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  1. Phillips Hall, Are Judges Morally Obligated to Apply the Law?
    As a conscientious moral agent, a judge in a court of law often finds herself in a difficult position. She is confident that the law requires a certain result in the case before her, but she is at least as confident that this legally required result is unjust or otherwise morally objectionable. Consider some examples of cases in which a reasonable judge might consider herself to be in this position: ▪ The law of landlord and tenant can require a judge (...)
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  2. Phillips Hall, Book Proposal.
    When judges decide cases in courts of law, are they ethically obligated to apply the law correctly? Many people who think about legal systems believe so. The conviction that judges are “bound” by the law is common among lawyers, judges, legal scholars, and members of the general public. One of the most severe accusations one can make against a public official is that she has deviated from the law in her official capacity. The principle of judicial fidelity figures centrally in (...)
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  3. Phillips Hall, Legal Formalism, Stage-Neutrality, and Comparative Justice.
    Several writers have argued recently that optimal rules of law authorize morally suboptimal decisions in certain cases.1 Larry Alexander calls these “gap cases.”2 Should judges in gap cases defer to legal rules or deviate from them? Philosophers known as “formalists” favor deference, “particularists” favor deviation.
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  4. Phillips Hall, Rules That Bend Without Breaking.
    In the State of Bernstein, operating a motor vehicle on a suspended license is a misdemeanor, punishable by permanent loss of one’s license. Officer Krupke arrests everyone who does this, as Tony has. But Tony says, “Gee, Officer Krupke, can’t you bend the rules? I went to your high school, you know.” Tony’s using a euphemism. He’s really asking Krupke to break the rules. Is there, however, a non-euphemistic way to bend a rule of law, without breaking it? More (...)
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  5. Phillips Hall, Transcending the Debate Between Inclusive and Exclusive Legal Positivists.
    According to the standard positivist picture of law, each legal system contains a master rule that specifies criteria of legality for primary rules.1 A central debate in legal philosophy during the past twenty-five years has concerned the content of the master rule. Exclusive positivists (“exclusivists”) insist that the master rule can only make reference to social facts or sources: “pedigree” criteria.2 As Ronald Dworkin emphasizes, however, some rulings can’t be justified exclusively by reference to pedigreed legal norms.3 Judges sometimes (...)
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