Legal Principles and Values 

by Pietro Perlingieri

This paper analyses in depth the distinction between values and principles in light of the process of legal interpretation. The logical and legal status of principles are examined from a conceptual standpoint at the outset, as well as the slippery border between principles and values and the interplay between law, politics and ethics. The above-mentioned interaction directly affects the outcome of the interpretive process: by focussing on the weight and appropriateness of legal principles, the present study highlights the width of the latter concept, which mainly lies in the hands of the interpreter when he is concretely applying them to the facts of a case in terms of his role. In light of the above, this paper argues that it is necessary to discard a presumptive approach to the issue in question: otherwise, the inherent appropriateness of a legal principle would be inevitably frustrated. Indeed, if the interpreter is afraid to contravene the sacrosanctity of legal certainty and thus refuse to employ legal principles, then he will not find a solution which is the best fit for the specific features of the actual case, since the ‘law’ is a broader experience than the mere application of rules. In this vein, the present study points out the need for the interpreter to use the entire toolbox at his disposal with confidence, so that the final decision can reasonably mirror the actual facts it concerns. 

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