Legal Philosophies at Work:
The Case of the Cave Explorers
1. The first judge implies the theory of “letter of the law” from legal positivism. For example, the judge stated that “I am not free to make the law”, and that “As a judge, I have sworn an oath to apply the law that the authorized legislators have enacted”, and also “it is not for me to second-guess whether they should have anticipated situations like the one that confronts us today.” This meant that that as much the judge wanted to not sentence the 3 survivors to death, he is compelled by the law to do so and that he has no other option as it is the law. Therefore, he is following the “letter of the law”.
The second judge implies the theory of “spirit of the law” from legal positivism. For example, the judge stated that “the law should not be interpreted literally”, in contrast to the first judge. He also stated that “It should be obvious that the point of our laws against killing is to prevent unjustified killing”. This judge then stated that “killing someone to save three lives is clearly justified” and so the three survivors were not guilty in his eyes. This demonstrated that this judge read between the lines and figured out the intention of the law when it was legislated, and not just follow the law blindly to every letter. Therefore he is following “spirit of the law.”
The third judge implies the theory of “popular morality” from natural law. He stated that “the seven of us sitting should not pass judgement in this case”, and also that “in a democracy, this is for the people to decide.” In the end, he found that most people wanted some sort of punishment for the survivors but did not want them to be sentenced to death. So he finds the defendants “guilty of manslaughter and sentence them to a six-month prison term.” Since he wanted the view of the public regarding this case and took their opinions into consideration, he is following “popular morality”.
The forth judge implies the theory...