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Hard Cases

Ronald Dworkin
Harvard Law Review
Vol. 88, No. 6 (Apr., 1975), pp. 1057-1109
DOI: 10.2307/1340249
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1340249
Page Count: 53
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Hard Cases
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Abstract

Philosophers and legal scholars have long debated the means by which decisions of an independent judiciary can be reconciled with democratic ideals. The problem of justifying judicial decisions is particularly acute in "hard cases," those cases in which the result is not clearly dictated by statute or precedent. The positivist theory of adjudication - that judges use their discretion to decide hard cases - fails to resolve this dilemma of judicial decisionmaking. Professor Dworkin has been an effective critic of the positivist position and in this essay he provides an alternative theory of adjudication that is more consistent with democratic ideals. He first posits a distinction between arguments of principle and arguments of policy and suggests that decisions in hard cases should be and are based on arguments of principle. He then illustrates how this distinction is used in cases involving constitutional provisions, statutes, and common law precedents.

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