Assignment 3: Riggs v. Palmer
For this assignment we ask you (1) to give a summary of argumentation in the Opinion of the Court and in the Dissenting Opinion (2) to evaluate these two opinions and (3) to give your opinion on Dworkin’s analysis of the decision and his theory about legal principles (and try to relate Dworkin’s theory to Schauer’s analysis of the formal aspect of legal reasoning).
The opinion of the court decided that it could never have been the intention of the legislature that a person who murdered someone could be able to benefit from his or her own wrong doing. The court believed that the legislature would have prevented this particular case if they had thought of such a possibility. Since lawmakers do not always express their intentions perfectly on paper, judges must make a rational interpretation of the legislature’s intentions. The Court also decided to establish an idea of “volenti non fit injuria”. The literal translation is, “to a willing person, no injury is done”, in other words, "one cannot benefit from one's own wrongdoing". The opinion of the court takes a natural law approach to the case. The opinion of the court determined that certain rights or values are inherent in or universally recognizable by virtue of human nature.
The dissenting opinion argues that the court is bound by the rigid rules of law, and is not within the proper jurisdiction to modify on the basis of integrity. The dissent opinion takes a textualism approach to interpreting the case and consults the actual language of the constitution. The legislature has now imposed exclusive statutory rules for the completing of wills. These exclusive statutory rules were implemented to ensure the validity and performance of the will. The dissenting opinion finds reasoning for Palmer to receive his property, solely based on the letter of the law. Firstly, they claim that by permitting Palmer to be the respondent of the property, he was placed in a...
References: Schauer, F. Thinking like a lawyer: A new introduction to legal reasoning. (P. 89)
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