The Ethics of Obeying Judicial Orders in Flawed Societies

Res Publica 26 (4):559-575 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Many accounts of the moral duty to obey the law either restrict the duty to ideal democracies or leave the duty’s application to non-ideal societies unclear. This article presents and defends a partial account of the moral duty to obey the law in non-ideal societies, focusing on the duty to obey judicial orders. We need public judicial authority to prevent objectionable power relationships that can result from disputes about private agreements. The moral need to prevent power imbalances in private relationships grounds a qualified moral duty to obey judicial decisions. The parties to a dispute are morally required to comply with a judicial order in their dispute if all of the following conditions obtain: the parties’ dispute was in good faith, the court’s resolution of the dispute is more impartial than either party’s own judgment, the order does not call for violation of important natural duties or important artificial duties that the duty-bearer incurred involuntarily, and the primary aim of disobeying the court order would be to advance an ordinary, non-political project, not to call public attention to an injustice. The moral duty to obey judicial decisions can survive significant departures from ideal fairness.

Similar books and articles

Applied Judicial Ethics.Pierre Noreau - 2008 - Wilson & Lafleur.
Is There an Art of Judicial Reasoning at the General Court? Some Modest Comments.Marc van der Woude - 2019 - In Knut Almestad, Jean-Luc Baechler, Benedikt Bogason, Henrik Bull, Francis Delaporte, Luis José Diez Canseco Núñez, Peter Freeman, Vladimir Golitsyn, Irmgard Griss, Marc Jaeger, Koen Lenaerts, Paul Mahoney, Andreas Mundt, Sven Norberg, Toril Marie Øie, Þorgeir Örlygsson, Anne-José Paulsen, Georges Ravarani, Hubertus Schumacher, Vassilios Skouris, Gian-Flurin Steinegger, Sven Erik Svedman, Antonio Tizzano, Marc van der Woude, Bo Vesterdorf & Jean-Claude Wiwinius (eds.), The Art of Judicial Reasoning: Festschrift in Honour of Carl Baudenbacher. Springer Verlag.


Added to PP

68 (#174,091)

6 months
31 (#34,683)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Robert C. Hughes
University of Pennsylvania

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
Ideal Vs. Non‐Ideal Theory: A Conceptual Map.Laura Valentini - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (9):654-664.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.

View all 19 references / Add more references