Courts and Judicial Systems in Federations

This program which is supported by the Government of Quebec explores the role of judicial power in relation to federalism and examines and compares the role and functions of judicial systems within federations as transformative institutions and arbiters.

This Forum program explores such issues as the constitutional framework of courts and the legal tradition in which they operate; the institutional role of courts compared to that of the executive and legislative process, the contribution of judicial systems to nation building, the impact of the judiciary at the provincial, state, canton (etc) level and the role of the courts in adjudicating disputes regarding federalism (the manner and extent in which courts regulate relationships among partners in a federation).

The program features the experiences and challenges of thirteen federal systems, offering a mix of new and old, as well as common law and civil law federations at various levels of development: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. Each country study will present two case studies that will highlight how in practice their judicial systems have acted to preserve federalism. The objective is to share experiences and identify good practices. The project utilizes the knowledge and framework established by the Forum’s Global Dialogues on Federalism book series.


  • Editors: John Kincaid, Lafayette College, and Nicholas Aroney, University of Queensland
  • Australia: Nicholas Aroney, University of Queensland
  • Belgium: Patrick Peeters, KUV Leuven
  • Brazil: Gilberto Rodrigues, Catholic University of Santos
  • Canada: Eugénie Brouillet, Université Laval
  • Ethiopia: Hashim Tewfik, Addis Ababa University Institute of Federalism
  • Germany: Arthur Benz, Technische Universitaet Darmstadt
  • India: Manesh Tewari, Member of the House of the People
  • Mexico: Jose Caballero, Institute of Legal Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (CIDE)
  • Nigeria: Rotimi Suberu, Professor of Political Science, Bennington College
  • South Africa: Nico Steytler, Community Law Centre, Cape Town
  • Spain: Elisenda Casanas Adam, University of Edinburgh
  • Switzerland: Andreas Lienhard, University of Bern
  • United States: Ilya Somin, George Mason University, Arlington

For further inquiries please contact Diana Chebenova at