Jurisprudence I: Theories of Law and Adjudication
An examination of classic jurisprudential questions in and around the theory of adjudication: the theory of how judges actually do decide cases and how they ought to decide them. These questions include: Do legal rules really constrain judicial decision-making? What makes a rule (or norm) a rule of the legal system? Are principles of morality legally binding even when such principles have not been enacted into a law by a legislature? (Relatedly, are there objective principles of morality?) When no legal norm controls a case, how ought judges to decide that case? Can there be right answers to legal disputes, even when informed judges and lawyers disagree about the answer? Are there principles or methods of legal reasoning that constrain judicial decision-making, or is legal reasoning essentially indeterminate, such that a skillful judge can justify more than one outcome for any given dispute? Is judicial decision-making really distinct from political decision-making of the sort legislators engage in? Readings drawn exclusively from major twentieth-century schools of thought - especially American Legal Realism (e.g., Karl Llewellyn, Jerome Frank), Natural Law (e.g., Ronald Dworkin, John Finnis), and Legal Positivism (e.g., H.L.A. Hart, Joseph Raz) - supplemented by other pertinent readings (from Leslie Green, Richard Posner, and the instructor, among others). No familiarity with either jurisprudence or philosophy will be presupposed, though some readings will be philosophically demanding, and the course will sometimes venture into (and explain) cognate philosophical issues in philosophy of language and metaethics as they are relevant to the core jurisprudential questions.
Take-home essay exam.
The first meeting of the class will be on Tuesday, April 2 (not Friday, March 29), and attendance at the first session is mandatory for those who want to enroll.