Osgoode Hall Law Journal


Adam Giancola

Document Type

Book Note


AFTER THE FALL OF NATIONAL SOCIALISM, the German legal theorist and former Minister of Justice Gustav Radbruch famously wrote “[w]here there is not even an attempt at justice, where equality, the core of justice, is deliberately betrayed in the issuance of positive law, then the statute is not merely ‘flawed law’, it lacks completely the very nature of law.”2 For Radbruch, courts needed to have in certain circumstances recourse to principles of justice beyond those available in the written statute; a kind of natural law. Radbruch’s call for an application of natural law at court evokes the central question in R. H. Helmholz’s latest book, Natural Law In Court: A History of Legal Theory in Practice3: has the law of nature ever had any real bearing on the growth of the substantive law in the West? To answer this question, Helmholz places great emphasis on the history of court process, with a consideration of cases from Europe, England, and the United States spanning from the early modern period to the nineteenth century. Rather than relying on individual writers on natural law—a subject already well-canvassed in the literature4—Helmholz limits his investigation to legal education in each of these jurisdictions and its application at court.

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