The nature of law
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The Nature of Law. Is it natural or divinely given -- or is it human? If human, is it statutory (stated by legislative authority) or is it based in custom or tradition? How should judges define law?. Civil Law Tradition. Law proceeds naturally from stated core principles.

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The Nature of Law

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The Nature of Law

Is it natural or divinely given -- or is it human?

If human, is it statutory (stated by legislative authority) or is it based in custom or tradition?

How should judges define law?


Civil Law Tradition

Law proceeds naturally from stated core principles.

Law proceeds through deductive reasoning.

Law is based in statutory principles (other than canon law)


Common Law Tradition

Law derived from variety of sources: natural law, custom, statutes.

Law proceeds through inductive reasoning.

Judges are central figures in defining law and legal principles.


Legal Model

Find relevant precedents

Determine relevant similarities/differences

Facts

New Rule of Law

Apply rule of law from earlier precedents

Decision


Mechanical Jurisprudence

Term coined by Roscoe Pound in 1908

Judges “mechanically” apply precedents to the facts of cases without regard to the consequences or consulting own biases.

Assumes principles are self-evident


Legal Realism

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. - “The life of the law has not been logic, it has been experience.” (1881)

Legal interpretation reflects judges’ experience and biases.

Law is not self-evident, but is best prediction of judges will decide.


Sociological Jurisprudence

Roscoe Pound’s preferred alternative

The "taught legal tradition“ of the common-law contains important concepts which judges must apply in ways that reflect changes in society


Judicial Behavior Model

Glendon Schubert (1959)

Sought to explain differences in judicial decisions by focusing on values and Supreme Court justices.

Uses quantitative models to explain variance at highest, most discretionary level


Role Theory

J. Woodford Howard (1977)

Examines U.S. Courts of Appeal, discovers that judges view job differently

Larger element for institutional demands and institutional constraints


Political Model

Attitudes

Role Orientations

Institutional Context

Judicial Vote


Critical Legal Studies (CLS)

Radical approach to law

Maintains that law and politics are indistinguishable from one another.

Most popular among legal historians, esp. those who trace tandem development of legal and economic institutions, and those engaged in critical race and feminist theory.


Myth of Judicial Activism

Transforms policy differences into “neutral” arguments about role of courts

Assumes that law can be made free of politics

Can law ever be free of values?


Conflicting Principles

Law vs. Politics

Independence v. Accountability

Judges as Elites

Other Elites

Good times behind us/yet to come


Sandra Day O’Connor

“Elected officials routinely score cheap points by railing against the ‘elitist judges’ who are purported to be out of touch with ordinary citizens and their values … using judges as punching bags presents a grave threat to the independent judiciary.”


Tom Parker, Judge, Alabama Supreme Court

“the liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court look down on the pro-family policies, Southern heritage, evangelical Christianity, and other blessings of our great state.”

commenting on Roper v. Simmons – no death penalty for minors


Tom Parker, Judge, Alabama Supreme Court

“Courts must recognize that the state is but one of several spheres of government, each with its distinct jurisdiction and limited authority granted by God.”

Dissent in 2005 child custody case


Constitutional Interpretation


Two Major Problems for Theories of Judging

  • Countermajoritarian Problem

  • Government by Judiciary


Legal Model

Find relevant precedents

Determine relevant similarities/differences

Facts

New Rule of Law

Apply rule of law from earlier precedents

Decision


Political Model

Attitudes

Role Orientations

Institutional Context

Judicial Vote


Should Judges Be Political?

High Politics: Disagreement over fundamental principles

Essential to constitutional interpretation

Low Politics: Partisanship

Antithetical to Judicial Role


Constitution is a Partially Democratic Document

Based in norm of popular sovereignty

Deliberately imperfect representation

Divided powers/Checks & Balances

Enumerated powers/Broadly stated

Federal structure


Is An Independent Judiciary Compatible w/ Democracy?

Lifetime tenure creates independence, eliminates accountability

Lifetime much longer than 18th century

Cultural issues create greater tension w/ lack of representation


Major Schools of Constitutional Interpretation

Strict Construction (Meese)

Original Intent/Understanding (Scalia)

Contemporary Ratification (Brennan/Marshall/Souter)

Representation Reinforcement

(John Hart Ely)


Strict Construction

Politically appealing/intellectually appalling

Assumes Constitution has literal meaning/ “Protestant” vision of interpretation

Simplistic vision of language

Great for easy questions, useless for difficult questions


Original Intent/Understanding

Authority derives from authorship

Focuses on meaning when written (Intent) and ratified (Understanding)

Assumes ability to determine original meaning

Assumes that original meaning provides answers to current questions

Better at vetoes than positive answers


Contemporary Ratification

Judges must read texts to reflect current problems, understandings

Original Intent is hubris

Judges’ job is to decide, SC & OI don’t answer many questions

Constitution’s meaning must reflect history as unfolding of principles, not frozen

Weakness: whose contemporary values?


Representation Reinforcement

John Hart Ely (former Dean @ Stanford)

Judges must ONLY use judicial review to enable political processes

Examples:

free speech/press/petition/assembly

reapportionment

anti-discrimination


Robert Bork

“Grutter and Gratz accepted the transparent false-hoods of the University of Michigan about the need for racial diversity in the student body to provide a quality education … utterly ignoring the flat prohibition of racial discrimination in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”


LinoGraglia

“Virtually every one of the Court’s rulings of unconstitutionality over the past 50 years – on abortion, capital punishment, criminal procedure, busing for school racial balance, prayer in the schools … discrimination on the basis of sex … have reflected the views of this same elite.”


Senator Al Franken

“If you have a credit car, if you watch TV, if you file insurance claims, if you work … then you interact with corporations that are more powerful than you are.”


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