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Riggs v.Palmer and Speluncean Explorers - Essay Example

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Riggs and Mrs. Preston approached the court in order to invalidate their late father Francis B. Palmer’s will. The case’s defense consisted of Elmer E. Palmer who was the grandson of Francis B. Palmer…
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Riggs v.Palmer and Speluncean Explorers
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1. Case Facts Riggs v Palmer represents a probate suit wherein the two plaintiffs Mrs. Riggs and Mrs. Preston approached the court in order to invalidate their late father Francis B. Palmer’s will. The case’s defense consisted of Elmer E. Palmer who was the grandson of Francis B. Palmer. The actual will provided the claimants with small legacies to the estate while Elmer Palmer was left with a large portion of the estate. However till Elmer Palmer came of age the bequeathed estate was to be looked after Elmer’s mother Susan Palmer who was a sister of the claimants. Fearing that his grandfather might change his decision in respect of the will Elmer Palmer murdered his grandfather through poisoning. The plaintiffs presented the argument that the will would allow Elmer to profit from his heinous crime. Elmer would be punished under the statute for murder but his claim to the estate could not be invalidated under the terms of either probate law or criminal law (Dworkin).
In sharp contrast, the Speluncean Explorers case is purely hypothetical in nature and was written by Lon Fuller for the Harvard Law Review in 1949. A team of five entrapped spelunkers is depicted in the Commonwealth of Newgarth who are able to establish radio contact with their rescue team. The spelunkers are told by the engineers that around 10 days would be required for their extraction (Suber) while the spelunkers relate the total food rations they have to the physicians in the rescue team which are deemed insufficient. Radio contact breaks down and resultantly the spelunkers decide to hold a lottery in order to murder one of their members so that others can consume him for survival. The losing member is executed and eaten up. After the rescue the spelunkers are all convicted for murder but there is debate as to the application of murder sentences to the rescued spelunkers (Fuller).
2. Similarities and Differences in Judgments
For Riggs v Palmer the majority opinion clearly stated that the plaintiffs were justified in their claims and the eventual outcome reinforced Judge Robert Earl’s opinion. The decision declared that the tenets of universal laws and universal maxims would be violated if Elmer Palmer was allowed to profit from his crime. It was also related that the legislature could not reasonably be expected to foresee any contingencies when laws were being drafted and so such disdainful behavior ought to be punished. This is similar to the views of Justice Keen in the Speluncean Explorers case where he opines that the statutes of law must be upheld in any circumstances no matter what the circumstances are. The judge clearly states that personal opinions and biases should be left out of official work which is the implementation of the law and not the legislation of the law.
On the other hand, Judge John Clinton Gray disagreed with the ruling opinion in the Riggs v Palmer case by stating that depriving Elmer Palmer of the bequeathed estate would add more to his punishment in the form of murder. The judge felt that in doing so the court was abusing its powers in issuing punishment against an unrelated statute. Moreover the judge felt that the court was taking such a decision to obtain a more “morally pleasing” result. In a similar manner Judge Foster is depicted sympathizing with the spelunkers and opines that by pronouncing such a decision the court is over imposing the law of the Commonwealth of Newgarth in the wilderness where the spelunkers were entrapped. Instead he holds that the law of the wild or “natural law” ought to be applied to the case of the spelunkers and given the circumstances they should be exonerated as they had suffered enough already.
3. Bibliography
Dworkin, Ronald. "The Model of Rules I": Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977.
Fuller, Lon L. The Case of the Speluncean Explorers. February 1949. 19 December 2011 .
Suber, Peter. The Case of the Speluncean Explorers: Nine New Opinions. 2011. 19 December 2011 . Read More
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