In a recent post on Law and Liberty, Mark Pulliam lambasted the idea of a more “rigorous standard of judicial review, across the board, when laws are challenged” called “judicial engagement.” He claims that those of us who advocate judicial engagement presume that judges are untainted by bias or personal predilections whereas they “are just government officials who wear robes, no different (and certainly no more noble or wise) than any other functionary of the state.”
Judicial engagement does not make any such presumption. Judges are no different from any other people. But the office of a judge is different. A judge has different incentives than a legislator because of the nature of his or her office, which renders him or her less vulnerable to manipulation by interest groups or political pressure.
If anything illustrates the very real and palpable necessity for jurisdictional limitations in both common and civil law systems, it is in the area of education.
In our discussions of common law versus civil law, education affords some of the most poignant illustrations of how such limits provide a necessary backstop to protect freedom, and how the elimination of such, undermines and destroys liberty in both.
In the case of civil law, the desire for consistent application can be taken too far. This has become tragically evident in both Germany and Sweden where each has turned against homeschooling.
This month’s Liberty Forum debate on the relationship between the inherited common law norms of liberty and our written Constitution also opens to a conversation on the comparison between civil law and common law and the degree to which each system protects liberty and permits fruits of liberty like commerce and jurisdictional competition to flourish. In this post I point to some comparative strengths each system possesses and the prerequisites to their successful operation which may no longer be operative.
A good way to explore the nature and implications of the rule of law in a free society is to compare the Civil Law of Europe with the Common Law traditions of England and America. Harold Berman’s second volume of Law and Revolution invites just such an exercise by examining the influence of the Reformation on both. What follows are some general reflections that were raised in my mind by that reading and current events, These should not be taken as final conclusions,but merely points for further conversation with respect to how both systems relate to liberty.