Tuesday, November 09, 2021

The Object Of Our Study

When we study law we are not studying a mystery but a well-known profession.  We are studying what we shall want in order to appear before judges, or to advise people in such a way as to keep them out of court.  The reason why it is a profession, why people will pay lawyers to argue for them or to advise them, is that in societies like ours the command of the public force is entrusted to the judges in certain cases, and the whole power of the state will be put forth, if necessary, to carry out their judgments and decrees.  People want to know under what circumstances and how far they will run the risk of coming against what is so much stronger than themselves, and hence it becomes a business to find out when this danger is to be feared.  The object of our study, then, is prediction, the prediction of the incidence of the public force through the instrumentality of the courts.

-- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841 - 1935), American jurist and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, The Path of the Law (1897) Harvard Law Review 457

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