Declaratory Theory of Common Law: Past and Present




declaratory theory of common law, judicial law making, judicial precedent, common law, temporal effect of judicial precedent, retrospectivity


The aim of the article is to analyze doctrinal views on the role of judges in lawmaking in common law systems – in terms of declaratory theory of common law, including the transformation of views on declaratory theory, clarify its current meaning and place in the doctrine and practice of common law.

The article provides the key provisions of the declaratory theory, criticism of supporters of law-making theory, as well as analysis of the views of opponents of the complete denial of the essence of this theory. Attention is paid to certain factors that contributed to the theory in the past - the role of customs and ideas of reason, justice in the history of the emergence and formation of common law. The connections of the given theories with different approaches to legal understanding are also shown.

The author explores the modern attitude towards the declaratory theory and the possible practical application of some of its constituent ideas. In particular, it is analyzed to which extent the activities of modern judges continue to be and is seen as an application of the existing law, rather than as the creation of a new one. In this regard, attention is paid to the role of the law principles in the justification of court decisions. In addition, the use of retrospectivity of common law has been traced, which is widely believed to be a legacy of this theory.

The article concludes that the statements about the attribution of declaratory theory to the past are categorical and exaggerated. Despite rejecting its key idea and acknowledging that the courts are in one way or another creating common law, it to some extent continues to retain its connection with the ideas of declaratory theory in a rethought form. This connection can be traced in the fact that the norms created by the courts are usually a moderate development of the current law, the specification of its principles, and thus have retrospectivity

Author Biography

Олексій Віталійович Пушняк, Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University

PhD in Law, Associate Professor, Associate Professor of Department of Theory and Philosophy of Law


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