A more recent version of these Gaps In The Law notes – written by Oxford students – is available here.
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3 central tenets to positivis Disagreements in the law
Law is a special phenomenon which has a special structure.
Legal practice is argumentative - it consists largely of participants advancing various claims about what law demands & defending them by offering reasons. To understand law in this way, one must appreciate that for most part it's a practice of argumentation.
Distinguish a) Propositions of law - statement about content of the law in particular legal system (e.g. breach of contract by A leads to B obtaining damages)
May be true or false
They are true by virtue of grounds of law b) Grounds of law
2 types of legal disagreements a) Empirical - whether grounds of law have in fact obtained b) Theoretical - conflicting claims about what the grounds of law are
Argues?jurisprudence hasno plausible theory of theoretical disagreementsb/c it's committed to "plain fact" view of law: a) Grounds of law in any community are fixed by consensus amongst legal officials b) The only types of facts that may be grounds of law are plain historical ones
The plain fact view can't account for possibility of theoretical disagreements in the law? instead, legal interpretation is "constructive" = the process of "imposing a purpose on an object or practice in order to make it the best possible example of the form or genre to which it is taken to belong".
? A purpose makes an object the best it can be when it both "fits" & "justifies" the object better than a rival one
? A purpose "fits" the object to the extent that it recommends the object exists or that it has the properties it has
? A purpose is "justified" to the extent that it's a purpose worth pursuing
SO to determine what the grounds of law are interpreter must engage in constructive interpretation; i.e. impute a purpose to particular practice that presents it in its best light (one that best fits & morally justifies it) + use this point to ascertain the grounds of law for particular system
A judge is required to deploy standards other than rules where, by definition, no rule applies? here, he uses principles
Hercules, who owes his existence to gapless system of law & is required to seek consistency & integrity, and treat law as a seamless web - a judge of superhuman skill, learning, patience & acumen who's expected to construct a scheme of abstract & concrete principles providing a coherent justification for all common law precedents and, as far as they're to be justified on principle, constit& statutory principles too. Where legal materials allow for more than one consistent reconstruction, he'll decide on theory of law & justice which best cohers w/institutional history of community.
Precedent has enactment or gravitational force - fairness in treating like cases alike ? if earlier decision were taken to be entirely justified by some argument of policy, it would have no gravitational force. Its value as a precedent would be ltd to its enactment force ? in decisions generated by policy, there's no need for consistency
Hercules is useful b/c he sets a standard by which real judge might measure his performance ? he's more reflective & conscious than any real judge need to or indeed could be
In his pursuit of coherence & integrity, Hercules will find one best answer to the legal question before him
? Tal's smile - in chess tournaments one of players, Tal, smiles inanely opponent who unsmilingly objects, referee must decide if this breaches the rules, but rule book is silent, so he needs to reflect upon nature of chess
- as a game of intellectual skill, does it include psychological intimidation? Must find that best "fits" general theory & practice of chess. To this, there can only be 1 right answer ?applies to judge deciding a hard case too
& lawyers accept there's only one correct outcome to legal dispute: when give advice, don't say "this will either be valid or invalid" but bases himself on interpretation of the law enabling him to give best answer of state of law as he finds/understands it.
? But proposition is still rather bold - might be right w/crim. law but not w/tort or contract disputes. Hercules would here determine the answer but wouldn't it be subjective? He'd look background facts, precedents, doctrine as he understands them, so if we take Hercules 2 (more conservative) would his answer be the same?
Dworkin's 'Law as Interpretive Concept'
Law is an interpretative concept? acc to conception of "law as integrity", its content depends on more refined interpretations of the same legal practice it has begun to interpret.
? Unlike positivism, Dworkin's theory claims to be able to account for "disagreements in the law" - positivists claimed to argue that such disagreements are actually about what the law ought to be but this isn't satisfactory. Theoretical disagreements frequently occur in legal practice & academia, and claiming their non existence would equate to calling practice in which legal scholars engage incoherent.
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