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Legal fictions and legal change

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 December 2013

Maksymilian Del Mar*
Affiliation:
Queen Mary, University of London

Abstract

This paper offers a definition of legal fictions and an evaluation of the role of legal fictions in legal practice, especially insofar as they enable legal change. The first part of the paper defines legal fictions as any suspension of one or more of the required operative facts leading to the imposition of an associated normative consequence, whether this suspension is introduced because of (1) the absence of proof of some previously required fact; or (2) the presence of proof to the contrary. The second part argues that legal fictions have an unjustifiably bad reputation as enablers of legal change. This paper makes a plea for seeing legal fictions as forms of tentative cognition that enable courts to communicate with each other, exploring whether a certain change in the law (i.e. precisely a suspension of a required operative fact in the imposition of a certain normative consequence) ought to be introduced at a more explicit level. Under the guise of this relational reading of legal reasoning, legal fictions become an instrument of careful experimentation – a way of testing the extent to which the potential introduction of a rule will be beneficial. Seen in this light, legal fictions are by no means signs of the immaturity of the system; they are, instead, dynamic resources that allow courts, over time, to balance flexibility and responsiveness with stability and predictability.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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References

References

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Birks, Peter (1986) ‘Fictions Ancient and Modern’, In MacCormick, N. and Birks, P. (eds.) The Legal Mind: Essays for Tony Honoré. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 83101.Google Scholar
Del Mar, Maksymilian (2011) ‘What Does History Matter to Legal Epistemology?’, Journal of the Philosophy of History 5: 383405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Del Mar, Maksymilian (2013) ‘Exemplarity and Narrativity in the Common Law Tradition’, Law & Literature 25(3): 390427.Google Scholar
Diamond, Alan. (1991) ‘Fictions, Equity and Legislation: Maine's Three Agencies of Legal Change’, in Diamond, A. (ed.), The Victorian Achievement of Sir Henry Maine: A Centennial Reappraisal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 242–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Duxbury, Neil (2008) The Nature and Authority of Precedent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Epstein, Richard (1980) ‘The Static Conception of the Common Law’, Journal of Legal Studies 9(2): 253–75.Google Scholar
Fine, Arthur (1993) ‘Fictionalism’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 18: 118.Google Scholar
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Fuller, Lon (1930–31) ‘Legal Fictions’, Illinois Law Review 25: 363–99, 513–46, 877–910.Google Scholar
Glenn, Patrick (2007) Legal Traditions of the World, 3rd edn.Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Gordon, Randy (2013) ‘Fictitious Fraud: Economics and the Presumption of Reliance’, International Journal of Law in Context 9(4): 506519.Google Scholar
Hamilton, K. Scott (1988–89) ‘Prolegomenon to Myth and Fiction in Legal Reasoning, Common Law Adjudication and Critical Legal Studies’, Wayne Law Review 35: 1449–80.Google Scholar
Harmon, Louise (1990–91) ‘Falling Off the Vine: Legal Fictions and the Doctrine of Substituted Judgment’, Yale Law Journal 100: 171.Google Scholar
Hayes, Christine (2004) ‘Authority and Anxiety in the Talmuds: From Legal Fiction to Legal Fact’, in Wertheimer, J. (ed.), Jewish Religious Leadership: Image and Reality. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1127–54.Google Scholar
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Hope Lord of Craighead (2003) ‘James McGhee: A Second Mrs Donoghue?’, Cambridge Law Journal 62(3): 587604.Google Scholar
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van de Kerchove, Michel and Ost, Francois (1992) Le droit ou les paradoxes du jeu. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
Knauer, Nancy (2010) ‘Legal Fictions and Juristic Truth’, St Thomas Law Review 23: 151.Google Scholar
Krisch, Nico (2011) Beyond Constitutionalism: The Pluralist Structure of Postnational Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Laleng, Per (2011) ‘Sienkiewicz v Grief (UK) Ltd and Willmore v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council: A Material Contribution to Uncertainty?’, Modern Law Review 74(5): 767–93.Google Scholar
Last stone, Suzanne (2007) ‘On the Interplay of Rules, “Cases”, and Concepts in Rabbinic Legal Literature: Another Look at the Aggadot on Honi the Circle-Drawer’, Dine Israel 24: 125–55.Google Scholar
Maclean, Ian (1999) ‘Legal Fictions and Fictional Entities in Renaissance Jurisprudence’, Legal History 20(3): 124.Google Scholar
Maine, Sir Henry (1931 [1861]) Ancient Law. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Milsom, S. F. C. (2003) A Natural History of the Common Law. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Mitchell, Oliver (1893) ‘The Fictions of the Law: Have They Proved Useful or Detrimental to its Growth?’, Harvard Law Review 7(5): 249–65.Google Scholar
Moscovitz, Leib (2003) ‘Legal Fictions in Rabbinic Law and Roman Law: Some Comparative Observations’, in Hezser, C. (ed.), Rabbinic Law in its Roman and Near Eastern Context. Tubingen: Mohr, 105–32.Google Scholar
Olivier, Pierre (1975) Legal Fictions in Practice and Legal Science. Rotterdam: Rotterdam University Press.Google Scholar
Petroski, Karen (2013) ‘Legal Fictions and the Limits of Legal Language’, International Journal of Law in Context 9(4): 485505.Google Scholar
Postema, Gerald (2003) ‘Classical Common Law Jurisprudence (Part II)’, Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal 3(1): 128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pound, Roscoe (1959) Jurisprudence. St Paul, MN: West Publishing Co.Google Scholar
Pound, Roscoe (1999 [1963]) The Spirit of the Common Law. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
Quinn, Michael (2013) ‘Fuller on Legal Fictions: A Benthamic Perspective’, International Journal of Law in Context 9(4): 466484.Google Scholar
Rescher, Nicholas (2006) Presumption and the Practices of Tentative Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Riccobono, S. (1929) ‘Formulae Ficticiae: A Norms Means of Creating New Law’, Tijdschrift voor Techtsgeschiedenis 9: 161.Google Scholar
Riles, Annelise (2010) ‘Is the Law Hopeful?’, Cornell Law Faculty Working Papers, 68. Available at: <http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/clsops_papers/68> (last accessed 25 October 2012).+(last+accessed+25+October+2012).>Google Scholar
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Samek, R. A. (1981) ‘Fictions and the Law’, University of Toronto Law Journal 31: 290317.Google Scholar
Schiavone, Aldo (2012) The Invention of Law in the West, trans. Carden, J. and Shugaar, A.. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
Schulz, Fritz (1946) History of Roman Legal Science. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Simon-Shoshan, M. (2012) Stories of the Law: Narrative Discourse and the Construction of Authority in the Mishnah. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Smith, Jeremiah (1917) ‘Surviving Fictions I and II’, Yale Law Journal 27: 147–66, 317–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Peter (2007) ‘New Legal Fictions’, Georgetown Law Journal 95: 1435–95.Google Scholar
Stewart, Iain (1980) ‘The Basic Norm as Fiction’, Juridical Review 25: 199224.Google Scholar
Stolzenberg, Nomi Maya (1999) ‘Bentham's Theory of Fictions – A “Curious Double Language”’, Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 11: 223–49.Google Scholar
Sunstein, Cass (2001) One Case at a Time: Judicial Minimalism on the Supreme Court. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Thomas, Yan (2005) ‘Les artifice de la vérité en droit commun médiéval’, L'Homme 175/176: 113–30.Google Scholar
Tourtoulon, Pierre de (1922) Philosophy in the Development of Law, trans. McRead, M.. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
Vaihinger, Hans (2009 [1925]) The Philosophy of ‘As If’: A System of the Theoretical, Practical and Religious Fictions of Mankind, trans. Ogden, C. K.. Mansfield: Martino Publishing [first published in German in 1911].Google Scholar
Vermeer-Kunzli, Annemarieke (2007) ‘As If: The Legal Fiction in Diplomatic Protection’, European Journal of International Law 18(1): 3768.Google Scholar
Watson, Alan (1995) The Spirit of Roman Law. Athens/London: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
Wilder, Colin (2012) ‘Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks: Four Motifs of Legal Change from Early Modern Europe’, History and Theory 51: 1841.Google Scholar
Yntema, Hessel (1950) ‘Roman Law and its Influence on Western Civilisation’, Cornell Law Quarterly 35: 7788.Google Scholar
Yntema, Hessel (1966–67) ‘Equity in the Civil Law and the Common Law’, American Journal of Comparative Law 15: 6086.Google Scholar
Amaya, Amalia (2011) ‘Virtue and Reason in Law’, In Del Mar, M. (ed.), New Waves in Philosophy of Law. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 123–43.Google Scholar
Ando, Clifford (2011) Law, Language, and Empire in the Roman Tradition. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baker, John (2001) The Law's Two Bodies: Some Evidential Problems in English Legal History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Birks, Peter (1986) ‘Fictions Ancient and Modern’, In MacCormick, N. and Birks, P. (eds.) The Legal Mind: Essays for Tony Honoré. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 83101.Google Scholar
Del Mar, Maksymilian (2011) ‘What Does History Matter to Legal Epistemology?’, Journal of the Philosophy of History 5: 383405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Del Mar, Maksymilian (2013) ‘Exemplarity and Narrativity in the Common Law Tradition’, Law & Literature 25(3): 390427.Google Scholar
Diamond, Alan. (1991) ‘Fictions, Equity and Legislation: Maine's Three Agencies of Legal Change’, in Diamond, A. (ed.), The Victorian Achievement of Sir Henry Maine: A Centennial Reappraisal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 242–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Duxbury, Neil (2008) The Nature and Authority of Precedent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Epstein, Richard (1980) ‘The Static Conception of the Common Law’, Journal of Legal Studies 9(2): 253–75.Google Scholar
Fine, Arthur (1993) ‘Fictionalism’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 18: 118.Google Scholar
Frank, Jerome (2009 [1930]), Law and the Modern Mind. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
Fuller, Lon (1930–31) ‘Legal Fictions’, Illinois Law Review 25: 363–99, 513–46, 877–910.Google Scholar
Glenn, Patrick (2007) Legal Traditions of the World, 3rd edn.Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Gordon, Randy (2013) ‘Fictitious Fraud: Economics and the Presumption of Reliance’, International Journal of Law in Context 9(4): 506519.Google Scholar
Hamilton, K. Scott (1988–89) ‘Prolegomenon to Myth and Fiction in Legal Reasoning, Common Law Adjudication and Critical Legal Studies’, Wayne Law Review 35: 1449–80.Google Scholar
Harmon, Louise (1990–91) ‘Falling Off the Vine: Legal Fictions and the Doctrine of Substituted Judgment’, Yale Law Journal 100: 171.Google Scholar
Hayes, Christine (2004) ‘Authority and Anxiety in the Talmuds: From Legal Fiction to Legal Fact’, in Wertheimer, J. (ed.), Jewish Religious Leadership: Image and Reality. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1127–54.Google Scholar
Holdsworth, William (1937) A History of English Law. London: Metheun & Co Ltd.Google Scholar
Holmes, Oliver W. Jr. (2009 [1880]) The Common Law. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press.Google Scholar
Hope Lord of Craighead (2003) ‘James McGhee: A Second Mrs Donoghue?’, Cambridge Law Journal 62(3): 587604.Google Scholar
Horii, Satoe (2002) ‘Reconsideration of Legal Devices (Hiyal) in Islamic Jurisprudence: The Hanafis and their “Exits” (Makharij)’, Islamic Law and Society 9(3): 312–57.Google Scholar
Hutchinson, Allan (2005) Evolution and the Common Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Ibbetson, David (1999) A Historical Introduction to the Law of Obligations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Jhering, Rudolf von (1923) Geist des römischen Rechts auf den verschiedenen Stufen seiner Entwicklung, 7th edn.Leipzig: Breitkopf & Hartel.Google Scholar
Jones, John W. (1940) A Historical Introduction to the Theory of Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Kelsen, Hans (1960) Reine Rechstlehre. Vienna: Franz Deuticke.Google Scholar
Kelsen, Hans (1992) Introduction to the Problems of Legal Theory, trans. Paulson, B. L. and Paulson, S. L.. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
van de Kerchove, Michel and Ost, Francois (1992) Le droit ou les paradoxes du jeu. Paris: PUF.Google Scholar
Knauer, Nancy (2010) ‘Legal Fictions and Juristic Truth’, St Thomas Law Review 23: 151.Google Scholar
Krisch, Nico (2011) Beyond Constitutionalism: The Pluralist Structure of Postnational Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Laleng, Per (2011) ‘Sienkiewicz v Grief (UK) Ltd and Willmore v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council: A Material Contribution to Uncertainty?’, Modern Law Review 74(5): 767–93.Google Scholar
Last stone, Suzanne (2007) ‘On the Interplay of Rules, “Cases”, and Concepts in Rabbinic Legal Literature: Another Look at the Aggadot on Honi the Circle-Drawer’, Dine Israel 24: 125–55.Google Scholar
Maclean, Ian (1999) ‘Legal Fictions and Fictional Entities in Renaissance Jurisprudence’, Legal History 20(3): 124.Google Scholar
Maine, Sir Henry (1931 [1861]) Ancient Law. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Milsom, S. F. C. (2003) A Natural History of the Common Law. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Mitchell, Oliver (1893) ‘The Fictions of the Law: Have They Proved Useful or Detrimental to its Growth?’, Harvard Law Review 7(5): 249–65.Google Scholar
Moscovitz, Leib (2003) ‘Legal Fictions in Rabbinic Law and Roman Law: Some Comparative Observations’, in Hezser, C. (ed.), Rabbinic Law in its Roman and Near Eastern Context. Tubingen: Mohr, 105–32.Google Scholar
Olivier, Pierre (1975) Legal Fictions in Practice and Legal Science. Rotterdam: Rotterdam University Press.Google Scholar
Petroski, Karen (2013) ‘Legal Fictions and the Limits of Legal Language’, International Journal of Law in Context 9(4): 485505.Google Scholar
Postema, Gerald (2003) ‘Classical Common Law Jurisprudence (Part II)’, Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal 3(1): 128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pound, Roscoe (1959) Jurisprudence. St Paul, MN: West Publishing Co.Google Scholar
Pound, Roscoe (1999 [1963]) The Spirit of the Common Law. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
Quinn, Michael (2013) ‘Fuller on Legal Fictions: A Benthamic Perspective’, International Journal of Law in Context 9(4): 466484.Google Scholar
Rescher, Nicholas (2006) Presumption and the Practices of Tentative Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Riccobono, S. (1929) ‘Formulae Ficticiae: A Norms Means of Creating New Law’, Tijdschrift voor Techtsgeschiedenis 9: 161.Google Scholar
Riles, Annelise (2010) ‘Is the Law Hopeful?’, Cornell Law Faculty Working Papers, 68. Available at: <http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/clsops_papers/68> (last accessed 25 October 2012).+(last+accessed+25+October+2012).>Google Scholar
Ross, Alf (1969) ‘Legal Fictions’, in Hughes, G. (ed.), Law, Reason and Justice: Essays in Legal Philosophy. New York: New York University Press, 217–31.Google Scholar
Samek, R. A. (1981) ‘Fictions and the Law’, University of Toronto Law Journal 31: 290317.Google Scholar
Schiavone, Aldo (2012) The Invention of Law in the West, trans. Carden, J. and Shugaar, A.. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
Schulz, Fritz (1946) History of Roman Legal Science. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Simon-Shoshan, M. (2012) Stories of the Law: Narrative Discourse and the Construction of Authority in the Mishnah. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Smith, Jeremiah (1917) ‘Surviving Fictions I and II’, Yale Law Journal 27: 147–66, 317–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Peter (2007) ‘New Legal Fictions’, Georgetown Law Journal 95: 1435–95.Google Scholar
Stewart, Iain (1980) ‘The Basic Norm as Fiction’, Juridical Review 25: 199224.Google Scholar
Stolzenberg, Nomi Maya (1999) ‘Bentham's Theory of Fictions – A “Curious Double Language”’, Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature 11: 223–49.Google Scholar
Sunstein, Cass (2001) One Case at a Time: Judicial Minimalism on the Supreme Court. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Thomas, Yan (2005) ‘Les artifice de la vérité en droit commun médiéval’, L'Homme 175/176: 113–30.Google Scholar
Tourtoulon, Pierre de (1922) Philosophy in the Development of Law, trans. McRead, M.. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
Vaihinger, Hans (2009 [1925]) The Philosophy of ‘As If’: A System of the Theoretical, Practical and Religious Fictions of Mankind, trans. Ogden, C. K.. Mansfield: Martino Publishing [first published in German in 1911].Google Scholar
Vermeer-Kunzli, Annemarieke (2007) ‘As If: The Legal Fiction in Diplomatic Protection’, European Journal of International Law 18(1): 3768.Google Scholar
Watson, Alan (1995) The Spirit of Roman Law. Athens/London: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
Wilder, Colin (2012) ‘Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks: Four Motifs of Legal Change from Early Modern Europe’, History and Theory 51: 1841.Google Scholar
Yntema, Hessel (1950) ‘Roman Law and its Influence on Western Civilisation’, Cornell Law Quarterly 35: 7788.Google Scholar
Yntema, Hessel (1966–67) ‘Equity in the Civil Law and the Common Law’, American Journal of Comparative Law 15: 6086.Google Scholar