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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Law
  • Word count: 2860

The case R.V Machekequonabe, a pagan Indian prisoner.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

In the case R.V Machekequonabe, a pagan Indian prisoner, Machekequonabe is charged with shooting and killing his foster father. The difficulty of this case revolves around the fact that his particular pagan Indian tribe believed in the existence of evil spirit wendigos which assume human form and pose a threat to their community. On one hand, there are rules against killing other humans, and on the other, Indian common law says that it is acceptable to kill wendigos (which the defendant believed he was doing). This essay will show how this conflict and ruling can be explained completely by Dworkin's theory of law and judicial reasoning. To provide the necessary background information, I will first explain the facts surround the R.V. Machekequonabe case, followed by an explanation of the questions that arise from the facts and how they are used to decide the outcome. In order to show why Dworkin's theory is better at explaining this case, I will also provide a series of other legal theories and show where they are satisfactory and where they fall short. At the end, I am confident that Dworkin's theory, in contrast to the others makes a much better account of judicial reasoning. The facts concerning R.V.Machekequonabe are quite simple and straight forward. The first fact I wish to discuss is the fact that Machekequonabe was a member of a pagan Indian tribe. As a member of a pagan Indian tribe, it gives reasons for why he shot his foster father. Machekequonabe believed that what he was shooting at was a wendigo. For the purpose of this case and this briefing I will quickly explain what a wendigo is commonly believed to be. ...read more.

Middle

Thus this early theory does not reflect this ruling and as a side not, divine theory is not usually accepted as a true theory for judicial reasoning. According to Austin, a legal positivist, only laws that are laid down by superiors to inferiors with the threat of pain are considered laws. Judicial reasoning within this theory is based sole upon the discretion of the superiors. Whatever they decide should be law will be law. Thus in this theory, officials create rather than interpret laws. When applying this case to legal positivism, there does seem to be a connection. The judge states that it is a "matter of law" (210) that the defendant should be found guilty of manslaughter. His choice of words; "matter of law", suggest his enforcement of superior laws, as laid down by the Canadian legal authorities. Legal positivists also reject common law as being legally binding unless supported by the superior. This part of the theory is also expressed in the ruling, as the judge rejects the common law of the pagan Indians as justification for the manslaughter. Legal realism is a theory that was originated as a way to explain how judges make their decisions. In legal rulings, judges, according to legal realists, are creating laws. Simply put, the only laws that exist are those that have been applied in the past, that is there is no true law that is used to determine the ruling of a present case. There exists only speculation from the lawyers as to what possible ruling will be used. While this theory is sound logically, it is not very practical in a real life legal system. ...read more.

Conclusion

It would have been inconsistent with those principles should the judge have recommended the most severe penalty. Principles are designed to enhance to advance society and severe punishment for intentions of protecting one's social circle could have detrimental effects on all society. As would having released the defendant from any responsibility. The main difference between Hart and Dworkin is that Dworkin agrees with the majority of Harts views concerning primary and secondary laws, but disagrees in that Dworkin acknowledges legal conflicts and situations where there are conflicting laws. By adding principles to guide the advancement of society, Dworkin is able to explain why certain rulings are made when two laws seem to be equally right and acceptable. By applying principles, it becomes apparent which law, when upheld would promote the greatest social benefits. Dworkin's theory is the best theory for explaining why the judge ruled in the fashion that he did. It is apparent that he made the right decision as reflected by agreement in the court of appeals. By applying principles to the conflicting laws, the judge is able to make the greatest social advancements by both punishing for actions causing harm and also giving hint that his honest intentions did not go unnoticed and such intentions should be upheld in society. Looking at the case R.V.Machekequonabe, it is a prime example of conflicting rules. It is always difficult to decide which rule should be followed and which should be rejected, especially in cases where cultural upbringing plays such a major role. However, after looking at the facts, and the ruling, Dworkin's theory of law and judicial reasoning provides us with the most satisfactory explanation, and also shows that rulings, when applying social principles are meant to enhance society and bring about social growth. ...read more.

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