Reasoning by precedent in terms of balancing

Available in Russian

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Author: Sergei Manzhosov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2019-6-61-85

Keywords: balancing; precedent; proportionality; rational discourse; stare decisis; weighing


The methodology of decision-making in complicated cases has become a kind of “Holy Grail” for legal science, in search of which remarkable efforts were made by many generations of scholars. The main expectant for the role of the sought-for method to be used in contemporary constitutional and international adjudication is the doctrine of proportionality that assumes the balancing of principles as an ultima ratio of legal justification. In light of such claims, it is interesting to examine the role of the doctrine of precedent. According to this doctrine in its horizontal aspect, the court should be bound by its own legal positions. This “typically English” legal idea is firmly established in common law countries and is usually considered in isolation from the “typically German” idea of proportionality, and the connection between them is difficult to assume due to the difference in their sociocultural origins. In addition, the doctrine itself does not seem clear enough to continental lawyers. However, this article provides a more optimistic view of the nature and role of case law. A study of the theory of judicial precedent shows that foreign jurisprudence in recent decades has managed to achieve a deeper understanding of the methodology for following a precedent: the variety of methods for identifying a precedential norm can be reduced to several basic models. Based on the theory of proportionality developed in the works of R. Alexy and other scholars, the author also explores various models of balancing in detail, noting their imperfections and thereby tracing the internal logic of the theory, which leads to the need for the formation of and the courts’ adherence to its own case law. Thus, one of the most important theses of the article is that the premises for the theoretical and methodological synthesis of the doctrine of precedent and the doctrine of proportionality are contained within these doctrines themselves. Throughout the study, the author also turns to the concepts and methods of economics, ethics, and logic, and by doing that emphasizes that a deeper comprehension of the general methodology for both precedent-following and balancing of principles requires a wider range of research toolkit than the one available to Russian legal science.

About the author: Sergei Manzhosov – Part-time Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Citation: Manzhosov S. (2019) Sledovanie pretsedentu v usloviyakh balansirovaniya [Reasoning by precedent in terms of balancing]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 61–85. (In Russian).


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