Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ronald Dworkin: Law as Integrity

Law as Integrity
Ronald Dworkin
Law's Empire, 1986

Key to Ronald Dworkin’s Constructive Interpretation of legal practice is the conception of Law as Integrity. Law as integrity holds a vision for judges which states that as far as possible judges should identify legal rights and duties on the assumption that they were all created by the community as an entity, and that they express the community’s conception of justice and fairness.

According to law as integrity, proposition of law are true if they figure in or follow from the principles of justice, fairness and procedural due process, which provide the best constructive interpretation of the community’s legal practice.

Law as integrity states that the law must speak with one voice, so judges must assume that the law is structured on coherent principles about justice, fairness and procedural due process, and that in all fresh cases which comes before them, judges must enforce these so as to make each person’s situation fair and just by the same standard – that is to say, treat everyone equally.

Dworkin argues that, law as integrity offers a blueprint for adjudicator which directs judges to decide cases by using the same methodology from which integrity was derived viz, constructive interpretation.

Integrity is both a legislative and an adjudicative principle. Legislative principle requires law makers to try to make the laws morally coherent. Lawmakers are required to ask the assumption that integrity is a distinct ideals of politics, for politics, and honors politics. If it fits these dimensions, then adjudicative principles is ready to begin.

Central to Dworkin’s project that to develop a theory of adjudication it is necessary to engage in a constructive interpretation of legal practice. Adjudicative principles instruct that the law be seen as coherent in that way, as far as possible. Constructive interpretation is a methodology for interpreting social practices, texts and work of art. The distinctive feature of this is that it is argumentative.

The process of constructive interpretation is made up of three analytical stages: (1) Pre-interpretive stage, (2) Interpretive stage, (3) Post-interpretive stage. In the Pre-interpretive stage, a participant identifies the rules and standards that constitute the practice. Then, in the interpretive stage, the interpreter settles on some general justification for those elements identified at the pre-interpretive stage. At the post-interpretive stage, participant adjusts his sense of what the practice really requires so as to better serve the justification he accepts at the interpretive stage.

Of the three stages, the interpretive stage is the pre-eminent. The proposal must satisfy two dimensions: (1) it must be consistent with the data identified as constituting the practice at the pre-interpretive stage; (2) he must choose a justification that he believes shows it in the best light.

For Dworkin, the historical legal record must constitute the source of legal interpretation: this interpretation must fit into the existing both of legal materials. It should not be thought that a judge committed ton law as integrity is required to interpret laws in the light of the purposes which gave rise to them. On the contrary, he is required to impose order over doctrine, not to discover order in the forces that created it.

Dworkin is compelled to conclude that what constrain interpretation is not historical legal materials in some objective sense, but the judges convictions about “fit”. According to Dworkin, the constrain upon judges arises from their personal need as individuals to integrate their convictions about “fit” with their convictions about whether their interpretation shows the interpreted practice in its best light.

To understand “fit” Dworkin employs the idea of the ‘Chain Novel’. Imagine that a number of novelist agree to write one chapter each of a proposed novel. Clearly, there will be constraints of ‘fit’ upon the author of the second chapter, constraints which will increase through each successive chapter.

Because law as integrity sees the law as a coherent whole, law as integrity requires the judges to go through the whole law to consider an interpretation. The interpreted law as integrity holds that judges would both fit and justifies what has gone on before as far as possible.

Just as the interpretation within a chain novel, in law it is a delicate balance of political convictions of different sorts. In law, as in literature, these must be sufficiently related, and yet disjointed to allow an overall judgment that trades off an interpretation’s success on one standard against failure on another.

If, for example, it is decided in the case of McLoughlin v O’Brian (1983) that Mrs. McLoughlin deserves compensation for her injury, then the question that we need to analyze is whether legal practice is seen in a better light if the community accepts the principle that people in Mrs. McLoughlin’s position deserves compensation.

To the positivist, in the McLoughlin case, the judges must exercise discretion and make law, which is then applied retrospectively to the parties in the case.

It is noted that, if the judge is guided by law as integrity, he is directed to regard as law what morality would suggest to be the best justification for past decisions. If this is so, a judge deciding McLoughlin employs his own moral convictions. If the judge is satisfied that the law as he understands it favors Mrs. McLoughlin, he will feel justified in thus deciding whatever the present legislature thinks, whether or not popular morality concurs.

Law as integrity provides a consistency in principle which requires that various standards governing the states use of coercion against the citizen be consistent in order to have a single vision of justice.

If a judge deciding the McLoughlin case is tempted to decide against Mrs. McLoughlin, he would first ask himself whether any principled distinction can be drawn between her case and other mothers who suffer emotional damage at the scene of an accident.

Positivism is different from law as integrity because it rejects consistency in principle as a source of legal rights. Positivism does not require judges to justify their decisions to the entirety of the law. Positivism does not consider the law as having an integral life of its own. Positivism will present the law as comprising of a set of discrete decisions, which judges have the discretion to make or amend law.

On the contrary, law as integrity sees the law as a coherent phenomenon, rather than a set of discrete decisions. Law as integrity requires judges to justify their decisions to the entirety of the law, which is considered to have an integral life of its own.

Consistency in principle supposes that people have legal rights which follows from legislation and precedents which enforce coercion. Mindful of this, law as integrity supposes that people are entitled to a coherent and principled extension of past decisions even when judges disagree about what that means.

Positivism denies this, since it denies consistency in principle as a judicial virtue for dissecting ambiguous statute and in exact precedents to try to achieve this. The methodology of Dworkin’s model judge, Hercules, emphasizes this point.

Law as integrity requires judges to treat the techniques that they use in interpreting statutes and measuring precedents not simply as tools handed down by the legal system, but as principles they assume can be justified in political theory, and when that is in doubt they construct a theory of the system to better them.

To Dworkin, no mortal judge can or should try to articulate his instinctive working theory or make theory so concrete and detailed, that no further thoughts will be necessary case by case. He must threat any general principles or rules as thumb he has followed in the past as provisional and stand ready to abandon these in favor of more sophisticated and searching analysis when the occasion demands.

It is nevertheless possible for any judge to confront fresh and challenging issues as a matter of principle, and this is what law as integrity demands of him.

Law as integrity is at best a conception for hard cases. Law as integrity explains and justifies easy cases as well as hard cases and it also shows why they are easy. So easy cases are, for law of integrity, only special cases of hard cases, and, to Dworkin, we need not ask question when we already know the answer.

The process of adjudication inherent in the theory of law as integrity yields right answer to question of law. For Dworkin, in most hard cases there are right answers to be hunted by reason and imagination.

As a consequence of this conception of law, lawyers are invited to search for an answer in legal materials using reasons and imagination to determine the best way to interpret legal data. It is therefore possible for lawyers to confront fresh and challenging issues as a matter of principle, and this is what law as integrity demands of him.


Dr. Anupam Acharya said...

I have keen interest in jurisprudence and i really appreciate the conceptipn of law as integrity to be guiding light for judges instead of sate wish. Article is well written. Dr. Anupam kurlwal, Assistant professor,ILMS, GURGAON, INDIA

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