Edited by Mark Dawson, Bruno De Witte and Elise Muir
Chapter 3: The least dangerous branch of European governance? The European Court of Justice under the checks and balances doctrine
The role of constitutional courts in western democracies as ‘stabilizers’ of their respective political systems cannot be underestimated. As constitutional provisions are often vague and contradictory, courts are frequently in a position to address and redress the problem of ‘incomplete contracting’. But it is first and foremost their role as (third-party) ‘dispute resolvers’ in constitutionally salient conflicts that has made them indispensable in the political systems of modern democracies. Undoubtedly, the courts’ manifold gap-filling activities and their role in ‘third party’ dispute-resolution have led to a significant ‘judicialization of politics’ – a process that expands judicial power in general, but especially the power of supreme and constitutional courts. The influence of these courts can therefore be explained by the functions they carry out; courts have surely extended their powers further than their founders originally intended, but they are still doing what the political systems in which they are operating have asked them to do.
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