Constitutional Law • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

Spotlight on Recently-Published Titles on African Constitutionalism

Several recently-published books on African constitutionalism in our collection caught my eye this week. I admit that I don’t really know much about this topic, but it strikes me as massive, likely made up of many varying and diverse philosophies and viewpoints. So I was interested in exploring its recent scholarly treatment.

In this post, I will focus on the two books that are part of a new Oxford University Press series, the Stellenbosch Handbooks in African Constitutional Law.  This series, edited by Professor Charles Manga Fombad of the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, is “designed to avoid a mere repetition of the now well-rehearsed concerns and doubts about constitutionalism on the continent and instead to identify, analyse, and promote serious discussion on the critical issues that can shape, refine, and deepen the strides being taken towards consolidating constitutionalism in Africa.”

The first book in the series, Separation of Powers in African Constitutionalism (ISBN: 9780198759799), was published in 2016.

Part I of the book contains two extremely helpful and informative introductory chapters, both written by Professor Fombad.  The first chapter offers a historical overview to African constitutionalism that catalogs and explains its many influences, including colonialism (accompanied by the implementation of common law and civil law legal systems), political ideologies (democracy, socialism), religion, and indigenous institutions.  It also includes illustrative examples from the constitutions of several jurisdictions, including Cape Verde, South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Burundi, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Cameroon, and many others.  It concludes with a discussion of the influence of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which later became the African Union, and the adoption of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.  Chapter two provides a general overview of how the concept of the separation of powers manifests itself in African constitutions, as influenced by the American presidential system, the British parliamentary system, and the French “hybrid” system.

Part II of the book includes chapters that focus more narrowly, either on a specific issue related to the separation of powers (such as power sharing between the branches, the role of the judicial branch, and government accountability), or on a specific jurisdiction (Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Namibia) or group of related jurisdictions (Lusophone, Francophone, and Anglophone Africa).  Part II focuses bit more heavily on sub-Saharan Africa than Part I, but it still provides an extensive analysis of the jurisdictions that are covered.

The second book in this series, Constitutional Adjudication in Africa (ISBN: 9780198810216), was published in 2017.

As with the first book in the series, Professor Fombad provides a very helpful introductory chapter that provides an overview of constitutional review in Africa.  He begins by distinguishing between the “decentralized” and “centralized” models of constitutional review.  According to Professor Fombad, under the decentralized view, as explained in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Marbury v. Madison, “constitutional matters are dealt with by ordinary courts during normal proceedings.”  (p. 20) By contrast, the centralized model, as developed in Europe by Hans Kelsen, features constitutional adjudication that is “carried out by a centralized, often specialized, tribunal established independently outside the judicial branch during special proceedings.” (p. 21)  The chapter then discusses how these models have been employed and adapted in African jurisdictions, providing, as a means of illustration, a comparative study of judicial review in Benin and South Africa.  The chapter concludes with information about access to and remedies provided by courts in African jurisdictions that have jurisdiction over constitutional matters.

This introductory chapter is followed by several chapters that focus on constitutional jurisprudence in specific African jurisdictions, including Benin, Cameroon, Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia.  There are also chapters discussing the impact of transjudicialism on constitutional adjudication, including the effects of international law norms and the work of regional and sub-regional courts in Africa.

Another chapter expands on the influence of Ubuntu (“the belief that the well-being of the individual and that of the community are inextricably linked – that one cannot exist without the other … (and that) the well being of the community is inextricably linked to a harmonious relationship with both its ancestors and with nature” (p. 294)) on constitutional adjudication in Africa.

Finally, Professor Fombad’s conclusion explores the further development of constitutional justice in Africa in the future.

As with the first book in the series, the focus here seems to rest on sub-Saharan African countries.  However, these two books provide an excellent broad introduction to this topic.  The content of these books is extensively annotated, providing citations to many other books and articles that researchers can use to perform a deeper dive into this subject.  Both books also include tables of cases and legislation.

I am glad that Oxford University Press is publishing this series, and I am looking forward to exploring its future volumes as they are released.

Note:
To explore other books in our collection related to African Constitutionalism, click here to search the HOLLIS library catalog by this subject.

The Law and Police Searches

I recently returned from a leave of absence from the library. During my leave, I was fortunate to teach a US Criminal Law and Procedure course at the University of Würzburg in Germany.  Criminal Procedure was one of my favorite classes in law school, and I relished the opportunity to talk about the Fourth Amendment with German law students for an entire semester.

The language of the Fourth Amendment is, perhaps, as broad as it is on purpose:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This, of course, is where we started the semester – we spent a whole class session exploring what the students thought words like “secure” and “persons” and “search” and “unreasonable” should and do mean.  Then, we spent the rest of the course digging through the American case law on the topic, in which the courts have provided definitions of those legal terms of art.  We read and discussed some of the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal cases on Fourth Amendment searches: Terry, Mapp, Kyllo, Stoner, and Chambers.  We also looked briefly at many cases in which U.S. courts have carved out exceptions to the requirement that the police get a warrant before conducting a search.

I was SO impressed by the German students during this course!  Germany has a civil law tradition, which means that, aside from opinions issued by the country’s Federal Constitutional Court, German judicial decisions are not viewed as binding legal precedent.  This means that German law students spend most of law school studying statutory codes, not reading cases, let alone cases in a foreign language.  But they were up for every challenge, and we had enough time left over at the end of the course that I could throw in a class dedicated to Miranda.

Week after week, we kept coming back to the use of the exclusionary rule, which states that evidence that was seized by the police in violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights cannot be used against the defendant at his or her criminal trial.

One case we discussed, U.S. v. Nora, 765 F.3d 1049 (9th Cir. 2014), had a particular impact.  In the home in which a criminal suspect lived with his wife and kids (!), the police conducted a warrantless search and seized the following:

Narcotics: cocaine, cocaine base, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine, hidden in drawers and behind the refrigerator.

Weapons: six handguns, one rifle, and two shotguns (all with ammunition), hidden in a closet and in the garage.

The search was ruled to be unconstitutional, which meant that, under the mandatory application of the exclusionary rule, the evidence could not be used against the defendant in his criminal trial.

In the face of a case with these facts, is it even possible that the exclusionary rule is a good idea?

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas perhaps doesn’t think so.  Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in the case of Collins v. Virginia, in which a warrantless search of the defendant’s driveway led to the seizure of a stolen motorcycle.  In an 8-1 decision, the Court held that searching a driveway, which is to be considered as part of the curtilage of the defendant’s residence, without a warrant or an applicable search warrant exception, violated the suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Justice Thomas agreed with the Court’s holding, but wrote separately to express his doubt about the validity of the mandatory application of the exclusionary rule.  ScotusBlog described Justice Thomas’s opinion as follows:

“Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate opinion in which he agreed with the majority’s resolution of the Fourth Amendment question. But Thomas stressed that the case was before the justices because, if Collins is correct and his Fourth Amendment rights were violated, the state courts would have to apply the exclusionary rule, which prohibits the government from using evidence obtained in violation of the Constitution, and “potentially suppress the incriminating evidence against him.” Thomas expressed “serious doubts” about the Supreme Court’s authority to require states to follow the exclusionary rule, which is “not rooted in the Constitution or a federal statute,” and he urged the court to take up that question.”

(http://www.scotusblog.com/2018/05/opinion-analysis-justices-decline-to-extend-fourth-amendments-automobile-exception/)

Overall, after talking about it every week for the whole semester, the German students in the course came out in favor of the exclusionary rule as an important check on the power of the police, although they were, at times, disappointed in its mandatory application.  The course also made them think a lot more carefully about police procedure in their own country, and about the idea that the separation of powers provides important checks and balances in a legal system (here, the judicial branch checks the executive branch).

If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, the Harvard Library collections have some recent books you might want to explore:

The Fourth Amendment in Flux: The Roberts Court, Crime Control, and Digital Privacy, by Michael Gizzi and R. Craig Curtis (University Press of Kansas, 2016)

The Fourth Amendment: Origins and Original Meaning, by William J. Cuddihy (Oxford University Press, 2016)

Police: A Field Guide, by Davide Correia and Tyler Wall (Verso, 2018)

The Unexpected Scalia: A Conservative Justice’s Liberal Opinions, by David M. Dorsen (Cambridge University Press, 2017)

Written Out of History: The Forgotten Founders Who Fought Big Government, by Mike Lee (Sentinel, 2017).

%d bloggers like this: