Sociological Jurisprudence

Sociological Jurisprudence in the United States

A view that law and legal processes can only be understood as part of society at large. Sociological jurisprudence had its origin in the work of those who argued that law is part of the historical tradition of a society. This perspective suggested the need to compare legal systems, an objective to which the social sciences easily lent themselves. Among those who provide the foundation for sociological jurisprudence was the legal realist Roscoe Pound. Pound saw the traditional view of law as too “mechanical.” Rather, law should be seen as reflecting contemporary social needs. Law is to provide a set of rules, established through accepted processes, dedicated to the resolution of disputes between and among the various interests in society. Law, thus, is not abstract principles, but rules that are applied through a legal system that possesses sufficient discretion to maximize the possibility of conflict resolution. This orientation emphasized the “realities” of the law, but also strongly urged empirical sociological research.

See Also

Legal Realism (Judicial Function) Political Jurisprudence (Judicial Function).

Analysis and Relevance

Sociological jurisprudence had a substantial impact on legal thinking in the United States. It departed from the positivist orientation that viewed the judicial function as applying law from legislatively adopted principles. Application of the sociological approach first developed national visibility in the early 1900s as Louis D. Bran- deis sought to defend a state law establishing minimum wages and maximum hours of work. He used what was called the “Brandeis brief’ to supplement legal arguments with socio-economic data to support the reasonableness of the law. The Supreme Court legitimized the approach by upholding the state law in Muller v. Oregon (208 U.S. 412: 1908). Brandeis was eventually appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he was later joined by Benjamin Cardozo, who was also a leading exponent of sociological jurisprudence. In his writings on the judicial process, Cardozo consistently emphasized the social character of law. While recognizing logic and precedent as playing a key role in judicial decision making, Cardozo also argued that judges must respond to societal needs and, in doing so, be fully cognizant of social science measurement of such need. The sociological jurisprudents were the first to break from the ranks of traditional legal thinkers and were responsible for establishing a new course for American legal thought.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Sociological Jurisprudence from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Sociological Jurisprudence in the United States

Sociological Jurisprudence

United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled SOCIOLOGICAL JURISPRUDENCESociological jurisprudence is one of the most important schools of legal thought in the twentieth century. Its major proponent in the United States was roscoe pound (1870_1964) , a prolific writer who was dean of the Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1936. A number of other
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Sociological Jurisprudence: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Sociological Jurisprudence. This part provides references, in relation to Sociological Jurisprudence, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Sociological Jurisprudence by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Sociological Jurisprudence and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Sociological Jurisprudence or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Sociological Jurisprudence and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Sociological Jurisprudence. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Sociological Jurisprudence should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Sociological Jurisprudence when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

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