Some Universal Features of Ideal Audiences in Legal Contexts

  • George C. Christie
Part of the Law and Philosophy Library book series (LAPS, volume 45)


It is time now to turn in a more focused way to the consideration of how the notion of an ideal or universal audience—we have used the terms interchangeably—actually operates in legal argumentation. Some aspects of the ideal audience that manifest themselves in legal argumentation seem to have truly universal acceptance; others, although thought of as universal, seem more closely tied to particular cultures. Let us begin by examining those attributes of legal argumentation that seem to be universally accepted in actual fact. These tend to concern the structure of the legal process and to focus on the role of the judge. A judge is expected to be impartial. He should have no interest in the outcome of the case or ties of affection with any of the litigants. He must have the patience to listen to all the parties before him, a notion encapsuled in the old Latin maxim, audi alteram partem. The judge is furthermore expected to base his decision on the proofs and arguments presented to him. In the event he feels obliged to decide the case on a basis not discussed by the parties, ideally the judge should give the parties an opportunity to be heard on these new issues before final judgment is rendered. Above all the judge should be situated in a governmental structure that guarantees his independence from either the executive or the legislature and he must be protected from the wrath of private parties who might react negatively to his decisions. All this is encapsuled under the concept of the “rule of law,” a concept whose achievement in practice has been one of the greatest achievements of Western civilization and whose importance for social and economic development is now universally accepted. It took a long time to achieve in the Western world and it is becoming readily apparent that its achievement in much of the rest of the world will come only as the result of an arduous effort.


Universal Feature Drug Dealer Legal Argumentation Private Party Judicial Process 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • George C. Christie
    • 1
  1. 1.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA

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