Paradigms of Justifying Legal Decisions: A Guide

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Paradigms of justifying legal conclusions have their roots in two major areas of law: contract and tort law. A contract decision is one that is reached between a disinterested third party or the parties themselves, in order to settle a dispute over an owed obligation, contract for mutual benefits, or other agreement. The object level knowledge required to understand the relationship at stake, as well as the relevant laws, is not inherent in all situations, and is part of the reasons why attorneys recommend that cases involving contract disputes be settled outside of court.

In contract law, the concept of rational reason is most closely associated with the idea of contractual reasoning, which is the process by which parties reach an agreement regarding the transfer of a liability, asset, right, or status. In order to employ the concept of contractual reasoning, a disinterested third party must be found, and the various elements of the contract must be analyzed in order to determine if the transfer of the obligation is reasonable under the circumstances. In order for that analysis to be successful, different types of paradigms must be applied, and those methods that result in reasonable results are preferred. These methods include intuition-based reasoning, rational-basis, and object-level reasoning.

Another way of viewing this issue is from a different perspective, and that is as a matter of purpose reasoning. Purposive reasoning, also called descriptive legal reasoning, involves the application of a standard to selected cases in order to decide which legal norms are most appropriate to a given situation. Different legal dogmatics fall into different categories, including the naturalistic approach, rational analysis, or ex post facto justifications. The naturalistic approach examines legal situations from a strictly objective standpoint, rather than a subjective one. The rational analysis relies on the application of standard rationales, and the ex post facto justifications deal with the justification of particular actions that have taken place under certain conditions.

The objective-based legal dogmatics include elements of both descriptive and rational paradigms. Descriptive legal logic looks to events in the external environment for explanations. Objective legal dogmatics may use texts, case studies, and other empirical evidence to interpret legal decisions. On the other hand, rational approaches to interpreting legal decisions make use of inductive logic and appeal to a principle. Another form of this legal dogmatic system is incremental logic, which makes use of inductive arguments to build up supporting premises from various independent sources.

An expert system is a logical system that uses knowledge about statutory interpretation and other relevant law changes to help make sense of complex legal issues. An expert system makes use of texts, maps, illustrations, graphs, video clips, and so forth to present its arguments. A typical expert system will consist of:

In addition to these tools, lawyers also use additional interpretive devices such as diagrams, pictures, animations, and so forth. All of these can assist lawyers in justifying their interpretations of statutory law, common law, and case law. Although the above list is very short, it demonstrates the variety of interpretive devices that lawyers use. To illustrate, there are many different ways that an expert system would present the definition of an act in order to support its legal rationale. Again, it should be noted that even these “lawyer-speak” devices are themselves an interpretive tool.

The final category is legal dogmatics/expert systems. This category includes tools that are typically not considered to be a tool of legal reasoning (e.g., aural analysis, judgmental reasoning, etc.). Although these devices are typically not utilized by lawyers in the same way that they would be utilized by scientists in a research study, their use by lawyers provides them with a powerful tool for building justifications for legal theories, assumptions, and arguments. A legal dogmatic system could thus serve as an important tool for legal research and in developing new Justification for legal theories, principles, and argumentations.

It should be clear that legal reasoning, statutory interpretation, and case law interpretation each require the development of unique methodologies and procedures that must then be employed in the application of the theories, assumptions, and inferences from the relevant statutory provisions. As noted above, an experienced legal practitioner will possess a unique body of knowledge that will enable her/him to apply the Justification theory to the relevant statutory provisions in a manner consistent with the applicable legal texts. However, legal document interpretation is not a simple endeavor. Often, the statutory texts require modification or redefinition of some of the terms that are typically utilized in the drafting of legal documents. For example, although the drafting of most U.S. statutory provisions usually utilizes the language of the English language, such language may vary depending on the statutory provision at issue, which can render the application of the Justification theory somewhat problematic.

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