Hohfeldian Relations Across Normative Kinds


Law is a set of rules that are created by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. These laws are enforceable through the courts and legislatures, sometimes also by private individuals in legally binding contracts.

Law has two distinct parts: substantive and procedural. Substantive norms regulate the conduct of individuals, their obligations and expectations; the measure of damages in cases of breach and how to resolve conflicts. Procedural norms control how certain other norms (such as a judge’s duty to impose remedial measures) can be created, framed, and applied in the case of the right-holder.

Hohfeldian Relations Across Normative Kinds

One of the most striking features of legal rights is their combination of a claim-right and a correlative duty. In some systems, the claim-right correlates with a vested duty; in others, the claim-right vests only under certain factual conditions.

Hence, at times, the claim-right and the duty correlating to it are not the same thing, but are essentially different (Raz 1970: 226-227; MacCormick 1982: 163-4). For example, a law granting children of decedents a property right in the estate may grant a correlative duty against the executor that vests only once all debts and existing claims are satisfied.

Nonetheless, rights frequently embody an interwoven set of reasons for and against certain legal holdings or rules. They function as legal justification for such holdings and rule in favor of a given position or policy, even though these positions and policies may be grounded in reasons that go beyond the claim-right.

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