Monday, April 20, 2015

Likko on My Post About Judges Making Law

The website "Ordinary Times" published my post on judges making law to which contributor Burt Likko replied. His was a very long and thoughtful reply. A taste:
Nor is the notion of “common law” necessarily an outgrowth of the school of philosophy identified as “natural law,” and “natural law” in turn is not necessarily (although often is) associated with the notion of a divine lawgiver. Rather, it is based on the idea that there is an unchanging, transcendent core to the law, a core that is inextricably intertwined with concepts of morality. So one might base a natural law philosophy upon a Kantian categorical imperative, for instance. And a natural lawyer might eschew the notion that precedents set by past judges are binding upon future decisions, because future cases may present different permutations of the intent of the parties and the effects of the ruling in ways that the past case did not consider. A positivist or a realist, meanwhile, might readily adhere to the notion of binding precedent; the positivist awaiting instruction from the sovereign to change the law before making a ruling contrary to precedent and the realist determining that predictability of the legal system is of greater importance to its users than effecting a fair outcome in the individual case.
Antonin Scalia himself occupies, and to a large degree personifies, the hybrid of textualism and originalism associated with “conservative” jurisprudence in the contemporary legal world. Recall that for him, the judicial act of interpreting the law and applying it to a particular case sometimes involves a search for the generally-accepted meaning of a word at the time that a law was written. It’s interesting that he delves down into semiotics in the article, as he doesn’t usually get quite that abstract in his casting-about for an exposition on language and communication.
But this originalist-textualist position is at once vulnerable to two criticisms: ...
 Read the rest here

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