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Law Notes Jurisprudence Notes

Adjudication And Legal Argument Notes

Updated Adjudication And Legal Argument Notes

Jurisprudence Notes


Approximately 417 pages

Jurisprudence notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. These notes cover all the LLB core jurisprudence readings from Hart to Dworkin to Raz to Mill and Kelsen and much much more. These notes are perfect for anyone studying either law or the philosophy of law, no matter where they are based.

These notes are formed from readings of the primary texts (i.e. the original books) and academic papers, then condensed down as much as possible. Everything is split up by topic and ...

The following is a more accessible plain text extract of the PDF sample above, taken from our Jurisprudence Notes. Due to the challenges of extracting text from PDFs, it will have odd formatting:

Adjudication and Legal Argument

NB: ‘GD’ means Great Debates by Sandy Steel and Nicholas McBride

Legal reasoning

What is ‘legal reasoning’?

Dickson: ‘Legal reasoning’ is reasoning from the existing content of the law to the decision which a court should reach in a case involving that issue which comes before it.

Raz: Legal reasoning is simply reasoning about the law – it is not moral reasoning about the law. What a judge should morally do is not the same as what a judge should do according to law.

What is a ‘hard case’?

Dworkin offers two definitions of a ‘hard case’:

  1. Where “no settled rule dictates a decision either way

  2. Where “reasonable lawyers will disagree about rights, and neither will have available any argument that must necessarily convince the other”

  • NB: Dworkin’s theory of law as an interpretive practice states that there are no gaps in the law. Legal principles underlying past decisions can always be applied to determine what the law is. These principles are based on moral truths.

    • Steel: What if those principles conflict?

      • Dworkin: You would have to look at why the conflicting moral truths are valuable, and then if you apply the moral truths to the circumstances, there is an objectively correct answer as to which conflicting moral truth should succumb to the other. Dworkin is a ‘hedgehog’ in that he thinks morality can be distilled down into one master value: equality.

Hart says there are two types of ‘hard case’:

  1. ‘Gap’ cases

    1. There is no law governing the case

  2. ‘Uncertainty’ cases

    1. The language of the relevant legal rule is expressed in such a way that it is unclear how the rule applies in the case

Raz instead uses the language of ‘unregulated’ disputes, which are those cases where there is no legally binding source for a decision, so no particular decision is required by law.

NB: Bear in mind throughout that Dworkin believes the law is complete, whereas Hart and Raz believe that there are ‘gaps’ in the law.

NB: Given the impossibility of foreseeing every possible circumstance, standards must be abstract to some extent. More abstract rules allow judges flexibility in deciding cases, e.g. injunctions are a discretionary remedy.

How do courts decide hard cases?

There are four models on how courts decide hard cases:

  1. Hart: Law-making

    1. In hard cases, a judge can only decide the case by determining what the law should say in the case.

      1. Thus, the judge exercises a law-making power.

      2. Dworkin gives two objections:

        1. Unreality – Hart’s model is not representative of how judges actually decide hard cases. Judges ask what the law is.

          1. Hart: Many judges accept extra-judicially that their role involves a law-making function.

        2. Retrospectivity – On Hart’s model, the court applies law that was not actually in force at the time of the events injustice to the losing party.

          1. Steel: Retrospectivity is acceptable in cases where law and morality guide conduct in the same way because the actor has a reason to act in a particular way aside from the law.

          2. Hart: Retrospectivity is only objectionable when it would frustrate the LEs of the parties in a hard case, parties cannot have any LEs.

          3. Endicott: Retrospectivity is only objectionable if it makes it impossible for people to be confident that acting on their current understanding of the law will not be counter-productive.

  2. Dworkin: Legal principles

    1. Even if the caselaw and statutes do not provide an express answer, the principles underlying those precedents and statutes have legal force and point towards the right answer in a hard case.

      1. This fits with Dworkin’s notion of law as an interpretive practice (law as integrity).

      2. Hart: Dworkin’s model suggests there is one right answer in a hard case this is doubtful: there are likely multiple reasonable outcomes to hard cases. Not all questions have diametrically opposed answers.

      3. Finnis: According to Dworkin’s interpretive theory, judges must balance what best ‘fits’ and best ‘justifies’ past political decisions the instruction to ‘balance’ must mean to bear in mind all the relevant factors and choose on Dworkin’s own interpretive theory, we must reject the right answer thesis.

        1. Not choose between multiple acceptable options – the judge must choose the option she thinks best satisfies the ‘fit and best light’ criteria

      4. GD: Dworkin’s right answer thesis is merely a way for Dworkin to smuggle his own political views into the law by persuading judges to adopt his model of deciding hard cases.

        1. Dworkin: The model merely requires judges to take their own political views into account.

  3. Raz: Directed law-making

    1. Building on Hart’s model, courts deciding a hard case exercise a law-making power, but coupled with a duty to exercise it to achieve certain objectives.

      1. Similar to Dworkin’s model, but Raz’s model is perfectly neutral model, because the specific objectives (and conventions for deciding hard cases) are dependent on the specific legal system

      2. GD: Raz’s model is superior to Hart’s for two reasons:

        1. It explains why judges might feel legally obliged (not just morally obliged) not to legislate without even being guided by the law.

        2. It guarantees that a judge will not give rise to objections of retrospectivity (whereas Hart merely says retrospectivity will not necessarily arise in a hard case).

  4. Realism: Fact-focused

    1. Judges decide a hard case primarily in response to the facts of that case: this approach is backwards-looking rather than Hart’s forward-looking model.

      1. NB: Legal realists think all cases are decided like this, based purely on the facts – there is no such thing as a ‘hard case’.

GD, Leiter: When we are considering what does happen when judges decide hard cases (as opposed to what should happen), the legal realist theory is most accurate.

  • Lord Goff: “the most potent influence upon a court in formulating a statement of legal principle … in the generality of instances … is the desired result in the particular case before the court”

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