The Missing Normative Dimension in Brian Leiter's 'Reconstructed' Legal Realism

Edmund Ursin

University of San Diego School of Law

March 22, 2012

San Diego Law Review, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2012
San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 12-098

This article compares the view of Legal Realism presented by Brian Leiter with the 1920s and 1930s torts scholarship of Leon Green and Karl Llewellyn, two giants in American law. This scholarship confirms Leiter’s claim that the Legal Realists made the descriptive claim that the decisions of appellate courts fall into discernable patterns correlated with the underlying factual pattern, or “situation type,” as opposed to formal legal rules. On the other hand, this scholarship contradicts Leiter’s contention that the Legal Realists were normative “quietists” whose lack of a normative agenda stands in contrast with the ambitious normative agenda of contemporary jurisprudents like Ronald Dworkin. Green and Llewellyn believed that courts have a legislative, as well as an adjudicatory role – and that policy plays a role in their lawmaking. Indeed, they put forth an ambitious normative framework, identified today as the theory of enterprise liability, that the California Supreme Court, beginning in the 1960s, would write into law as it adopted expansive liability rules, including the doctrine of strict liability, and eliminated or limited defenses and no-duty rules that protected even negligent defendants from liability. Thus contrary to what one would expect from reading Leiter, in their tort scholarship Green and Llewellyn resemble Dworkin precisely because they wanted to reform the practice of judges in line with their normative theories.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: legal philosophy, jurisprudence, torts, legal realism, enterprise liability, legal history

JEL Classification: K33

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: October 27, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Ursin, Edmund, The Missing Normative Dimension in Brian Leiter's 'Reconstructed' Legal Realism (March 22, 2012). San Diego Law Review, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2012; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 12-098. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2167363

Contact Information

Edmund Ursin (Contact Author)
University of San Diego School of Law ( email )
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 480
Downloads: 79
Download Rank: 231,118

© 2016 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollobot1 in 0.187 seconds