Call For Paper: Legal Axioms


Legal Maxims in the 21st Century – Law in Books or Law in Action?

“Hence, in all civilized nations, we always witness the formation, alongside the temple of enacted laws under the legislator’s supervision, of a repository of maxims, decisions, and doctrinal writings which is daily refined by the practitioners and their clashing debates in court, which steadily grows as all acquired knowledge is added to it, and which has always been regarded as the true supplement of legislation”.

- Translation of J.-E.-M. Portalis in Alain Levasseur, ‘Code Napoleon or Code Portalis?’ (1968) 43 Tulane Law Review 762, 769-70.

This famous quotation of Portalis expresses in a brilliant phrase that statutes are not the only sources of law and that alongside them are maxims or adages, as well as judge-made law and doctrine.

Whether they are principles of interpretation or vehicles of a substantive rule, they are abundant in the treatises. They seem to exist in all legal systems (continental law, common law, religious law, etc.). The judge sometimes relies on them to base his decision. The most famous of them have been the subject of scholarly study. Their legal strength seems well established. They are probably one of the last islands of customary law. However, at the end of the first decade of this century, it seems that a reexamination of this question is worthwhile. The maxims still contain many mysteries.

What maxims apply in real life from the law: do they have normative importance that make legal traditionalists jealous of their knowledge? Do they still have a place in a world saturated with legislation as regulation? Do they constitute one of the last havens of stability among ever-changing standards? Is this permanence through their generality? Is this imprecision compatible with legal certainty? How otherwise explain the strength of the expression that they show?

And for those that exist in multiple families of law or in different jurisdictions, how have they traveled? Does a similar expression signify a similarity in meaning and scope? What about maxims in mixed jurisdictions (Louisiana, Quebec, Malta, Israel, etc.): does their introduction into a hybrid system lead to a separation from the original?

This list is far from complete; numerous other problems and points could be addressed as well. Similarly, the bibliography given below is only meant as a research tool; consultation of documents mentioned here is thus neither required nor objectively indispensable. The papers sought should put forth and defend ideas, hypotheses, models or theories, but not simply present data or already published research work in a more or less descriptive way. Submissions shall be sent as an Open Office or Word file to the editors by March 30, 2012. There is no minimum or maximum length. Our working languages are French, English, German, and Spanish. The Metz Law School Journal is peer-reviewed.

Note that contributors can also submit papers outside of the focus of this call on any comparative or transnational subject. All submissions should be sent to rjfdm@univ-metz.fr or licari@univ-metz.fr.

Selective bibliography:
  • Vera Bolgar, The Present Function of the Maxim Ignorantia Iuris Neminem Excusat- A Comparative Study, 52 Iowa L. R. 626 (1967)
  • Roland Boyer, Sur quelques adages : notes d’histoire et de jurisprudence, 156 Bibliothèque de l'école des chartes 1998, p. 13.
  • Ronald A. Cass, Ignorance of the Law: A Maxim Reexamined, 17 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 671 (1976)
  • Pierre-André Côté, L’interprétation de la loi en droit civil et en droit statutaire : communauté de langues et différences d’accents, (1997) 31 Revue Juridique Thémis 45
  • Frank De Lorenzo, Modern Air Law Problems and the "Cujus Solum" Maxim, 23 Marq. L. Rev. 131 (1939)
  • J.-M. Gouvard, Les adages du droit français, Langue française, n° 123, 1999, p. 70
  • André Gouron, Cessante causa cessat effectus : à la naissance de l'adage, Comptes-rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 143e année, N. 1, 1999, p. 299
  • Walton H. Hamilton, The Ancient Maxim Caveat Emptor, 40 Yale L. J. 1133 (1931)
  • Selim Jahel, Les principes généraux du droit dans les systèmes arabo-musulmans au regard de la technique juridique contemporaine, 55 Revue internationale de droit comparé, p. 105 (2003)
  • Benjamin W. Janke, Revisiting Contra Non Valentem in Light of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 68 La. L. Rev. 497 (2008)
  • Benjamin W. Janke & François-Xavier Licari, Contra Non Valentem in France and Louisiana: Revealing the Parenthood, Breaking a Myth, 71 La. L. Rev. 503 (2011)
  • André Laingui, L’image du juge et de l’accusé dans la littérature des adages, in Etudes en l’honneur de J.-P. Royer, 2009, p. 585
  • Henry Long, Finding the Better Equity: The Maxim Qui Prior Tempore Est Potior Jure and the Modern Law Relating to Equitable Priorities, 3 Deakin L. Rev. 147 (1996)
  • Rafael Domingo Oslé, Beatriz Rodríguez Antolín, Javier Ortiga & Nicolás Zambrana, Principios de derecho global, 1000 reglas y aforísmos jurídicos comentados, 2006
  • Roscoe Pound, Law in Books and Law in Action (1910) 44 American Law Review 12 ; The Maxims of Equity, 34 Harv. L. Rev. 809 (1921)
  • Alain Rouiller, Rapports entre les maximes « Error communis facit jus » et nemo plus juris… » dans la jurisprudence moderne, Répertoire Commaille 1967, p. 165
  • Jeremiah Smith, The Use of Maxims in Jurisprudence, 9 Harv. L. Rev. 13
  • Karl Spiro, Zur neueren Geschichte des Satzes “Agere non valenti non currit praescriptio,” in Festschrift für Hans Lewald, 1953, 585
  • Peter Stein: The Digest Title, De Diversis Regulis Iuris Antiqui, and the General Principles of Law in R. A. Newman, Essays in Jurisprudence in Honor of Roscoe Pound (1962, reprinted in Stein, The Character and Influence of the Roman Civil Law: Historical Essays (1988)) ; Regulae Iuris: From Juristic Rules to Legal Maxims (1966) ; Civil Law Maxims in Moral philosophy, 48 Tul. L. Rev. 1075 (1973-4)
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