Pound Mech.J. (1908) MM

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Transcript of Pound Mech.J. (1908) MM

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    MECHANICAL JURISDPRUDENCE

    BY

    ROSCOE POUND___

    FOREWORD

    BY

    DOUGLAS A. HEDINEditor, MLHP

    In the early 1900s, Roscoe Pound published numerous critiquesof contemporary legal thinking and judicial behavior that wouldbecome famous and influential. Among them were The Need ofa Sociological Jurisprudence, which appeared in 1907,Mechanical Jurisprudence in 1908, and Liberty of Contractin 1909.

    In Mechanical Jurisprudence, he arguedthat American common law or judge-madelaw had become sterile, unable to adapt tochanging social and economic conditions;it had become a closed system of manyarchaic rules that judges and lawyersdeducted from general conceptions andapplied mechanically to the actual situa-tions before them.

    He urged judges to understand the effects

    of their decisions, how their rules onbusiness, labor relations, trial procedure, evidence and othermatters operated in practice; that they reexamine whether theoriginal reasons for a rule still exist, and reformulate them whennecessary to respond to the vital needs of present-day lifethat is, they must make rules fit cases instead of making casesfit rules. If it did not adapt, case law would be disregarded

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    and supplanted by legislation. A new approach a pragmaticjurisprudence was needed:

    The development of the common law in America was

    a period of growth because the doctrine that thecommon law was received only so far as applicableled the courts, in adapting English case-law toAmerican conditions, to study the conditions ofapplication as well as the conceptions and theirlogical consequences. Whenever such a period hascome to an end, when its work has been done and itslegal theories have come to maturity, the jurispru-dence of conceptions tends to decay. Conceptionsare fixed. The premises are no longer to be examined.

    Everything is reduced to simple deduction from them.Principles cease to have importance. The law be-comes a body of rules. This is the condition againstwhich sociologists now protest, and protest rightly.. . . .

    The sociological movement in jurisprudence is amovement for pragmatism as a philosophy of law; forthe adjustment of principles and doctrines to thehuman conditions they are to govern rather than to

    assumed first principles; for putting the human factorin the central place and relegating logic to its trueposition as an instrument.

    Mechanical Jurisprudence appeared in volume 8 ColumbiaLaw Review605-623 (December, 1908). Pound was Dean of theUniversity of Nebraska School of Law at the time. Thoughappearing in an academic journal, it is a work of advocacysupported not only by numerous citations and quotations fromforeign scholars and treatises, several in Latin, but also byexamples of the inadequacies and failures of many case lawrules.

    One citation is to Nassau William Seniors Conversations withDistinguished Persons (1880), which included his talks in thesummer of 1861 with Lord Chief Justice William Erle (1773-1880).It can be read in a few minutes and is posted in the Appendix.

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    MECHANICAL JURISPRUDENCE. 1

    "There is no way," says Sir Frederick Pollock, "by which modernlaw can escape from the scientific and artificial characterimposed on it by the demand of modern societies for full, equal,and exact justice." 2 An Australian judge has stated the sameproposition in these words: "The public is more interested thanit knows in maintaining the highest scientific standard in theadministration of justice." 3 Every lawyer feels this, and everythoughtful student of institutions must admit it. But what do wemean by the word "scientific" in this connection? What isscientific law? What constitutes science in the administration of

    justice? Sir Frederick Pollock gives us the clew when he defines

    the reasons that compel law to take on this scientific characteras three: the demand for full justice, that is for solutions that goto the root of controversies; the demand for equal justice, that isa like adjustment of like relations under like conditions; and thedemand for exact justice, that is for a justice whose operations,within reasonable limits, may be predicted in advance of action.In other words, the marks of a scientific law are, conformity toreason, uniformity, and certainty. Scientific law is a reasonedbody of principles for the administration of justice, and itsantithesis is a system of enforcing magisterial caprice, howeverhonest, and however much disguised under the name of justiceor equity or natural law. But this scientific character of law is ameans, a means toward the end of law, which is the admin-istration of justice. Law is forced to take on this character inorder to accomplish its end fully, equally, and exactly; and in sofar as it fails to perform its function fully, equally and exactly, itfails in the end for which it exists. Law is scientific in order toeliminate so far as may be the personal equation in judicialadministration, to preclude corruption and to limit the danger-

    ous possibilities of magisterial ignorance. Law is not scientificfor the sake of science. Being scientific as a means toward an

    1The substance of this paper was presented before the Bar Association of North Dakota,

    at its annual meeting, at Valley City, N. D., Sept. 25, 1908.2A First Book of Jurisprudence, 56.3Richmond, J., quoted in Clark, Australian Constitutional Law, 348.

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    end, it must be judged by the results it achieves, not by theniceties of its internal structure; it must be valued by the extentto which it meets its end, not by the beauty of its logicalprocesses or the strictness with which its rules proceed from

    the dogmas it takes for its foundation.Two dangers have to be guarded against in a scientific legalsystem, one of them in the direction of the effect of its scientificand artificial character upon the public, the other in the directionof its effect upon the courts and the legal profession. Withrespect to the first danger, it is well to remember that law mustnot become too scientific for the people to appreciate itsworkings.4Law has the practical function of adjusting every-dayrelations so as to meet current ideas of fair play. It must not

    become so completely artificial that the public is led to regard itas wholly arbitrary. No institution can stand upon such a basisto-day. Reverence for institutions of the past will not preserve,of itself, an institution that touches every-day life as profoundlyas does the law. Legal theory can no more stand as a sacredtradition in the modern world than can political theory. It hasbeen one of the great merits of English law that its votaries havealways borne this in mind. When Lord Esher said, "the law ofEngland is not a science," he meant to protest against a pseudo-

    science of technical rules existing for their own sake andsubserving supposed ends of science, while defeating justice.5And it is the importance of the role of jurors in tempering theadministration of justice with common-sense and preserving adue connection of the rules governing every-day relations withevery-day needs of ordinary men that has atoned for themanifold and conspicuous defects of trial by jury and is keepingit alive. In Germany to-day one of the problems of law reform ishow to achieve a similar tempering of the justice administeredby highly trained specialists.6

    4Cf. Lord Herschell's remark to Sir George Jessel: "Important as it was that people should

    get justice, it was even more important that they should be made to feel and see that theywere getting it." Atlay, Victorian Chancellors, II., 460.5See Manson, The Builders of our Law, 398.

    6Sternberg, Kirchmann und seine Kritik der Rechtswissenschaft, xi.

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    In the other direction, the effect of a scientific legal system uponthe courts and upon the legal profession is more subtle and far-reaching. The effect of all system is apt to be petrifaction of thesubject systematized. Perfection of scientific system and

    exposition tends to cut off individual initiative in the future, tostifle independent consideration of new problems and of newphases of old problems, and to impose the ideas of one gen-eration upon another. This is so in all departments of learning.One of the obstacles to advance in every science is thedomination of the ghosts of departed masters. Their soundmethods are forgotten, while their unsound conclusions are heldfor gospel.7 Legal science is not exempt from this tendency.Legal systems have their periods in which science degenerates,in which system decays into technicality, in which a scientific

    jurisprudence becomes a mechanical jurisprudence.

    Roman law in its decadence furnishes a striking example. TheValentinian "law of citations" made a selection of jurisconsultsof the past and allowed their writings only to be cited. It declaredthem, with the exception of Papinian, equal in authority. Itconfined the judge, when questions of law were in issue, to thepurely mechanical task of counting and of determining thenumerical preponderance of authority.8 Principles were no

    longer resorted to in order to make rules to fit cases. The ruleswere at hand in a fixed and final form, and cases were to befitted to the rules.9The classical jurisprudence of principles haddeveloped, by the very weight of its authority, a jurisprudence ofrules; and it is in the nature of rules to operate mechanically.

    Undoubtedly one cause of the tendency of scientific law tobecome mechanical is to be found in the average man'sadmiration for the ingenious in any