From Norms to Facts: The Realization of Rights in Common and Civil Private Law

By Dedek, Helge | McGill Law Journal, December 2010 | Go to article overview

From Norms to Facts: The Realization of Rights in Common and Civil Private Law


Dedek, Helge, McGill Law Journal


Every legal system that ties judicial decision making to a body of preconceived norms has to face the tension between the normative formulation of the ideal and its approximation in social reality. In the parlance of the common law, it is, more concretely, the remedy that bridges the gap between the ideal and the real, or, rather, between norms and facts. In the common law world--particularly in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth--a lively discourse has developed around the question of how rights relate to remedies. To the civilian legal scholar--used to thinking within a framework that strictly categorizes terms like substance and procedure, subjective right, action, and execution--the concept of remedy remains a mystery. The lack of "remedy" in the vocabulary of the civil law is more than just a matter of attaching different labels to functional equivalents, it is the expression of a different way of thinking about law. Only if a legal system is capable of satisfactorily transposing the abstract discourse of the law into social reality does the legal machinery fulfill its purpose: due to the pivotal importance of this translational process, the way it is cast in legal concepts thus allows for an insight into the deep structure of a legal culture, and, convergence notwithstanding, the remaining epistemological differences between the legal traditions of the West. A mixed jurisdiction must reflect upon these differences in order to understand its own condition and to define its future course.

Tout systeme juridique qui lie la prise de decision judiciaire a un ensemble de normes preconcues doit faire face a la tension qui existe entre la formulation normative d'un ideal et son approximation dans la realite sociale. Dans la terminologie de la common law, c'est le remede, plus concretement, qui palie l'ecart entre l'ideal et le reel, ou plutot, entre les normes et les faits. Dans les juridictions de common law, plus particulierement au Royaume-Uni et au sein du Commonwealth, un vif debat est apparu sur les liens que les droits entretiennent avec les remedes. Pour le juriste civiliste, habitue a raisonner dans un cadre qui categorise strictement des termes tels que substance et procedure, droit subjectif, action et execution, le concept de remede demeure un mystere. L'absence de << remedes >> dans le vocabulaire du droit civil n'est pas une simple question de nomenclature divergente pour decrire des equivalents fonctionnels. Il s'agit de l'expression d'une facon differente d'aborder le droit. L'appareil juridique n'atteindra ses objectifs que s'il est capable de transposer le discours abstrait du droit en realite sociale. Etant donne l'importance primordiale de ce processus de transposition, son expression dans des concepts juridiques revele la structure profonde d'une culture juridique et les differences epistemologiques qui subsistent entre les traditions juridiques occidentales, malgre leur convergence. Une juridiction mixte doit reflechir sur ces differences afin de comprendre son propre etat et de definir son parcours futur.

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I.   The Question

II.  Remedies and Rights in the Common Law
     A. Traditional Pragmatism and the "Remedial Approach"
     B. Remedies and Rights: The Theoretical Debate
        1. Rights in Private Law Discourse
        2. The Quest for a Rights-Remedies Taxonomy

III. The Civil Law: Rights and their Procedural Realization
     A. Rights and Actions, not Rights and Remedies
        1. Theoretical Structure: Procedure as the "Servant"
           of Substantive Law
        2. Terminology: The Absence of "Remedy"
     B. Origins
        1. A Tradition of Theorization
        2. From the Roman Law of Actions to the Rise of the
           "Subjective Right"
        3. The Role of the Judge

IV.  Some Comparative Remarks
     A. "Finding" Law and "Making" Rights: Equity, Good
        Faith, and Discretionary Awards
     B. Specific Performance

Conclusion

I. …

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