Not-So-Easy Cases

Jonathan Crowe

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentationResearch


The distinction between easy and hard cases in judicial decision-making is well known from the work of Ronald Dworkin. Dworkin focuses primarily on the challenges posed by hard cases. Easy cases, by contrast, remain relatively under-theorised. This paper begins by exploring how judges decide easy cases by relying on holistic intuitive judgments. I then build on Dworkin’s analysis by introducing a third category of cases, which I call not-so-easy cases. I argue that easy, not-so-easy and hard cases are distinguished by the extent to which the judge’s intuitive judgments about the factual and legal context for the case yield a clear and determinate outcome. Easy cases are fully resolved at an intuitive level and merely require judges to articulate their decisions; not-so-easy cases are tentatively resolved at an intuitive level but require judges to explain their decisions; and hard cases are unresolved at an intuitive level and require judges to justify their decisions. I offer an account of the decision procedures involved in each type of case. I further contend that most cases heard by appellate courts are not-so-easy cases. This suggests that the primary task of such courts is explanation (rather than justification, as Dworkin proposes).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventHart Seminar Series, Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy - University of Surrey, Guildford, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 May 20189 May 2018


SeminarHart Seminar Series, Surrey Centre for Law and Philosophy
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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