The Twilight of Legality

26 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2018

See all articles by John Gardner

John Gardner

University of Oxford (deceased)

Date Written: September 23, 2017


This paper argues that juridification has become the enemy of legality. By 'juridification' is meant the proliferation of legal norms and legally recognized norms. By legality is meant conformity with the ideal of the rule of law. The paper begins with the most obvious ways in which juridification threatens legality. Too much law makes the law on any subject hard to discover, hard to remember, and hard to follow. It also makes us too dependent on the discretion of petty officials, who are therefore not sufficiently constrained by law. But the paper looks beyond the discretion of petty officials and argues that, in a way, the biggest threat to legality of our age comes from the proliferation of contractual norms, and the increasing diversion of contractual dispute-resolution into arbitration (and other ADR processes). The paper argues that those who rely on the law to recognise contracts should be subjected to an non-excludable jurisdiction of the courts in respect of all questions of law arising under those contracts, including their proper legal meaning. A compulsory arbitration clause, in other words, should be valid only subject to extensive judicial review of the arbitrator’s decisions. It is argued that contractual arbitration (and other ADR) that does not meet this condition is free-riding on the work of courts and professional lawyers, and should be regarded as antisocial – and that this is true even when it does more perfect justice between the parties.

Keywords: Juridification, legality, rule of law, arbitration, contracts, justice

Suggested Citation

Gardner, John, The Twilight of Legality (September 23, 2017). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 4/2018, Available at SSRN: or

John Gardner (Contact Author)

University of Oxford (deceased)

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