Is the Rule of Law a Law of Rules? Judgments of Rule of Law Violations

23 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2009

See all articles by N. J. Schweitzer

N. J. Schweitzer

Arizona State University

Michael J. Saks

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

David Lovis-McMahon

Arizona State University (ASU)

Date Written: July 25, 2009

Abstract

In this paper, we present findings from two experiments that measure individuals’ reactions to rule of law violations by an authority figure, with the goal of assessing which interpretation of the rule of law is naturally invoked. We created a variety of hypothetical scenarios that allowed us to gauge the independent effects of rule adherence, outcome fairness, and the violator’s intentions on the participants’ judgments of the violation. We found that adherence to legitimate rules was considered desirable when those rules worked to produce a fair outcome. But when following legitimate rules would lead to an unfair outcome, our participants paid little attention to the rules and, in some cases, punished an individual for obeying the rules when those rules led to an unjust result. In our second experiment, we focused on studying this conflict within different contexts, finding again that our participants thought it appropriate for a judge to disregard the rules of evidence to ensure a fair verdict, and for a teacher to break a school’s strict blind grading policy to ensure that students received fair grades. However, a third context revealed the formal rule of law at work: Our participants’ responses indicated a clear preference for strict rule adherence by an umpire in a baseball game, even if it meant that one of the teams would unfairly suffer.

Keywords: rule of law, moral reasoning, procedural justice

Suggested Citation

Schweitzer, Nicholas J. and Saks, Michael J. and Lovis-McMahon, David, Is the Rule of Law a Law of Rules? Judgments of Rule of Law Violations (July 25, 2009). CELS 2009 4th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1439055 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1439055

Nicholas J. Schweitzer (Contact Author)

Arizona State University ( email )

PO BOX 37100
Phoenix, AZ 85069-7100
United States

HOME PAGE: http://lsprg.asu.edu

Michael J. Saks

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

David Lovis-McMahon

Arizona State University (ASU) ( email )

Farmer Building 440G PO Box 872011
Tempe, AZ 85287
United States

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