Equality Before the Law: Equal Dignity and the Rule of Law

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This thesis explores the concept of equality before the law, critiquing the claim that such a principle would either have to be purely formal and normatively inert or else be wedded to a full theory of political morality, including theories of distributive justice. Equality before the law is best seen to be grounded in the moral equality of all legal subjects. Legal equality therefore requires that legal subjects not be treated in ways that would deny theory equal moral standing. So understood, legal equality becomes the fundamental normative basis of the common law constitution.

In the second half of the thesis, this general claim is applied to the concept of anti-discrimination. I argue that one of the core ways in which discrimination can be determined to be wrongful is when it fails to treat those affected as moral equals. This is one of the core wrongs that the principles of judicial review seek to capture when declaring administrative decision to be unlawful by virtue of their unreasonableness. Anti-discrimination principles, are thus key to a coherent understanding of the common law constitution,; one which seeks to protect legal subjects from adverse treatment at the hands of public decision-makers that relies on arbitrary or unjustified standards.

Allan, Trevor
Equality, Constitutionalism, Discrimination, Rule of Law, Administrative Law
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
AHRC The Cambridge European and Commonwealth Trust The Robert Gardiner Memorial Fund