In terms of our American Government we have three essential branches the Executive, Legislative; and the Judicial. The Executive branch of the U.S. Government consists of the Office of the President and surrounding bureaucracy, charged with executing the laws of America. The Legislative branch consisting of the Congress made up of a House of Representatives and Senate, maintaining the power of the purse, is charged with the creation of laws and statutes. Finally the Judicial branch consists of a great body of Courts from the Supreme Court, the highest in the land, all the way down to local Courts. This body, the way that our constitution was crafted, acts as the representative of Society in interpreting and translating the laws. They are the finders of fact: the seekers of Truth.
All philosophy in and of itself is the pursuit of Truth. The Judiciary is no different from Philosophy in its ultimate tool being that of reason. Thus, at the center of all that is judicial thought there stands reason above all else. Whereas philosophy tends to be viewed as thought dealing with abstracts and universal principles, legal reasoning, though based upon the same grounds, is viewed, popularly, as dealing with concrete and solid instances mainly.
Legal reasoning is a complex form of thought. It is as we have established somewhat similar to philosophy and could be considered a philosophy in and of itself; however, its reliance so much on precedent is something that sets it apart. Legal reasoning tends to focus on past decisions as a paradigm for future decisions, as well as focusing on legislative intent.
Let us briefly look at legislative intent. It is easily understood as posited in the article by C. Gordon Post that, "There are two chief sources of law: statutes and precedents" (p.81). Statutes come from our legislative branch of elected representatives, as outlined above. Precedents come from our court system in juxtaposition with many administrative bodies involved in the Executive branch. Precedent is essentially a derivation of a statute. As the finders of fact it is the duty of the court to establish translation and application of the laws or statutes to individual cases. Precedent aids greatly there, but it is created through analysis of the law and the situation. The situation is looked at by the court in light of the statute; the statute's meaning is decided by what it states and, to a great extent, legislative intent in determining the exact meaning of the words making up the law.
From the very beginning legislative intent has been essential to legal decision making. The roots of legislative intent can be traced to the very beginnings of the Supreme Court; however, the most significant early case was Marbury v. Madison. The Court in Marbury declared the a section of the Judiciary Act of 1793 exceeded limits placed by the constitution and declared that section null and void(5 U.S. 137 (1803)). Thereby, using legislative intent based in the constitution Chief Justice Marshall created a precedent: judicial review. Another good example of legislative intent being utilized is in the concept of the right to privacy in American law. Not so much the concept of privacy under the sole protection of the 4th amendment, looking at criminal action, but the right to privacy which has to do with protection of personhood or protecting the state from entering...