Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Natural Law in Legislation and Adjudication

I recently gave an interview to Laura Inglis of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Laura is a talented young constitutional scholar who did her D.Phil in U.S. Constitutional History at Oxford. Our conversation was wide ranging, but at one point touched on the question of natural law in legislative decision making and in adjudication:

LI: How do you think natural law should affect a) judges and b) legislators in their day-to-day work?

RG: Legislators should always be guided in their deliberation, judgment, and action by principles of natural justice. Their exercises of prudence in protecting and advancing the common good, must always be shaped by their grasp of what is due to citizens as a matter of right and wrong, a matter of justice.  As for judges and their day to day work, the role of principles of natural justice is less straightforward.  Certainly in a constitutional system such as ours, judges are not authorized to play a legislative role or to substitute their judgments of what natural law and respect for natural rights requires for the contrary judgments of those empowered by the Constitution to legislate for the sake of the common good. The mission of judges is not to make law, but, rather, faithfully and impartially to apply the law as made by the ratifiers of the Constitution or legislators acting pursuant to the Constitution. Judges go wrong--they act in violation of the Constitution--when they usurp authority vested by the Constitution in other officers (i.e., legislators and executive officers). In interpreting the Constitution, fidelity to the Rule of Law, which is itself a key principle of natural law, requires that judges respect the constitutional limits of their own authority.

The complete interview is available here:  http://faculty.isi.org/blog/post/view/id/673


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