Riggs V Palmer Case Study

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It is no surprise as to why the case Riggs v Palmer is such a renowned case, for this case tests the importance of many of the philosophers’ theories, especially on the validity of certain laws and the conflict between law and morality. This hard case has been used as a reference for many court decisions over the years and will be most likely used in the future as well. An inference can be made based on this case and the legal conflicts and issues that the judges faced when reaching their verdict. Those who commit the crime should not be rewarded by attaining what motivated them in the first place as the fruit of their crime, and in the event that such a crime occurs, judges must interpret the law in the same manner that the law makers intended…show more content…
Palmer, the defendant, claimed that he has the right to the property according to the law because he was named the heir in the will (Riggs v Palmer). The plaintiffs, Mrs. Riggs and Mrs. Preston, however brought this action before the court to fight against this will, for they believed that Palmer should no longer be entitled to the property, which he so wrongfully gained. The objective of the statute is to address issues concerning wills so that testators could carry out their final wishes by passing their property off to their loved ones (Riggs v Palmer). This fact is what gave rise to different arguments from the majority to the dissenting judges. The issues were how to interpret the law rationally, and whether Palmer, who murdered his grandfather should be entitled to the property. The judges believed that although the law at that time did not address the issue of what would happen to the property in the event that the heir murdered the testator, to allow such a thing would never be the intention of legislators (Riggs v Palmer). Had legislators ever…show more content…
This theory looks at how the sovereign and its officials created the law based on social norms and the institutions (Hart, 1958). However, hard cases such as this makes for bad law, which test the validity of the law at hand based on what the objective of the law was in the first place. The law should not be so easily dismissed just because it does not achieve justice in the most morally sound manner (Hart, 1958). Bentham and Austin understood that there are two errors in the way law is understood, what the law is and what the law should be (Hart, 1958). He knew that if law was to become what humans perceived the law ought to be, the law itself would be lost, but he also recognized that if the opposite was to occur where the law replaced morality, than any man would escape liability and there would be no retribution (Hart, 1958). This theory looks at the point of view of the dissenting judge, Justice Gray, which is that the law is what it is, even if it may conflict with morals. Austin stated that “The existence of law is one thing; its merit and demerit another. Whether it be or be not is one enquiry; whether it be or be not conformable to an assumed standard, is a different enquiry (Hart, 1958).” This case presents the same conflict that Bentham and Austin addressed, that the law based on the statute of the

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