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The Decline of Natural Law – How American Lawyers Once Used Natural Law and Why They Stopped - Oxford Scholarship Online
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The Decline of Natural Law: How American Lawyers Once Used Natural Law and Why They Stopped

Stuart Banner


Before the late 19th century, natural law played an important role in the American legal system. Lawyers routinely used it in their arguments, and judges often relied upon it in their opinions. Today, by contrast, natural law plays virtually no role in the legal system. When natural law was part of a lawyer’s toolkit, lawyers thought of judges as finders of the law, but when natural law dropped out of the legal system, lawyers began thinking of judges as makers of the law instead. The Decline of Natural Law explores the causes and consequences of this change. It discusses the ways in which law ... More

Keywords: natural law, legal history, jurisprudence, legal thought, common law, constitutional law, constitutional history, lawyers, judges

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2021 Print ISBN-13: 9780197556498
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2021 DOI:10.1093/oso/9780197556498.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Stuart Banner, author
Norman Abrams Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA Law

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