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The Three Tests Which Helps In  CreatingGoodJudgments The Three Tests Which Helps In CreatingGoodJudgments

Bronze medal Reporter Daniel Posted 13 Jun 2019
The Three Tests Which Helps In  CreatingGoodJudgments

The tradition of deciding cases on the faith of previous judicial pronouncement exists as an integral part of the judicial process, it will be necessary to struggle with concepts, like stare decisis and ratio decidendi as conceptional tools which are supposed to structure judicial responses to the demands of justice in concrete situations within the overall limits of legal reasoning contained in the earlier case law of compelling cogency.

Wambaughs’s Test: (Reversal test)

The inversion test propounded by Wambaugh is based on the assumption that the Ratio decidendi is a general rule without which a case must have been decided otherwise. Inversion test is in the form of a dialogue between him and his student. He gave following instructions for this;

(a)Frame carefully the supposed proposition of law

(b)Insert in the proposition a word reversing its meaning

(c)Inquire whether, if the court had conceived this new proposition to be good and had it in mind, the decision could be the same.

(d)If the answer is affirmative, the however excellent the Original proposition may be, the case is not a precedent for that proposition.

(e)But if the answer is negative, the case is a precedent for the original proposition and possibly for other proposition also.

Thus, when a case turns on one point the proposition or doctrine of the case, the reason for the decision, the ratio decidendi, must be a general rule without which the case must have been decided otherwise. A proposition of law which is not ratio decidendi under the above test must, according to Wambaugh, constitute a mere dictum.

However, Ruper Cross criticized the Inversion test on the ground that ‘the exhortation to frame carefully the supposed proposition of law and the restriction of the test to cases turning on only one point rob it of most of its value as a means of determining what was the ratio decidendi of a case, although it has its uses as a means of ascertaining what was not ratio. Thus, the merit of Wambaughs test is that it provides what may be an infallible means of ascertaining what is not ratio decidendi. It accords with the generally accepted view that a ruling can only be treated as Ratio if it supports the ultimate order of the court. So in reversal test, it is advocated that we should take the propositions of the law put forward by a judge, reverse or negate it, and then see if its reversal would alter the actual situation. If so, then the proposition is the ratio or part of it and if the reversal would make no difference then it is not ratio. According to the Wambaugh test, also known as the reversal test, the proposition of law put forward by the judge should be reversed or negated and if the reversal would alter the actual decision, that proposition is the ratio decidendi of the case.

Halsbury Test:

The concept of precedent has attained an important role in the administration of justice in modern times. The case before the court should be decided in accordance with the law and the doctrines. The mind of the court should be clearly reflected in the material in issue with regard to the facts of the case. The reason and spirit of the case make law and not the letter of a particular precedent. Halsbury explained the word ‘ratio decidendi’ as, it may be laid down as general rule that, that part alone of a decision by a court of law is binding upon courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction and inferior courts which consists of the enunciation of the reason or principle upon which the question before the court has really been determined. This underlying principle which forms the only authoritative element of a precedent is often termed as Ratio Decidendi.

In the famous case of Quinn v. Leathem, Lord Halsbury said that ‘ now, before discussing the case of Allen v. Flood and what was decided therein, there are two observations of general character which I wish to make, and one is to repeat what I have very often said before, that every judgement must be read as applicable to particular facts proved, or assumed to be proved, since the generality of the expression which may be found there are not intended to be expositions of the whole law, but governed and qualified by the particular facts of the case in which the expressions are to found. The other is that a case is only an authority for what it actually decides. I entirely deny that it can be quoted for a proposition that may seem to follow logically from it. Such a mode of reasoning assumes that the law is necessarily a logical code, whereas every lawyer must acknowledge that the law is not always logical at all. Thus according to Lord Halsbury, it is the choice of material facts that the court create law. In Halsbury’s Laws of England, it has been observed that ratio decidendi are the general reasons given for a decision or the general grounds upon which it is based, detached or abstracted from specific peculiarities of a particular case which gives the rise to a particular decision

Goodhart’s test: (Material Facts)

In 1929, Goodhart had argued that the ratio of the case must be in the reasons for the decision and there is no necessary connection between the ratio and the reasons. He laid down following guidelines for discovering the ratio dcidendi of the case:

1. Ratio decidendi must not be sought in the reasons of which the judge has passed the decision.

2. The reasons given by the judge are of peculiar importance, for they may furnish us with a guide for determining which facts he considered material and which immaterial.

3. A decision for which no reasons are given does not necessarily lack ratio, furthermore, the reasons offered by the court in reading a decision might be considered inadequate or incorrect, yet the courts ruling might be endorsed in later cases- a bad reason may often make good law. It is by his choice

4. Thus ratio decidendi is whatever facts the judge has determined to be the material facts of the case, plus the judge’s decision based on those facts of the material facts that the judge creates law. Goodhart test of the ratio is ratio decidendi = material facts + decision. Goodhart states that "It is by his choice of material facts that the judge creates law."

The Goodhart test involves taking into account facts treated as material by the judge who decided the case cited as precedent. The Goodhart’s theory is also known as Material fact theory. The ratio is to be determined by ascertaining the facts treated as material by the judges together with the decision on those facts. Advantages of the test are as follows; a. It is the only way of finding out the ratio when no judgement is given b. It stresses the point that a proposition of law is authoritative only to the extent it is relevant to the facts in issue in the case. c. It is valuable in pointing out that we cannot always rely on the judge’s reasoning in a case since this may be patently faulty. This is likely to happen where the judge supports his decision with arguments of policy and justice.

The only drawback of the test is that the test is not in actual use by the judges. In practice, the courts seem to be paying more attention to the judges own formulation of law than that permitted under the test. The difficulty arises when the court deals with the law without first finding the facts. They depart from the normal situation where the rule of law is enunciated and applied to the facts as found. In these cases, facts are assumed and in some, the actual facts do not fit into the law as enunciated.

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