The Ratio Decidendi Of A Case

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1957.tb02720.x
Publication Date01 Nov 1957
AuthorJ. L. Montrose
THE RATIO DECIDENDI
OF
A CASE
IN
his comment dealing with some aspects of the
doctrine of precedent Simpson makes one point which
I
consider
valid, but overlooks
a
number of considerations which arise from
a more thorough analysis of the doctrine
of
precedent than was
possible for either of
us
in
our
short notes.3 The valid point
is
concerned with Goodhart’s article
Determining the
Ratio
Decided
of a Case.‘ Simpson accepts as the Goodhart theory
the proposition that
‘‘
the
ratio decidendi
of
a case can
be
defined
as the material facts of the case plus the decision thereon.” He
points out that there is an opposed theory, which may be conveni-
ently called $he “classical theory,” which is that “the ratio is
‘the principle of law which the judge considered necessary to his
decision.’
Simpson avers that
the rule stated by the judge
ought, therefore, upon the basis of Professor Goodhart’s arguments,
to be treated as the
ratio decidendi.”
What
I
regard as valid in this
statement is the suggestion of
an
inconsistency
in
the reasoning of
Goodhart in his article. But this inconsistency does not appear until
one realises that there are two separate theses in Goodhart’s article,
one of which is not referred to by Simpson.
On
the other hand,
once Simpson’s terminology is examined carefully
it
will
be seen
that some of the propositions he asserts cannot be supported: (a)
Goodhart’s theory of
‘‘
ratio decidendi
does not lead him to accept
the judge’s explicitly stated rule as the
ratio decidendi,
though
it
does lead him to accept the judge’s inexplicitly stated rule; (b) the
classical theory is distinguishable from Goodhart’s theory; (c) Stone
has not criticised the classical theory of precedent, but a theory
which is assumed by Goodhart as the premiss leading to Goodhart’s
own particularisation.
The two phrases which particularly call for consideration in
Simpson’s note are (i)
ratio decidendi,
(ii) facts of the case.
It
is
my submission that with regard to these phrases Simpson has failed
to note their ambiguity.
Two important meanings of the phrase
‘‘
ratio decidendi
to
on
my article
1
(1957)
20
M.L.R. p. 413.
2
(1957)
20
M.L.R. p. 124.
Some fuller anal sis
is
to
be found in
my
articles:
The Language of and
Notion for the hoctrine of Precedent,”
2
West Au8t.L.R. at pp. 329 and 504;
Law Making and Law Applying,” (1956) South African L.J. 187.
4
40 Yale L.J. (1930) reprinted
in
Goodhart,
Essays
in
Jurisp~udenee and
the
6
This is Glanville Williams’ summary in
Learnmg
the
Low
(3rd ed.), p. 57,
4
The appellation classical theory
for this theory
is
Peton’s
(Jurisprudence,
It is the “classicel
theory of some English judges, but
Common
Law,
p. 1, and in Vanderbilt, Studying
Law,
p. 493.
which
I
accepted,,as accurate.
1st ed.,
p.
159).
not of English jurists.
587

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