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The Most Dangerous Branch: How the Supreme Court of Canada Has Undermined Our Law and Our Democracy Hardcover – Nov 19 2003

3.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mcgill-Queens University Press; Canadian First edition (Nov. 19 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0773526145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0773526143
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 23.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 581 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #262,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A fresh contribution to the subject. Martin has many amusing turns of phrases and anecdotes. The way he marshals the evidence and allows the evidence to speak for itself will be of value to the educated general reader. It is not overly reflective or philosophical; the critique of judicial review as it is practised in Canada and of the orthodoxy is persuasive. I read the book with great interest from beginning to end."

About the Author

Robert Ivan Martin is professor of law, the University of Western Ontario and the co-author of A Sourcebook of Canadian Media Law.

Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Martin clearly comes from the old school mode of thought, in many instances a quick glance into the notes of the book weakens his arguments. The reader should be reminded that Martin is commenting on the way the court reaches its decisions and not necessarily the result.
The chapter dealing with the influence of feminism on the courts is particularly illuminating. Despite my wide disagreement with the author on many issues, I found myself agreeing with his complaints that the courts decisionmaking is often long winded and confusing, heavily influenced by outside sources. Essentially, to borrow a phrase from the book, they are making it up as they go along. I recommend it to anyone interested in Canadian constitutional law.
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Format: Hardcover
In The Most Dangerous Branch, Robert Martin delivers a scathing indictment of the Supreme Court of Canada. The book examines the ways in which judges have hijacked the legal system: they have turned the law into their own personal plaything; they have deliberately and unilaterally expanded thier own authority; and they have attempted to set the social agenda in Canada. Martin argues that, becuase they are not elected representatives of the people, they have no right to do any of these things.
This book is about abuse of power. Martin is primarily concerned with how decisions are reached by the Supreme Court. He argues that Supreme Court decisions are largely based on the whim of judges, rather than the law. He illustrates this point brilliantly with an exhaustive array of examples that are sometimes amusing and often alarming. In reading the book, I found myself asking, how could these things happen?
Supreme Court judges are meant to strive to be impartial, or, at least, to create the appearance of being impartial. Martin demonstrates how they done just the opposite by aligning themselves with identity groups and by publicizing, and even celebrating, their partisan views on political issues. Their handling of the Constitution and the Charter, Martin argues, is equally biased. They have appointed themselves as interpreters of both documents, often "reading in" laws and/or rights that do not exist.
Martin's book is expertly written and his arguments are well documented. His prose is clear and direct. At times, he is vitriolic and hyperbolic, which inevitably will be seen by some as a weakness. However, I think that Martin is at his best in these passages because his words betray in him a true passion for honesty, integrity, and the law.
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Format: Hardcover
I first became acquainted with Robert Ivan Martin by hearing him on talk shows. He came across as profoundly informed, knowledgeable and deeply concerned about the state of democracy in Canada. I couldn't wait to read his book and it certainly is an eye opener. For anyone seriously interested in how damaging the Court is to the democratic process, this book is a must read. I sincerely hope that a follow up book by the professor will someday be published.
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Format: Paperback
In a time when the concept of "judicial activism" - a term often thrown around in the US but only recently making real inroads in Canada - is being hotly debated, I cannot in all honesty rate Martin's book as either the most informative or most well-argued.

While Martin raises real problems and makes good points (specifically on the forays into public policy that is best left to the legislature, but that the Supreme Court of Canada is sometimes intruding on), it's not particularly well-researched. This is surprising, given the fact that Martin's a law professor. Moreover, rather than offering real possibilities of reform (the appointment process, for example), Martin simply calls for abolition and leaves it at that - 23 pages in, in fact. It's irresponsible, effectively ignores the law, and is not justified based alone on the points Martin raises.

At any rate, readers hoping for a well-argued and thoughtful book on the problems "judicial activism" raises will tire quickly of his constant personal ad hominem attacks and scattershot handling of the issues he hopes to bring into focus, ranging in just a few pages from poorly-explained tax decisions to constitutional outrages. Readers looking for calmer and more well-researched arguments on the Supreme Court ought to turn to Morton's "The Charter Revolution and the Court Party," or Manfredi's "Feminist Activism in the Supreme Court: Legal Mobilization and the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund" -- both serve as better examples of high-court criticism.
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