Speluncean Explorers: Role of Judges

What should be the function of the judge in a modern democracy? Discuss, with the different positions adopted by the judges in the case of the Speluncean Explorers.

The Case of the 'Speluncean Explorers' is an article by legal philosopher Lon Luvois Fuller that was published in 1949. It presents a legal philosophy offering five possible solutions in the form of judicial opinions that are attributed to judges sitting on the fictional 'Supreme Court of Newgarth' in the year 4300.

In this hypothetical case, Roger Whetmore is cannibalized by his cave-exploring companions. The survivors are convicted of violating a law making it a crime that one 'willfully take the life of another', notwithstanding their defense of necessity. The explorers were trapped in a cave and would have died but for the sustenance of Roger Whetmore.

The article offers five possible judicial responses. Each differs in its reasoning and on whether the survivors should be found guilty of breaching the law. An evenly divided Supreme Court of Newgarth affirms the convictions.

Voting to affirm, Justice Keen follows the plain meaning of the statute and refuses to consider the equitable defense of necessity, while Chief Justice Truepenny urges the Chief Executive to grant clemency based upon the defense.Voting to reverse, Justice Foster argues that neither the understandings of common society nor the purpose of the statute is served by conviction, while Justice Handy votes to reverse as well, relying on virtual consensus in popular opinion. Anguished Justice Tatting - the potential tiebreaker - recuses himself because he cannot choose among the various arguments.

As the Court's decision is a tie, the original convictions are upheld and the men are sentenced to death.

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