Instructor(s): Robert P. Armstrong

This course satisfies the Perspective course requirement.

Capstone Rules:

  • Only third year students are eligible to participate in a capstone program
  • Exchange and letter of permission students are not eligible to participate in this Capstone Course
  • Capstone programs are not scheduled – they meet according to the instructor’s requirements.

 This course will examine the role of the judge in our judicial system with particular reference to the notion of judicial activism. Traditionalists argue that the proper role of the judge is limited to applying the existing law to the facts of a particular case. If the existing law does not cover the facts, as found by the judge, then changes to the law should be incremental in accordance with the traditional development of the common law.

In more recent years, the critics of our judicial process allege that judges are making law rather than applying or interpreting the law. It is said by some that the increase in judicial review of administrative action and the enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 that judges have become politicised and that they are crossing the line between judicial and political decision-making. In short, judges have become judicial activists.

This course will consider some of the following questions:

• What is judicial activism?
• Is judicial activism confined to Charter and other public law cases?
• What are some examples of judicial activism in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries?
• How does judicial activism in Canada differ from the experience in the United States and/or other democracies?
• Is judicial activism anti-democratic?

The students will meet early in the first term to discuss the notion of judicial activism and then prepare a short paper on the definition of judicial activism with a view to preparing a research paper on some aspect of judicial activism. A schedule will be established at the first meeting for subsequent meetings of the group.

Presentation of the highlights of research paper which must include a written submission (500 words) defining judicial activism (25%); and a research paper of 6,000 words (75%).

At a Glance

First Term
Perspective course



10 JD