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BU PHIL 345 - Jan 29

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1/29/14The Case of the Speluncean Explorers Lon L. Fuller - It presents a legal philosophy puzzle to the reader, offering five possible solutions in the form of judicial opinions that are attributed to judges sitting on the fictional “Supreme Courtof Newgarth” in the year 4300. o The case involves five explorers who are caved in following a landslide. o They learn via intermittent radio contact that, without food, they are likely to starve to death before they can be rescued. o They decide that someone should be killed and eaten so that the others may survive.o They decide who should be killed by throwing a pair of dice. o After the four survivors are rescued, they are charged and found guilty of the murderof the fifth explorer. o If their appeal to the Supreme Court of Newgarth fails, they face a mandatory death sentence. - Although the wording of the statute is clear and unambiguous, there is intense public pressure for the men to avoid facing the death penalty.- The article offers five possible judicial responses. o Each differs in its reasoning on whether the survivors should be found guilty of breaching the law. o Two judges affirm the convictions, emphasizing the importance of the separation of powers and literal approach to statutory interpretation. o Two other judges overturn the convictions; one focuses on “common sense” and the popular will while the other uses arguments drawn from the natural law tradition, emphasizing the purposive approach. o A fifth judge, who is unable to reach a conclusion, recuses himself. o As the Court’s decision is a tie, the original convictions are upheld and the men are sentenced to death. Facts - The relevant statute provides that “Whoever shall willfully take the life of another shall be punished by death”, offering no exceptions which would be relevant to the case. o The jury seek a special verdict, so that they can make limited findings of a fact without having to return a verdict on whether it constitutes murder. o The cavers are ultimately convicted of murder. Judicial Opinions - Chief Justice Truepenny o Statute is unambiguous and must be applied by judiciary notwithstanding personal views.o Clemency is a matter for the executive, not the judiciary o Court should join petition to Chief Executive for clemencyo Decision: Affirms convictions but recommends clemency - Justice Foster o Defendants were in a “state of nature” so Newgarth’s normal laws did not apply to them; the laws of nature would allow them to agree to sacrifice one’s life to save the other four. o If the laws of Newgarth do apply, then a purposive approach must be taken to the statute. Judges can find an exception to the law by implication, as the Courts had earlier done with self-defense.  Principal purpose of the criminal law-deterrence- would not be served by convicting the defendants. o Decision: Sets aside convictions- Justice Tatting o Criticizes Foster J’s approach The natural law under the posited “state of nature” prioritizes freedom of contract above the right to life.  Purposive approach to statutory interpretation is difficult when there are multiple purposes (here, retribution and rehabilitation) o Cannot decide case due to competing legal rationales and emotions o Decision: Withdraws from case and makes no decision - Justice Keen o Criticizes Chief Justice’s proposed appeal to Executive for clemency given need to respect separation of powers; should only make appeal in capacity as private citizenso Moral considerations are irrelevant in applying the statute. o Decision: Affirms convictions - Justice Handy o Court should take account of public opinion and “common sense” o Aware that 90% of the public want the men to face a lesser punishment or be released. o Has heard rumors that the Chief Executive will not commute the sentence despite strong public opinion. o Decision: set aside convictions Similar Real Cases - R v. Dudley and Stephens, an actual English criminal case from 1884 involving cannibalism atsea- The William Brown was a ship whose sinking led to several passengers being forced out of an overcrowded lifeboat to save the remaining passengers. o It led to the case of United States v. Holmes, in which crewman Alexander Holmes was charged with murder and convicted of manslaughter for his actions.The Common Law and Civil Law Traditions - Most nations today follow one of two major legal traditions: common law or civil law. - Common law is generally uncodified. o This means that there is no comprehensive compilation of legal rules and statutes. o While common law does rely on some scattered statutes, which are legislative decisions, it is largely based on precedent, meaning the judicial decisions that have already been made in similar cases. - Civil law, in contrast, is codified. o Countries with civil law systems have comprehensive, continuously updated legal codes that specify all matters capable of being brought before a court, the applicableprocedure, and the appropriate punishment for each offense. o In a civil law system, the judge’s role is to establish the facts of the case and to apply the provisions of the applicable code. Historical Development of Civil Law - The term civil law derives from the Latin ius civile, the law applicable to all Roman cives or citizens. - As civil law came into practice throughout Europe, the role of local custom as a source of law became increasingly important- particularly as growing European states sought to unify and organize their individual legal systems. Historical Development of English Common Law - English common law emerged from the changing and centralizing powers of the king during the Middle Ages. - Courts of law and courts of equity thus functioned separately until the writs system was abolished in the mid-nineteenth century. o Habeas corpus developed during the same period that produced the 1215 Magna Carta, or Great Charter, which declared certain individual liberties, one of the most famous being that a freeman could not be imprisoned or punished without the judgment of his peers under the law of the land-thus establishing the right to a jury trial.- In the Middle Ages, common law in England coexisted, as civil law did in other countries, with other systems of law. Civil Law Influences in American Law - The American legal system remains firmly within the common law tradition brought to theNorth American colonies from England. o Traces of the civil law


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