Sujit Choudhry On How To Spot A Failing Democracy

When Professor Sujit Choudhry at University of California Berkeley Law looks, ( at the US he sees a country in danger of losing its democracy.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder issued a tweet late last year. He asked that the American people remain vigilant and to mobilize should Special Counsel Robert Mueller be removed prematurely by the Trump administration. This call to mass organization and the recognition of an obvious red line as a threat to proper democratic order is a tell that the US is seeing constitutional norms slide out of focus.

Choudhry recently published a chapter from his forthcoming book, titled Constitutional Democracies in Crisis, and in it argues that a government that oversteps its constitutional boundaries is one headed towards autocracy. The US is not alone in this perilous state.

To learn more about his published works, visit

As the Law and Justice party (PiS) continues to dominate politics in Poland, a country that was under Soviet control not too long ago, their constitution has been undermined at nearly every level in an attempt to seize power. PiS, Choudhry notes, has gone to great lengths to make sure favorable judges were placed in the right courts before terminating the position of Vice President and creating the position of Interim President

Sujit Choudhry sees such moves as similar to Weimar Germany, where the existing legal framework was used to undermine democracy from within, allowing for a dictator to rise through a democratic system. And despite the similarities, these retreats from democracy exist on a spectrum, making it difficult to spot these would-be dictators until they assume some form of power of their country.

The Trump administration, for example, has used the infamous Muslim travel ban, deemed xenophobic by critics, as a show of Executive power. It has since been challenged by courts, rewritten, challenged again, and is now on its way to the Supreme Court. Choudhry writes that if a decision is handed down that deems these restrictions violate the constitution and the response from the White House is to issue a different travel ban it would be a sign that our system of government is ineffective to stand as a balance to the current administration.

Choudhry says it’s up to courts to stand as a check to existing power if democracy is to endure, by acting as a voice for the constituency.

Connect with Choudhry, visit LinkedIn

Previewing Sujit Choudhry’s Constitutional Democracies in Crisis?

In his newest release, Professor Sujit Choudhry issued a discussion of a recent tweet made by Former Attorney General Eric Holder from his upcoming book, Constitutional Democracies in Crisis. Holder’s tweet stated that any possible termination of White House Special Counsel Robert Mueller would cross an an “absolute red line” that Americans must act to deter.

Choudhry highlights that Holder leaves the direction of the issue to be resolved by the reactions of the American people. Holder’s tweet is heavily inspired from the idea of “constitutional self-enforcement.” Constitutions are ultimately governing expectations of the behavior of public authority focusing upon rules set out by the Constitution. Choudhry then describes his belief that Holder’s ‘red lines’ could be considered examples of democratic failures.

Choudhry continues by discussing one of the most significant and growing threats to constitutional democracies, ‘democratic backsliding.’ According to Choudhry, ‘democratic backsliding’ is a circumstance “whereby a democratically elected government or president uses legal means to manipulate rules and institutions to remain in future electoral cycles…” Choudhry raises the example of Poland’s PIS party. In recent years, the PIS has gradually dismantled the democratic nature of the Polish Government by assigning new judges to cases, creating new rules governing the constitution of panels and the creation of an Interim President.

Sujit Choudhry has over two decades of experience as a constitutional advisor. He has advised foreign dignitaries building constitutions in other nations such as Sri Lanka, Yemen, South Africa, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, and Tunisia (  He is also currently a member of the United Nations Meditation Roster. Sujit Choudhry is an internationally recognized authority on comparative constitutional law and politics. His publication record comprises of over ninety articles, book chapters, working papers and reports.

Sujit Choudhry is the I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law at the University of California Berkeley—School of Law. He has also been a member of the faculty at both New York University and the University of Toronto. He wrote numerous books including The Migration of Constitutional Ideas, Constitutional Court Review and most recently, Constitutional Democracies in Crisis.  Refer to for additional reading.

Connect with Choudhry on LinkedIn.

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