LAW’S EMPIRE

WHY IT MATTERS

  • Mr Learned Hand, “I fear lawsuits more than death or taxes.” In fact, civil suits can be more consequential than all but most momentous criminal trials.
  • Moral dimension: risk of public injustice, e.g., innocent person convicted of crime.
  • IN UK and US, judicial decisions affect more people because law becomes what judges say it is. (Constitutional position of Supreme Court in US, e.g. In 1954 decided cannot segregate schools by race, led to big social revolution).
    • UK Eg.
      • 1: 19th English judges said factory worker cannot sue employer for compensation if injured through carelessness of another employee because he “assumes risk fellow servants may be careless.”
      • 2: 1975, HL fixed time Cabinet minister must wait before publishing his memoirs.

DISAGREEMENT ABOUT LAW

  • Thus, matters what judges think law is. Lawsuits raise 3 issues:
    • Issue of fact: What happen?
    • Issue of Law: What is pertinent law? Does it allow damages?
    • Political morality/fidelity: Is denying compensation unjust, should judges ignore law?
  • Judges usually disagree most about issue 2.Mostly in two ways
    • Empirical Disagreement: May agree about grounds of law (what lays beneath every proposition of law, e.g., 55 miles in california is proposition, the ground of law is saying aye in state legislature) but disagree if those grounds are in fact satisfied in case
    • Theoretical Disagreement: May disagree about grounds of law, which underlie propositions.
  • Empirical disagreement simple. People disagree about what words are in statue books same way they disagree about any other factual matter.
  • Theoretical disagreement: We see how judges disagree about what law really is although they agree on what the statute books say.
  • Lay public unaware of this problem, they are more concerned with fidelity. But fidelity not live issue in uk/us courts.
  • In trivial sense, judges make law. Though they say that what they do is just correct perception of true grounds of law which may not have been recognized before. Thus, invent v discover debate is essentially theoretical disagreement in disguise. Why, because would be easy if no theoretical disagreement, could just check what law was. So while invent/discover debate part of theoretical disagreement, but doesn’t help us because real issue never rises to the surface.

THE PLAIN-FACT VIEW

  • “Plain fact view”: Our jurisprudence has no plausible theory of theoretical disagreement in law. Most legal philosophers evade question, say that it is an illusion, and that lawyers and judges all agree on grounds of law.
    • Claim: law only matter of what legal institutions have decided in past. And when they have what looks like theoretical disagreements, they are really disagreeing about issues of morality and fidelity, about what it should be, not what it is.
    • Popular (conservative) view: Judges must follow law not improve it. If they don’t, they are bad judges, usurpers, destroyers of democracy. Other (progressive) view: Judges should improve law, bad judge is the mechanical judge.
    • Note, academic, plain fact view, accepts that sometimes there is no law at all. This again gives rise to division of opinion. How should they fill gaps?
    • Jerome Frank draws radical conclusion from sophisticated version of plain-fact view: say that past institutional decision almost always vague of ambiguous or incomplete – there is never really law on any topic or issue, only rhetoric judges use to dress up decisions actually dictated by ideological or class preference.
    • Not all accept plain fact view. Some that reject it indulge in unstructured “craft”, mysteriously, romantic, essentially what judge o the day thinks better or worse. But not enough discipline in that view to call it any developed theory.
    • Later will show evidence why plain fact view is evasion rather than theory. But if correct, if judges. Lawyers, laymen, etc have no good answer to Question of how theoretical disagreement is possible and what it is about, we lack apparatus for intelligent criticism of what our judges do. Generally, governed do not understand courts nearly well enough.