Natural Law Theory was the core concept behind the majority decision by the court because the statute was not intended to be deployed in this sense, therefore the decision was more in favor of the purpose and morality of the statute. According to Natural Law, decision making must have a strong link with morality and good virtue. All laws that are not intended to correspond with the Natural Law are unjust laws. Therefore, morality and positive virtue lead to the birth of a strong legal rule. In this particular case, despite the statutes clearing stating that the defendant has all the rights to obtain the will, there is no such aspect in terms of morality which allows the murderer to take advantage of their crimes. The majority decision relied on the morality of the law and its fundamental maxims.
On the other hand, there was only one dissenting judge in this case. Judge Gary, states that the ruling should be in correspondence with the rules of law and there should be no need to participate in establishing new meanings of law or attempting to impose further punishment for the committed crime. Judge Gary argues that the defendant does not require to be punished more than just serving his sentence for second degree murder. He states that matters such as these should be left to the legislature and following the statutes as they are written is the best way for decision making. In addition, he points out that it is written in the statute that no written will should be revoked or altered. Any changes must be made strictly within the language of the statute otherwise they change the interpretation of the written meaning of the statute.
The dissenting judge comprises his arguments using Legal Positivism. His arguments are based on the rigid rules of law and he claims that there is no connection between legality and morality. Judge Gary believes that legal decisions should be made with a strict logical system and without the influence of social considerations. Morality can not be defined by rationality unlike factual statements and proofs. According to Judge Gary, he does not see any sort of evidence that would void Elmer Palmer’s legal right to obtain the estate from the will. There was no written law within the legislature or statute that should punish the defendant further by revoking his rights to the will. If the majority of the court advocates the appellant’s argument, then they have fundamentally altered the will of the testator. Therefore, by doing so, the majority of the court has added on further punishment for the defendant by rescinding his share of the will.
In conclusion, although the dissenting judge states strong arguments that have legitimacy, it is not enough to win the majority decision on the court. In the modern society we live in today, the majority decision in favor of the appellants is more coherent and realistic. In the case of Riggs vs Palmer, the judges were very clear about their own point of views on how they interpreted the case and how they wanted the outcome to be like. With Judge Earl stating how the law cannot always be followed by its literal meaning and Judge Gray describing the opposite with viewing the law the exact way as it is stated. It was concluded that the majority sided with Judge Earl whom the plaintiffs were being defended on resulted in a win for them and justice for their late grandfather. The courts should still practice strict interpretation of the law and statues but in cases such as this one, where morality is in question, then there should be room for some flexibility for determining the decision. The law was examined clearly in accordance with this case which later resulted in making a decision that would change the whole case in favor of the plaintiffs. Courts need to continue to interpret laws in a manner that suits the particular case because law makers did not keep in mind exactly which scenarios a fundamental law may be in question. Every case that is brought to the courts is different from the other and in order for judges to be able to make a rational and precise decision, the laws related must be viewed in sync with the case.
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