Res Publica

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 379–399 | Cite as

Judicial Responses to Civil Disobedience: A Comparative Approach

  • Sophie Turenne


In this paper, I compare the extent of Anglo-American judicial engagement in response to civil disobedience with that of the French judiciary. I begin by examining what the civil disobedient can realistically expect to achieve in a court of law. I shall argue that his priority should be to require the judge, acting as a mouthpiece for the law, to respond to his complaints. To do this, the civil disobedient must be able to deny liability for the offence he has allegedly committed by urging a different interpretation of the law on the basis of an alternative -- but plausible -- reading of constitutional or human rights. If the civil disobedient can do this, he can claim a victory of sorts, even if his claims are ultimately unsuccessful. But legal culture can present a further barrier. Judges have different roles in different jurisdictions and therein lie further difficulties for the French civil disobedient.


civil disobedience constitutional rights Cour de cassation human rights interpretation 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of LawUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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