Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Principles, Policies, and Rules - i.e. more on Legal Analysis

One thing which is useful everytime you read a case is to find, or think about the underlying social principles, policies and rules established in the case. Sometimes law cases are logical and rational, but other times they are 'counterintuitive' - meaning they go against the grain or 'your basic gut feeling'. Students must learn the law 'as it is' and not 'as they want it to be' or 'they have heard it to be' from TV, friends, relatives, family, etc.

Many times the rules, principles, and policies seem to make no sense.

Look at the exercise provided by Prof. David Linnan at University of South Carolina Law School, where students analyze the rules, principles and policies in a very interesting case about a Vietnam protester. (Thanks Prof. Linnan - great assignment !)

here are Prof. Linnan's definition of P-P-R's:

A. A "principle" is a standard that should be observed, not because it will advance or secure an economic, political, or social situation deemed desireable, but because it is a requirement of justice or fairness or some other dimension of morality. For example, "no person may profit by his own wrong" is a principle.

B. A "policy" is a standard that sets out a goal to be reached, generally an improvement on some economic, political, or social feature of the community (though some goals are negative, in that they stipulate that some present feature is to be protected from adverse change). For example, the idea that automobile accidents should be decreased is a policy.

C. A "rule" is a standard that is applied in an all or nothing fashion to dictate outcomes under a particular set of circumstances. For example, "the maximum legal speed on interstate highways is fifty-five miles per hour" states a rule

Hope this helps in your legal analysis of cases. Prof.J.