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The distinctive feature of federalism is to locate the central and constituent governments' respective claims of organizational autonomy and jurisdictional authority within a set of privileged legal norms that are beyond the arena of daily politics. For the most part, the debate about the role of the judiciary as federal umpire has taken place within two separate disciplinary compartments: comparative politics and law. Building on recent e��orts to bring these two disciplines closer, this article provides a fresh look at three common criticisms of granting the central judiciary power to protect federalism. It argues that political safeguards of federalism are insu��cient, that concerns about judicial bias are overstated, and that the particular limitations on the judiciary's ability to implement the principles of substantive subsidiarity, instrumental subsidiarity, and integration should inform judicial doctrine more systematically than they currently do.


This material was originally published in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics, edited by Gregory A. Caldeira, R. Daniel Kelemen, and Keith E. Whittington, and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. For permission to reuse this material, please visit