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Lord Wright and innovative traditionalism

Duxbury, Neil (2009) Lord Wright and innovative traditionalism. University of Toronto Law Journal, 59 (3). pp. 265-340. ISSN 0042-0220

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Identification Number: 10.3138/utlj.59.3.265


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 that 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 that, 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: Article
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Additional Information: © 2009 University of Toronto Press
Divisions: Law
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Date Deposited: 20 May 2013 15:10
Last Modified: 16 May 2023 23:16

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