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From the Judge's ›Arbitrium‹ to the Legality Principle

Legislation as a Source of Law in Criminal Trials

2013. 2 Tab.; 407 S.
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The legality principle characterizes all western legal systems, and it has become an integral part of the Western rule of law and the international human rights law. The principle dates back to enlightened jurists such as Cesare Beccaria and to social contract thinkers such as Charles de Secondat de Montesquieu, according to whom judges were to act only as the mouthpiece of the statutory law. Paul Johann Anselm von Feuerbach, the inventor of the famous maxim ›nullum crimen, nulla poena sine lege‹, developed these thoughts further. The emergence of the legality principle links closely to the teachings on the division of powers. The studies of this volume cover most of Europe from England, Italy and Spain to Sweden, Russia and England, and both the South and North American continents. In most parts of Europe, the nineteenth-century criminal law reforms form an integral part of the ›liberal‹ agenda. These changes took place, however, at different times in different parts of the Western world, and for slightly different reasons. Comparative legal history shows, furthermore, that the roots of the principle date much further back in history than the eighteenth century. Before the formulation of the legality principle, written statutes already played a significant role in the criminal law in many parts of the Western world. The articles of the volume, written by the foremost experts on comparative legal history, demonstrate that the attitudes and practices toward written statutes as sources of criminal law varied greatly from one region to another. In most parts of the European continent judicial arbitration was carefully defined in legal scholarship (Italy, France), whereas in some regions written law played an important role from early on (Sweden). Although the nineteenth century was fundamental in shaping the legality principle, in some countries its breakthrough remained even then far from complete (Russia, the United States).


Georges Martyn
Introduction: From Arbitrium to Legality? Or Legality and Arbitrium?

Anthony Musson
Criminal Legislation and the Common Law in Late Medieval England

Massimo Meccarelli
Dimensions of Justice and Ordering Factors in Criminal Law from the Middle Ages till Juridical Modernity

Wim Decock
The Judge's Conscience and the Protection of the Criminal Defendant: Moral Safeguards against Judicial Arbitrariness

Sébastien Dhalluin
Control of the Arbitrium of the Criminal Judge of the ›Parliament of Flanders‹ by Royal Legislation

Mathias Schmoeckel
The Mystery of Power Verdicts Solved? Frederick II of Prussia and the Emerging Independence of Jurisdiction

Sylvain Soleil
»Lex Imperat«: Creation and Exportation of the French Model of the Legality Principle (18th–19th C.)

Heikki Pihlajamäki
Legalism before the Legality Principle? Royal Statutes and Early Modern Swedish Criminal Law

Matthew C. Mirow
The Legality Principle and the Constitution of Cádiz

António Manuel Hespanha
The Pale Shade of Legality: The Resilience of Arbitrary Criminal Iudicia after the Era of Revolutions – the Portuguese case

Alejandro Agüero
Law and Criminal Justice in the Spanish Colonial Order: the Problematic Enforcement of the Legality Principle in the Early National Law in Argentina

Aniceto Masferrer
Principle of Legality and Codification in the Western Criminal Law Reform

Tatiana Borisova
Legislation as a Source of Law in Late Imperial Russia

Marju Luts-Sootak and Marin Sedman
Ambivalences of the Legality Principle in the Penal Law of the Baltic Provinces in the Russian Empire (1710–1917)

Kimmo Nuotio
Legality over Time: the Path of the Nullum Crimen Principle to a Fully Anchored Legal Principle in Finnish Penal Law

Markus D. Dubber
The Legality Principle in American and German Criminal Law: An Essay in Comparative Legal History

Michele Pifferi
Indetermined Sentence and the Nulla Poena Sine Lege Principle: Contrasting Views on Punishment in the U.S. and Europe between the 19th and the 20th Century



»Auf internationaler Ebene ist den Herausgebern und Autoren damit ein wichtiger Beitrag zur strafrechtshistorischen Grundlagenforschung gelungen.« Anja Amend-Traut, in: Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Germanistische Abteilung, Band 131/2014

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