Abstracts from Volume XVIII, Number 2 (July 2005)

“Constitutions as Living Trees: An Idiot Defends”

AUTHOR: Wil Waluchow 
Department of Philosophy 
McMaster University 
Hamilton, ON 
L8S 4L9 

In this article, I defend Charters of Rights and the practices of judicial review to which they normally give rise against a number of objections one encounters in public and academic discourse, most notably in the work of Jeremy Waldron. In answering Waldron and his fellow critics, I develop a “living tree” or “common law” conception of Charters and show how it can be used successfully to answer their most powerful criticisms.

“Jurisprudence as a Moral and Historical Inquiry”

AUTHOR: Nigel Simmonds 
Corpus Christi College 
Cambridge University 
Cambridge, UK CB2 1RH

The essay builds on the claim that the concept of law is best understood as structured by an abstract archetype to which actual instances of law approximate, and that the archetype in question is an intrinsically moral idea: the idea of a realm of universality and necessity within which one can enjoy freedom as independence from the power of others. Reflection upon the nature of this archetype is a form of moral reflection upon experience, where we seek to grasp the nature of a value by considering the forms in which the value has been partially realised. The departure from Aristotelian thought (to be found in writers from Grotius to Kant) served to obscure the possibility of such a form of moral reflection. Twentieth-century theories of the nature of law have tended to focus upon the problem of law’s self-genesis, but this neglects the full extent of the philosophical problem of law’s nature.

“Legal Positivism and Scottish Common Sense Philosophy”

AUTHOR: Thomas Roberts 
Department of Law 
European University Institute 
Via dei Roccettini 9 
San Domenico di Fiesole (FI) 

This paper identifies a volitional theory of meaning common to speech act theory and legal positivism, represented by Hart and Kelsen. This model is compared and contrasted with the model of social operations developed by Reid, a Common Sense Enlightenment philosopher. Whereas the former subscribes to the view that meaning is generated by acts of will, the latter finds meaning to consist of the dual elements of sign and 'directedness'.

The ability of positivist theories to provide a structural account of the difference between legal rules and other rules is inextricably linked to this commitment to the volitional theory of meaning. The commitment to the volitional view however leads to problems in requiring that some kind of authority be presupposed in for plain rules to attain legal force. Such authority can only be established with recourse to further rules (thus falling into a malign infinite regress) or must be accepted as a matter of faith. Reid's criterion of direction however vitiates the need for an authority, instead accounting for social communication in general, and rules in particular, in terms of sociological factors. Although no comprehensive critique of the volitional theory is proposed, Reid's model is preferable on the grounds of explanatory richness.

The core claims of the paper are that: (a) legal positivism necessarily subscribes to the volitional theory of meaning; (b) rejection of the volitional theory necessarily entails rejection of the positivist view that legal and non-legal rules can be differentiated on structural grounds (c) another counter-model exists which avoids some of the pitfalls of the volitional theory; (d) if the volitional theory is rejected then the existence of rules can only be accounted for in a 'strong' sociological sense and legal theory must accordingly accept the dominant role of sociology in conceptualising the nature of rules.

“Patent Law and the Assurance Game: Refitting Intellectual Property in the Box of Regulation”

AUTHOR: Shubha Ghosh 
Faculty of Law 
SUNY Buffalo 
Buffalo, New York, USA 

Patent law is often understood through the fiction of social contract. 
The author argues that this fiction does not offer an adequate economic or political theory of patent law, that is, one that will explain the unique relationship between government and property that patents entail. As an alternative to social contract theory, a regulatory theory of patent law is developed based on the assurance game taken from game theory. The assurance game is used to show how patent law serves to regulate the invention process and the market for innovative products.

“Judicial Activism: A Multidimensional Model”

AUTHORS:: Margit Cohn & Mordechai Kremnitzer

Dr. Margit Cohn 
Faculty of Law 
University of Leicester 
Leicester LE1 7RH 
United Kingdom

The article addresses the question of the role of the judiciary in the constitutional democratic state through an analysis of the concept of judicial activism. The model advanced in the article is based on a composite theory of the role of the judiciary, drawing on, and developing, Canon’s (1982) analysis of judicial activism and more recent multidimensional approaches to the assessment of judicial output. The article supplements the traditional vision of the judiciary as law enforcer in two directions. Drawing on the ‘constitutional dialogue/constitutional interdependence’ paradigm, the article perceives the judiciary as participant in a multi-player web of constitutional interactions, in which other government branches, individuals and public bodies participate in the decision making process; arguments on the omnipotency of the judiciary are thus replaced by a model of interdependency and interaction. The constitutionalist tradition serves as basis for the third vision, under which the judiciary is an active protector of core ‘thin’ societal values.

These three visions of the role of the judiciary support a multidimensional analysis of judicial activism, under which judicial output is considered not only against pre-decision law, but also on the basis of post-decision dynamics and the value content of the decision. 
The model comprises seventeen distinct parameters, which include, inter alia, the degree of change in the law, interpretation techniques, interference with democratic processes, rhetoric, obiter dicta, reliance on comparative sources, the extent of the decision, and the complexity of the legal question brought before the court. Under this group of parameters, any change in the law, or action that extends beyond the mere settlement of the dispute before the court, would be considered activist. Additional parameters draw on the second vision of the role of the judiciary, and consider post-decision reaction of the legislature, the administration, the public and the judiciary itself as basis for supplementary assessment. In this context it is argued that a decision that is fully accepted and implemented by other members of the constitutional web should be viewed as less activist than a decision that is subsequently rejected; in the former case the decision conforms with societal consensus or equilibrium, while in the latter case, post-decision processes reflect judicial deviance from such consensus. A final parameter pertains to the value-content of the decision, under which a decision that promotes and protects core societal values should be considered less activist than one that intervenes in low-value policy areas. The model advanced in the article provides a basis for composite qualitative and quantitative assessments of the impact of the judiciary in the social and political spheres.