Academic and policy circles have been abuzz lately over whether unelected and unaccountable judges should play as great a role in policy making as they currently do. It was Canada's Supreme Court, for example, that decided in 2002 to extend voting rights to all prisoners. And when Parliament changed the definition of marriage to include gay and lesbian couples in 2005, it was reacting to decisions of provincial appeal courts.
To understand this debate we need to appreciate the fundamentals of how courts operate. The Courts provides a well-informed account of the judicial system and its place in democratic life. Ian Greene offers an insider's perspective on the role of judges, lawyers, and expert witnesses; the cost of litigation; the representativeness of juries; legal aid issues; and questions of jury reform. He also examines judicial activism in the wider context of public participation in courts administration and judicial selection and of how responsive the courts are to the expectations of Canadian citizens. The Courts moves its examination of the judicial system beyond the well-trodden topics of judicial appointment, discipline, independence, and review to consider the ways in which courts affect daily life in terms of democratic principles. Although courts are often viewed as elitist and unaccountable, they are more valuable aspect of democratic practice than most citizens realize.
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