Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

Virtual Bookshelf: The Transformative Constitutionalism of the Colombian Constitutional Court–A Review of “Colombian Constitutional Law” by Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa and David Landau

Richard Albert, Boston College Law School

As important as it is for scholars of comparative public law to read more than one language, English remains the lingua franca in the field. As a consequence, court judgments published only in the local language and not translated into English rarely enter the global dialogue among judges and scholars–or they do so by happenstance or only with great difficulty.

The now-common practice of cross-national borrowing and citation is therefore deprived of the richness of public law developments in countries whose constitutional case law remains unavailable in English.

In their new book entitled Colombian Constitutional Law: Leading Cases (Oxford University Press 2017), Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa and David Landau introduce the English-speaking world to the case law of the Colombian Constitutional Court. This is the first-ever English textbook on Colombian constitutional law–an important resource that includes translations of the most important judgments of the Constitutional Court. Their carefully crafted book invites scholars and students of public law to engage meaningfully with the history and case law of an influential but until only recently understudied court of the global south in a way that was not previously possible.

The purpose of their book is “give readers a sense of the Court’s major doctrinal contributions” so that we as scholars of comparative public law can take the Court’s experiences into consideration when we engage in our comparisons.

Part I of the book details seminal decisions in which the Court asserted and defined its role within the constitutional order. Part II acquaints readers with the Court’s jurisprudential posture on a wide range of rights controversies. Part III situates the Court within the structure of separated powers established by the Constitution. Finally, Part IV offers deep insight into the Court’s doctrinal innovations.  

What becomes evident from a close reading of Cepeda and Landau’s book is that the idea of transformative constitutionalism forms part of the DNA of Colombia’s Constitutional Court and of its Constitution.

For English speakers in search of an immersive account of constitutional developments in Colombia, and for scholars of comparative public law interested in enriching their perspective on the forms and possibilities of public law, this book is a timely and essential case study of an as-yet under-examined constitution and constitutional court.

Suggested Citation: Richard Albert, Book Review, The Transformative Constitutionalism of the Colombian Constitutional Court–A Review of “Colombian Constitutional Law” by Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa and David Landau, July 2, 2017, at:



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