Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


David Jenkins

First Page



This Article posits that the British Constitution is changing by incorporating written principles that restrain Parliament through judicial review. The Author asserts that this constitutional model has basis in the common law and the orthodox theories of Blackstone and Dicey. In addition, the "ultra vires" doctrine supports the model and provides a basis for judicial review of Parliament. As constitutions may accommodate written and unwritten elements of law, as well as various means of enforcement and change, the Author posits that constitutions are defined by how strongly they reflect underlying legal norms. With a shift in the rule of recognition endorsing judicial review, this expressive function of constitutions democratically legitimizes constitutional texts as positivist expressions of popular will that bind Parliament. Therefore, courts may constitutionalize statutes or treaties coming over time to represent shifting norms through common-law adjudication. Furthermore, the Author illustrates that such a "quasi-written," common-law constitution is already emerging in the United Kingdom by examining cases based upon the Human Rights Act and the European Communities Act.