitarian footing, and hence (4) implicates a critique of conditions of political and material inequalities that cannot but impair the healthy functioning of the rule-of-law project.