Secret Law Revisited

Ratio Juris 32 (4):473-486 (2019)
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What follows is an attempt to do some conceptual housekeeping around the notion of secret law as provided by Christopher Kutz (2013). First I consider low-salience (or merely obscure) law, suggesting that it fails to capture the legal and moral facts that are at stake in the case which Kutz used to motivate it. Then I outline a theoretical contrast between mere obscurity and secrecy, in contrast to the 'neutral' account of secrecy provided by Sissela Bok (1989). The upshot of the two sections is that low-salience law is neither secret law nor necessarily problematic, though it closely resembles a kind of law that is both secret and problematic: namely, those legal obscurities that subvert manifest interests related to the informational needs of citizens. The ensuing argument undermines the fiction of constructive presence found in Austin and Blackstone.

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