Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

ICON Volume 22, Issue 1: Editorial

Editorial: In this issue; Honoring our peer reviewers; The human ChatGPT—The use and abuse of research assistants

In this issue

In the Letters to the Editors, Zhaoxin Jiang replied to Chien-Chih Lin’s article in the I•CON: Debate! published in our volume 21:2 issue and to Ming-Sung Kuo’s Letter to the Editors in volume 21:3. He reiterates and explains his naming of the Constitutional Court in Taiwan, arguing that it had done its best during the authoritarian period and thus should be credited. Focusing on Jiang’s reply, Ming-Sung Kuo responded by clarifying some nuanced differences and a misquotation.

For this issue, we invited Gráinne de Búrca, Rosalind Dixon, and Marcela Prieto Rudolphy to write the annual Foreword, in which they examine a “gender gap” in the legal academy. The gender gap is evident not only in the significantly lower proportion of tenured women faculty members, but also in the pink ghetto with lower pay, status and job security. They first identify the nature of this gender gap, analyse the factors that contribute to this problem, and tease out why it persists in the legal academy to date. From both consequences-based and justice-based perspectives, the authors remind us why this issue deserves more attention. Finally, they suggest several ways that might rectify or alleviate this problem. What we need is not only more female law professors in the academy; more importantly, we need a more just and feminist legal academy that is, in the words of the authors, “attentive to questions of gender justice and distribution in research, teaching and pedagogy, and in the design of universities and law faculties as workplaces.”

The Articles section includes four contributions. In the first, Leena Grover analyses the distinctiveness and exceptional use of interim constitutions, a topic that has not received enough scholarly attention. Analyzing all interim constitutions enacted since 1789, she argues that interim constitutions, which are enacted in the context of exceptional factual and legal circumstances, are legally distinct from other constitutional instruments, as well as peace agreements. She suggests that this understanding is crucial for readers to appreciate the nature and performance of interim constitutions.

In the next article, Pau Bossacoma revisits the right of self-determination and theories of secession, analyzing the legal right to withdraw from the European Union. He maintains that the right to secede from the European Union normalizes a right to secede from EU Member States. After examining several arguments to distinguish these rights of exit, this article concludes by defending a qualified right to secede from the European Union and from its Member States.

Most jurisdictions adopt a simple majority threshold in judicial review. In the third article, Mauro Arturo Rivera León focuses on two problems that usually arise when judicial review adopts a supermajority decision-making rule: political control over the judiciary and judicial paralysis. Predicated on a dataset of the Mexican Supreme Court, this article argues that certain appointment mechanisms, such as staggered terms and pluralistic appointments, could ease the two concerns.

In the last article, Nicola Tommasini investigates the spread of unconstitutional constitutional amendments doctrine by examining three jurisdictions—Colombia, India, and Malaysia. In all three countries, the author argues, the consolidation of judicial review of constitutional amendments should be attributed to three kinds of strategies: timing strategies, outcome strategies, and selection strategies. By choosing the right cases at the right time in the right way, top courts in these countries have successfully navigated the storms of political controversies and made potential political retaliation unlikely to occur.

In this issue’s I•CON: Debate!, Eoin Carolan and Seána Glennon (as co-authors) engage with Oran Doyle and Rachael Walsh’s article “Constitutional Amendment and Public Will Formation”, published in volume 20: 1. Carolan and Glennon challenge Doyle and Walsh’s claim that deliberative mini-publics help to build the consensus for constitutional amendment in Ireland. Instead, using Ireland’s constitutional position on abortion as an example, they argue that deliberative mini-publics might help to clarify the constitutional consensus that already exists, rather than create a novel constitutional consensus. In the rejoinder, Oran Doyle and Rachael Walsh respond, arguing that the distinction made by Carolan and Glennon does not help to understand the amendment process.

Finally, this issue includes two review essays and three book reviews, which discuss a variety of topics in various jurisdictions, including the legitimacy of constitutional democracies, EU’s “area of freedom, security and justice,” administrative law in the common law world, the rights issues of Palestinian-Arab citizens in Israel, and the “dark side” of litigations before European courts.

In his review essay on Legitimation by Constitution: A Dialogue on Political Liberalism, Ming-Sung Kuo illustrates the challenges for contemporary philosophy of political liberalism. He argues that the authors’ discussion “eventually leads them to a dilemma: the project of constitutional democracy is sustained by a liberal ethos, while it is tasked to accommodate those who do not value the liberal form of life.” Cristina Parau’s review essay analyses The Philanthropic Privatization of Supranational Justice, exploring the relationships between foreign private donors, European courts, and litigation undertaken by private foundations and NGOs.

Antoine Parry reviews Fundamental Rights in the EU Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and raises the question of bridging the gap between a theoretical mutual trust and a practical distrust regarding the rule of law standards. In her review of Understanding Administrative Law in the Common Law World, Anya Bernstein points out that the values this book identifies are broad and malleable. Finally, Sonia Boulos reviews A Multicultural Entrapment: Religion and State Among the Palestinian-Arabs in Israel, highlighting several issues that are understudied, such as the coercive nature of the family law regime and the conflation of national and religious affiliation in Israel.


Honoring our peer reviewers

In this issue we are also pleased to share our 2023 honor roll of peer reviewers. As we say in our preface to the list, we are indebted to all of our colleagues who gave their time this year to act as peer reviewers for I•CON. Without their efforts, we would not be able to maintain the excellent scholarly standards of our Journal. Indeed, as Gráinne de Búrca, Rosalind Dixon, and Marcela Prieto Rudolphy write in the Foreword in this volume, this is typically under-recognized labor in the legal academy that all of us should play a role in celebrating. To further this end, we are inaugurating with this year’s honor roll a special mention—a prize—for the peer reviewers whose efforts were especially worthy of note. This year, we recognize with this special designation two reviewers, Andrej Lang and Ruth Rubio-Marín, whose work on behalf of the journal—and our scholarly community as a whole—was exemplary. Indeed, we are delighted to announce a joint prize this year because in doing so we recognize the diversity of ways that people can make a distinguished contribution. Lang and Rubio-Marín’s interventions this year were both entirely their own but, at the same time, model the common virtues of patient, close attention to the scholarly work of others. 

GdB and JHHW

The human ChatGPT—The use and abuse of research assistants

[This part of the Editorial was already published on the ICONnect blog, and can be found here.]


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