Courts in Federal Countries: Centralisers or Decentralisers?

6 Jun 2017
Professor Nicholas Aroney
Professor Nicholas Aroney

UQ Constitutional Law Professor Nicholas Aroney, together with Professor John Kincaid (Lafayette College, USA), has edited the just-released Courts in Federal Countries: Federalists or Unitarists?

In federations such as Australia, Germany, the United States and Canada, high courts have a major influence on government power. As a federation is a collection of states bound by a constitution into one nation, the court’s interpretation of that constitution substantially determines if states are free to pursue their autonomy, or whether power is concentrated in a central government. This affects the capacity of the political system to enable citizens to participate in their own self-government at a state or local level while also enabling the country as a whole to address issues of national interest or concern. 

With case studies from thirteen countries, Courts in Federal Countries examines how high courts influence the centralisation and decentralisation of power. Chapters include “The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany: Guardian of Unitarism and Federalism”, “The Supreme Court of the United States: Promoting Centralization More than State Autonomy” and The Supreme Court of Nigeria: An Embattled Judiciary More Centralist than Federalist”.

The work has received ringing endorsements from two of the world’s leading federalism scholars, Alan Tarr (Rutgers) and Cheryl Saunders (University of Melbourne).  Professor Tarr observed:

"Courts in Federal Countries is the first volume to provide a comprehensive comparative analysis of the role of courts in contemporary federal systems, and it sets a high standard both in the quality of the various case studies and in the range of important questions addressed. This book will be immediately recognized as the standard reference on the topic and will remain so for some time."

Professors Aroney and Kincaid have recently published guest posts at the Washington Post “Volokh Conspiracy” blogsite, a leading locus of debate among law professors in the United States. Their posts offer an overview of the book, discuss centralising and decentralising trends,  explore the problem of identifying the constituent authority on which a federation is based, consider the role of political parties, and compare American and Australian federalism.

The book is the third published as part of Professor Aroney’s ARC Future Fellowship (project number FT100100469) on Australian and comparative federalism. The two other books are The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia and The Future of Australian Federalism.

A copy of the Introduction to Courts in Federal Countries can also be accessed here.