Dworkin on Legal Construction the Law-As-Integrity Approach Essay

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Dworkin on Legal Construction

The Law-as-Integrity Approach to Jurisprudence

Ronald Dworkin presents a view of legal constructivism predicated on the notion of congruence between laws and moral justice to which he refers as law as integrity. In the legal context, integrity means that laws are more appropriately driven by objective principle and not by policy implications; stated another way, the law must be true to principle rather than fit to factual circumstances and desired outcomes in specific cases.

Dworkin also argues that judges must not interject their own opinions and beliefs into the law or into decisions requiring the correct interpretation and application of existing laws to factual situations before courts of justice. According to Dworkin, it is never the case that "reasonable minds may differ" about the correct interpretation of law or of the implications of correctly applying formal laws to cases before them. Rather, Dworkin maintains that the law always provides the means to identify the correct answer; the principal role of the judge is therefore to accurately interpret and then correctly apply the law to factual situations in legal disputes. In that regard, Dworkin very specifically rejects the proposition that there are any "gaps" in the law.

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Dworkin employs several conceptual arguments to support his approach to legal construction and jurisprudence. He explains the evolution of law through the continual contributions of judges over time with an analogy about writing novels; he illustrates what is meant by the notion of objective analysis through a hypothetical "perfect" judge; and he uses an old English case to argue for balancing the moral equities in laws whose purpose it is to benefit society.

The Chain Novel and Objective Rightness of Legal Decisions and Applications

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To provide an analogy for understanding the way that the law evolves over the course of jurisprudential history, Dworkin describes the process of writing a "chain novel" whereby different authors collaborate to write successive chapters of a novel one at a time. The second author is constrained in that the second chapter may build upon and develop ideas from the first chapter, but it must not conflict outright or be logically or historically inconsistent or irreconcilable with anything in the first chapter. Each successive author is more constrained by the details added in the series of prior chapter. The law develops the same way through the continual addition of new "chapters" by judges who are necessarily constrained by the decisions, definitions, and determinations of all of the judges whose case decisions precede their "new chapters."

One of the concepts that Dworkin sets out to explain is the notion of objective truth or objective rightness and wrongness. Dworkin maintains that the role of judges is not to make law by imposing their independent values in interpreting and applying the law. Their proper role in that capacity is to understand what the law means, to determine the most nearly-perfect application of legal principles with integrity in relation to the values and maximum possible benefit to society, and in a manner that incorporates previous legal decisions appropriately through the principle of stare decisis.

To illustrate, Dworkin introduces a hypothetical judge "Hercules" with the monumental task of determining… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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