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Disabling Discrimination Legislation: The High Court and Judicial Activism

Author(s): Margaret Thornton

This article takes issue with detractors of judicial activism, such as Australian High Court judge, Dyson Heydon, who claim that it undermines the rule of law. It is argued that all judging necessarily involves an activist element because of the choices that judges make. Their reliance on values is starkly illustrated in the area of discrimination law where there may be no precedents and judges are perennially faced with interpretative crossroads. The neoliberal turn and a change in the political composition of the Australian High Court post-Wik underscore the activist role. With particular reference to the disability discrimination decisions handed down by the Court in the last two decades, it is argued that it is not so much the progressive judges as the conservatives who are the rogue activists engaged in corroding the rule of law; because of the way they consistently subvert legislative intent.

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Research theme: Human Rights Law and Policy, Law and Gender, Legal Education, The Legal Profession

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