legal theory



Suitable for courts to hear and decide on the merits. If a case is not justiciable, the court must dismiss it.

The justiciability doctrines limit federal judicial power and include rules that the Supreme Court has crafted to...

Law and economics

A school of thought advocating economic analysis of the law. Examples include comparing the costs and benefits of alternative legal rules, searching for economic efficiency for individuals or society as a whole, and promoting new ideas such as...

legal cause

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryA cause that produces a direct effect, and without which the effect would not have occurred. (See also: direct and proximate cause)

Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.

legal fiction

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryA presumption of fact assumed by a court for convenience, consistency, or to achieve justice.

Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.

Legal formalism

A theory that legal rules stand separate from other social and political institutions. According to this theory, once lawmakers produce rules, judges apply them to the facts of a case without regard to social interests and public policy. In this...

Legal realism

A theory that all law derives from prevailing social interests and public policy. According to this theory, judges consider not only abstract rules, but also social interests and public policy when deciding a case. In this respect, legal realism...

Malice Aforethought

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryThe state of mind necessary to prove first-degree murder. The prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to cause death or great bodily harm, or exhibited extreme and reckless indifference to the...

Mistake of Fact


Any mistaken belief other than a mistake of law. Examples include erroneous beliefs about the meaning of some term or about the identity of some person.

In criminal law, a mistake of fact can usually operate as a defense so long as it is...

Moral Law

Principles describing conduct that is right and wrong. Moral law is distinguished from positive law, which is the set of rules actually enacted by society and enforced by its courts and the police.

See Natural law and Positive law.

Natural law

1. The physical laws of nature.

2. A philosophical theory claiming to derive moral and legal principles from a set of universal truths about people and justice.

See Positive law and Moral law.