Activism and Restraint within the UK Supreme Court

Brice Dickson


This article provides evidence for the extent to which the UK   Supreme Court as a body - and Supreme Court Justices as   individuals - have displayed an activist or restrained attitude   to their decision-making role. Taking October 2009 as the   starting point (when the UKSC came into existence) the article   surveys the degree to which the Court and individual Justices   have (1) departed from precedents, (2) interpreted legislation in   unanticipated ways, (3) rejected the government's position on   matters of social, economic or foreign policy, and (4) developed   the common law. The article concludes that, while the Supreme Court as a whole remains as conservative as the Appellate   Committee of the House of Lords which preceded it (with the   possible exception of its approach to immigration law), there are   notable differences between the attitudes of individual Justices,  one or two of whom appear to be straining at the leash.

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