Philosophy of Law is a broad area of inquiry that seeks answers to questions such as, what is law, what are the appropriate justifications for the law, what is the relationship between law and morality and many other similar questions. Natural law theory posits that there are laws that are inherent in nature and that emanate from God. Adherents to natural law theory believe that laws enacted by people should correspond as closely as possible to these principles. In other words, this theory proposes that natural law should overlap with enacted laws.
An opposing philosophy is that of legal realism. An early proponent of legal realism was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who famously said “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” This maxim brings to my mind something that happened to me in my early years of law practice. I had a hearing in court before presiding Circuit Judge Jack Wallace. I had spent a good bit of time researching the issues to be argued that day and I was surprised and disappointed when Judge Wallace ruled against me. So I did what I usually did on such occasions, I went to talk to my Daddy who by then had decades of experience practicing law. I told Daddy that I thought Judge Wallace was wrong. Daddy smiled and simply said “let me tell you something boy, Judge Wallace may not always be right but he is always the Judge. “ Thus chastened, I researched the issues again and discovered that Judge Wallace probable was right in that close question of law.
Whatever particular philosophy or theory of law one subscribes to, it is unquestionable that, in order to have a civilized society, there must be laws. And the application and interpretation of those laws must be reasonably consistent. And access to the judicial system must not be denied persons because of their status. Of course, it is observable that in the real world sometimes the interpretation of a law can depend upon the place and time of its interpretation. That is just common sense. That is why we have developed the doctrine of stare decisis. Stare decisis means that judges should always seeks to find precedents for their rulings. This is not an absolute doctrine but it is helpful in assuring predictability and understanding of the law.
In the America system of justice, laws come to us from several sources. Legislatures enact statutes that constitute the law. Courts publish written opinions that can form the basis for the law. And agencies of government, under the rule making power granted to them by the legislature can promulgate regulations which have the force of law.
In the forty years that I have practiced law, I have observed that courts and judges sometimes have a predisposition to view a legal question in a certain way. We have all observed that legislatures sometimes have a predisposition to enact statues that advance certain policies. These predisposition are based larger on political considerations. However, I can say with assurance that a reasonable and well functioning judicial system is absolutely necessary for the health of a civilized society. In order to function properly, the judicial system must provide all persons equal access to the courts and a reasonably opportunity to have their grievances addressed.
As long as oil companies take short cuts in constructing their deep water wells which might lead to the destruction of our environment, as long as car manufacturers knowingly sell cars with a hidden defect that could kill or hurt people, as long as air bag designers and manufacturers provide air bags as components to car manufacturers that could explode and kill or seriously injury people, as long as trucking companies play fast and loose with the regulations that the Department of Transportation has made to ensure the safety of the driving public, people, ordinary people, are going to need access to the court system to recover damages for their injuries.
We at Jinks, Crow and Dickson have decades of experience in charting the waters of the legal system. We will continue to strive to give our clients the most effective representation possible so that they can have access to a legal system that will ultimately work for them.