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Lord Wright and innovative traditionalism

Duxbury, Neil (2009) Lord Wright and innovative traditionalism. LSE law, society and economy working papers (11-2009). Department of Law, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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This study presents the mid-twentieth century English lord of appeal, Lord Wright, as an innovative traditionalist judge. Judges have a duty to be creative, Wright believed, but only within the framework of existing legal authority. Wright explained his innovative traditionalist perspective in relation to precedent, public policy and legislation, and he illustrated his perspective particularly by way of contributions to decisions on worker compensation, commercial contracts, restitution and international criminal law. He was not always a bold judge, as is especially evident from his contribution to Liversidge v. Anderson. But his efforts to develop the law without undermining established precedents and statutory authority could be subtly effective. In contract and tort decisions he consistently argued that personal liability should attach only to outcomes which could reasonably have been expected to come about. He was realistic, and believed courts must be realistic, about the tendency of the business world to be guided primarily by its own norms. He incisively criticized implied contract theory and advanced a conception of unjust enrichment which, in England, was considerably ahead of its time. In employment law, he added a twist to freedom-of-contract reasoning, arguing that if it is permissible for individuals to use their economic advantage to impose contractual terms on weaker parties then it should also be permissible for those parties to combine and gain the upper hand. After World War II, he argued that the positive laws necessary for punishing war criminals already existed. This study draws these arguments together in an effort to capture Wright’s judicial style and to show that some of his contributions to legal thought and doctrine run deep and are historically significant.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2009 The Author
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > KD England and Wales
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2009 16:13
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 11:48

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