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Brief Facts

Describe about the Jurisprudence for Philosophy and Method of Law.

In the present assignment a fictitious case that was produced by “Lon L Fuller[1], has been discussed. The event happens in the “Commonwealth of Newgarth” which is also a fictitious country and in this article by Fuller, the five different judicial opinions have been expressed that evaluate the facts of this case from diverse legal viewpoints. Due to this reason, this case is considered as significant example of the diversity and scope of Anglo-American legal thinking, particularly during the middle of the 20th century.

The brief facts of this case are that a group of cave explorers was trapped in the cave as a result of a landslide. As they were facing starvation, the explorers had established radio contact with the rescuers. The engineers among the rescuers estimated that 10 more days will be required to reach the trapped explorers. When the situation was described to the physicians, they opined that it is not likely that the explorers will live for 10 more days deprived of food. Then the explorers asked the physicians if they can stay alive if they executed and ate one of them. The physicians unwillingly told that what the explorers stated is possible. When the explorers asked if they can have a lottery for deciding which members should be executed, none from the rescuers was ready to give this advice. Afterwards, the radio contact was lost and after some time, and the explorers held a lottery. The member of the team who lost the lottery was killed and eaten by the other explorers. However when the members of the team were rescued, they faced prosecution for murder and in Newgarth, capital punishment was the mandatory sentence for murder.

Truepenny CJ: In his judgment, Chief Justice Truepenny stated the facts of this case and ruled in favor of the strict application of the letter of law instead of interpreting it. He stated that a fair and wise course was adopted by the jury and the trial judge and it was the only one that was available according to the law. However he also suggested to the other judges on the Bench that they should follow the precedent of the trial judge and the jury and ask the Chief Executive of the State for clemency for the explorers. As a result, the Chief Justice of father decision given by the trial court but at the same time also made requests for clemency.

The Decisions and Relevance of Legal Theory

It appears that the main thrust of the argument on which the Chief Justice had relied upon is that the statute under scrutiny is not ambiguous and it has been hugely mentioned for applying the law instead of interpreting the law. It has been mentioned in the statute that “whoever willfully takes the life of another person, shall be punished by death”, the Chief Justice stated that the law requires that the defendants should be hanged till death. However, the arguments made by Truepenny CJ have strength that can be applied to the present case, at least at the face value. First of all, it can be argued that the language used in the statute directly applies to what was done by the defendants to Roger Whetmore.[2] As a result, there is no argument that the defendants should not be punished following the applicable law. Similarly, there is no issue regarding the issue that the defendants have been fully taken the life of Roger Whetmore. This fact has been admitted by the defendants.

But another aspect is also present in this particular case. As mentioned by the defendants in their testimony, Whetmore agreed with the choice that a lottery should be held to decide their fate. Therefore, a question arises if all the liability for the death of Whetmore will lie only with the defendants or if Whetmore can also be partly held responsible for the crime. As a result, it will be in practical that the statute is applied only on the basis of the text and ignores the basic foundation due to which law is law.[3] Prudence should be applied in all cases and every case has to be judged on its own merits.

It is said that the judgment of Justice Foster represents the natural school of jurisprudence. The express shock at the opinion of Truepenny CJ and maintained that the Commonwealth Law will be at stake if efforts are made to apply the text of the law in this peculiar case. He also stated that when the explorers were stuck in the cave, they were not subject to the jurisdiction of Newgarth. Therefore, he set aside the conviction of the defendants and stated that the statutes should be purposively constructed.

It can be said in this case that Foster J did not consider that the law forces the monstrous conclusion of the defendant being guilty for murder. As against it, he stated that the law declares them to be innocent. The conclusion was based on two grounds that were independent from each other. The first ground was that the enacted/positive law, together with all its statutes and precedence is directed by law of nature. If the coexistence of men becomes impossible, the condition that motivates all statutes and legal precedents stopped to exist. When it disappears, the force of the positive law also vanishes. It is the same as if the crime has been committed beyond the territorial jurisdiction.[4]

Truepenny CJ's Judgment

The second ground on which the decision of Justice Foster was based upon was the ancient legal proverb that a person can breach the letter of the law but may not break the law itself. Therefore he said that every proposition of positive law needs to be reasonably interpreted, considering the evident purpose of the law.

Justice Tatting: The views of Justice Tatting were completely opposite to that of Justice Foster. He stated that he cannot accept the opinions of Justice Foster, particularly the first part. Justice Tatting discussed the issue that how the law of contract can be considered as being more significant than the law of murder. He also raised a basic question, when was the exact time that the five explorers moved from the state of ‘civil society' to nature. Did this happen when the explorers went inside the cave or when the mudslide took place or when the explorers crossed the starvation threshold? He also asked that the Supreme Court of Newgarth has been created on the basis of positive law. How the Court have the authority to hear an issue on the basis of the natural law instead of the State law?

Under these circumstances, Justice Tatting withdrew from the case.

In this case, Justice Tatting represents the positivist school of jurisprudence. He argued that it is correct that a statute needs to be applied, keeping in view its purpose and also stated that the purpose of criminal law has been recognized as deterrence. But the problem is that there are other purposes also.[5] Its objective is also to provide orderly outlet for the instinctive human requirement for retribution. Therefore, it appears that Justice Tatting withdrew because he felt overpowering disagreement after considering the issue. He did not agree with Foster J regarding the issue of state of nature but he approved that his theory of self-defense has value as a precedent. However he did not consider that the statutes only have one purpose and according to him, other explanations of self-defense were also present, stressing upon the significance of “non-willful conduct”. However the explorers have acted willfully. Therefore he saw that both acquittal and conviction equally strong arguments.

Justice Keen stated that the issue of executive clemency falls within the purview of the chief executive of the state and the judges and should not direct the Chief Executive in this regard. As a result, he disagreed with the opinion of Chief Justice when he had, in effect, given directions to the Chief Executive regarding clemency. He stated that it was not for the judges to relate their concepts of morality but they should only deal with the law of the nation. Therefore, he said that the only question before the judges was to see if the defendants had willfully taken the life of Whetmore, within the meaning of the statute. He also acknowledged that the hard decisions are not popular but such hard decisions may even ascertain moral values as they bring home the responsibilities of the people towards the law and remind that there is no principle of personal grace that can dismiss the mistakes made by their representatives. Under these circumstances, he pronounced the defendants guilty.

Justice Foster's Views

It was believed by Handy J that the law should be what the people wanted to be. They did not approve of what he called the ability of his colleagues to toss an obscure screen of legalisms regarding every issue before them. He stated that the judges should not go in the issue of positivism on natural law, like the wrong.[6] As it has been established by a poll that most of the people wanted that the defendants should be released with a token punishment, they should follow the public opinion. He said that government is a human affair and the men are not ruled by words on paper or by abstract theories but by other men.[7] They can be ruled well when the rulers unaware of their feelings and conceptions. But when this understanding is lacking, they are ruled badly. The judges should also be infused with the popular opinion. He stated that the case before the court involved the question of practical wisdom and it needs to be exercised in context off human realities and not of abstract theory. He stated that the most obvious advantage that is present in treating forms and abstract concepts as instruments is that it allows one to do once daily tasks with common sense and efficiency. When these conceptions are applied, the decision becomes very easy. He also stated that enormous public interest has been created in this case. Under these circumstances, he set aside the verdict of the trial court and stated that the court should follow the opinion of the public.

Therefore it can be said that the decision of Justice Handy is based on practical/popular wisdom. Therefore he had represented the views of the sociological school of jurisprudence. The judge believes that the legitimate sea of judicial enterprises is based on the fact that it reflects the will of the people.

In this way, we see that in this case, five different judgments were pronounced by the five judges. However, while giving a decision in this code, it can be said that in all the cases, there is always a right answer and only one right answer. It is the 'right' of the parties to have that answers and at the same time, it also needs to be mentioned that the answer that has been arrived at, has to be dictated by the general needs of justice. As justice is considered as a branch of morality, it is required that the 'right' answer to not only be correct but it should also be right in the moral way. In view of the above discussion, they can arrive at the decision that the five explorers should not be held guilty of the murder of Roger Whetmore.

Bodenheimer, Edgar; “Jurisprudence –the Philosophy and Method of Law”, Universal Book Traders, New Delhi, 1974

Cahn, Naomi; Calmore, John; Coombs, Mary; Greene, Dwight; Miller, Geoffrey; Paul, Jeremy; Stein, Laura, "The Case of the Speluncean Explorers: Contemporary Proceedings". George Washington Law Review 61, 1993

Caron, Paul L.; Gely, Rafael, “Affirmative Refraction: Grutter v. Bollinger Through the Lens of the Case of the Speluncean Explorers". Constitutional Commentary 21, 2004

Curzon, L. B; “Q & A Series Jurisprudence”, Cavendish Publishing Limited, London, Third Edition, 2005

Dias, R. W. M.; “Jurisprudence” 3rd Edition, London Butterworths 1970

Easterbrook, Frank H. "The Case of the Speluncean Explorers: Revisited". Harvard Law Review 112, 1999

Lon L Fuller, ‘The Case of the Speluncean Explorers’ 62(4) Harvard Law Review 616, 1949

[1] Lon L Fuller, ‘The Case of the Speluncean Explorers’ 62(4) Harvard Law Review 616, 1949

[2] Cahn, Naomi; Calmore, John; Coombs, Mary; Greene, Dwight; Miller, Geoffrey; Paul, Jeremy; Stein, Laura, "The Case of the Speluncean Explorers: Contemporary Proceedings". George Washington Law Review 61, 1993

[3] Caron, Paul L.; Gely, Rafael, “Affirmative Refraction: Grutter v. Bollinger Through the Lens of the Case of the Speluncean Explorers". Constitutional Commentary 21, 2004

[4] Bodenheimer, Edgar; “Jurisprudence –the Philosophy and Method of Law”, Universal Book Traders, New Delhi, 1974

[5] Easterbrook, Frank H. "The Case of the Speluncean Explorers: Revisited". Harvard Law Review 112, 1999

[6] Dias, R. W. M.; “Jurisprudence” 3rd Edition, London Butterworths 1970

[7] Curzon, L. B; “Q & A Series Jurisprudence”, Cavendish Publishing Limited, London, Third Edition, 2005

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