This paper analyzes the impact of courts and different systems of judicial review on subnational constitutional autonomy. Focus is put on the question on which interpretive guidelines courts may draw when they assess the compatibility of state constitutions with the federal constitution and whether there is potential for interpretive federalism in subnational constitutional contexts. Three cases where subnational constitutional provisions were respectively dealt with in civil law and common law jurisdictions with different forms of constitutional review have been selected: The first case relates to the Austrian Constitutional Court’s views on subnational direct democracy. The second case discusses the Spanish Constitutional Court’s decision on the Catalonian Statute. Thirdly, the paper examines US federal courts’ decisions which have recently prevented a constitutional amendment of the Oklahoma Constitution. While the arguments and methodology used in these decisions cannot be generalized, they nevertheless raise awareness for the tensions between federalism and judicial interpretation.
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