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Lon Fuller Eight Features of a Legal System

Lon Fuller describes eight features a system might have to a greater or lesser extent: rule-governed, clear, consistent, public, prospective, stable, feasible (to obey), and congruent (applied as announced). Fuller's fable of Rex is an extreme depiction of a system that always lacks at least one of these features to the greatest possible degree: at one point, for example, none of Rex’s rules are publicized; at another point, all of his rules are impossible to obey; and so on. Fuller claims a system isn’t a legal system if it’s a complete failure on any of these dimensions. He thinks it’s not a legal system unless it possesses every one of these eight features to a significant degree. But Fuller admits that no legal system achieves perfection on any of his eight dimensions. All legal systems are partial failures in this regard. We might say that the rule of law is at its strongest in an imaginary legal system that achieves perfection on all eight dimensions, at its weakest in an imaginary system such as Rex’s, and somewhere in between in real legal systems such as ours. Choose several of Fuller’s features and discuss their relative prevalence and importance in a legal system with which you’re familiar. Does the system exhibit the feature to a sufficient degree or not? Choose features the relative importance of which might be disputed by reasonable people. Take a position on the importance of each feature and defend your position against objections.

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