Until the nineteenth century, the Russian legal system was subject to an administrative hierarchy headed by the tsar, and the courts were expected to enforce, not interpret the law. Richard S. Wortman here traces the first professional class of legal experts who emerged during the reign of Nicholas I (1826 – 56) and who began to view the law as a uniquely modern and independent source of authority. Discussing how new legal institutions fit into the traditional system of tsarist rule, Wortman analyzes how conflict arose from the same intellectual processes that produced legal reform. He ultimately demonstrates how the stage was set for later events, as the autocracy and judiciary pursued contradictory—and mutually destructive—goals.
During the period from 1836 to 1874, the legal system in the new state of Arkansas developed amid huge social change. While the legislature could, and did, determine what issues were considered of importance to the populace, the Arkansas Supreme Court determined the efficacy of legislation in cases involving land titles, banks, transportation, slavery, family law, property, debt, contract, criminal law, and procedure.
Distinguishing the Righteous from the Roguish examines the court’s decisions in this era and shows how Arkansas, as a rural slave-holding state, did not follow the transformational patterns typical of some other states during the nineteenth century. Rather than using the law to promote broad economic growth and encourage social change, the Arkansas court attempted to accommodate the interests of the elite class by preserving the institution of slavery. The ideology of paternalism is reflected in the decisions of the court, and Looney shows how social and political stability—an emphasis on preserving the status quo of the so-called “righteous”—came at the expense of broader economic development.
Judges and legal scholars talk past one another, if they have any conversation at all. Academics criticize judicial decisions in theoretical terms, which leads many judges to dismiss academic discourse as divorced from reality. Richard Posner reflects on the causes and consequences of this widening gap and what can be done to close it.