JoshCast: Lecture 1 On The Case of the Speluncean Explorers

April 22nd, 2010

The Case of the Speluncean Explorers by Lon Fuller is a classic 1949 law review article that all law students should read. Many thanks to Professor Michael Krauss who first introduced this article to me. I hope my students enjoyed it as much as I did.

The story is set in the year 4300 AD in the fictional state of Newgarth. It tells the story of explorers who are trapped in a cave without adequate supplies. The explorers know that the rescuers will be unable to reach them in time, so they decide they must resort to cannibalism in order to survive. The explorers decide to cast lots, to determine who should be eaten. One of the members is selected, and is eaten. After the surviving explorers are rescued, they are found guilty of murder. The case is appealed to the Newgarth Supreme Court and 5 Justices consider the case. Each of the Justices represents a different modality of jurisprudential thinking.

In the first part of this discussion, we explore the views of Chief Justice Truepenny, who asked the Chief Executive to grant clemency to the cannibalistic explorers, Justice Foster, who sought to discover the spirit of the law, Justice Tating, who could not make up his mind so he withdrew from the case, and Justice Keen, who sought to apply the text of the murder statute.

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