New LIVE Course: Learn the Practical Nuances of IPR Drafting by Adv. Gautam Matani. Register Now!
LCI Learning

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More


A person cannot create or analyze anything without the interpretation. He must have a minimum knowledge of what he is about to create or analyze before coming to the conclusion. An interpretation can also be made by a single reading of a text or literature. Therefore, Dworkin uses literary interpretation as a model for the central method of legal analysis. His legal analysis talks about how a judicial decision is made when it comes to the hard case. The distinction between hard cases and easy cases is a well-known work under the interpretation that is said by Dworkin. When it comes to the easy cases they are decided by the judges on the intuitive level and merely require judges to convince on their decision. But in hard cases, this does not happen as there is an important question of law involved in it. Here, in this paper, I will analyze Dworkin’s work on hard cases and also focus on what are the challenges that are posed by the hard cases. I will also try to focus on the role of the judicial body as it becomes very important when it comes to hard cases and how they are to be interpreted?

Dworkin and Hart, Where They Differ?

HLA Hart first talked about hard cases and easy cases. According to him, the judge’s role is to apply legal rules, but when it comes to the hard cases they must act as a de facto legislator and can fill the gaps between the laws by interpreting the existing policy and laws. Hart also focuses on the discretion of the judges In deciding the hard cases. But according to Dworkin, the judges must act in a legislative capacity. The judges should decide the hard cases by taking into account of the principle that justifies those legal rules. The principles on which the legal rule has been made must be looked before deciding on the hard cases. How the judges interpret that principle and use it to decide the hard is what we will try to look at.

Decision Influenced by Political Theory-

Each and every judges theory of interpretation is different from each other. In order to decide the hard cases, the judges often bring their past experiences forward to come into judgement, in that case, the substantive political theory will play an important role. We can say judges develop a particular approach in deciding the cases when they had to interpret it is often influenced by their political theory which is sensitive or in regard to that particular issue, they call this as their legal philosophy. Any interpretation of the judges will be the consequence of their beliefs and which will be different for each judge. This type of interpretation by the judges I very common, if they don’t have any political theory with regard to any context or situation, then they will decide on the basis of the conventional morality and responsibility that a person would perform.

How to Decide Hard Cases?

 When we talk about easy cases, it is mostly decided by the judge’s assessment of the factual situation of the case and its legal context. But when it comes to the hard cases, it gets very difficult to decide with regard to its legal context, Dworkin defines hard cases as ‘no settled rule dictates a decision either way’. The judge’s intuitive judgement is very important and a hard case occurs when this intuitive judgement is unsettled. In this case a judge I order to settle the dispute had to modify the original assessment of the case or modifying the understanding of the legal rule ad statues. “Dialectical equilibrium is not a unidirectional process”, means that the modifying of the assessment to decide a case can lead to modification of overriding principles which should not happen while deciding hard cases. The modification should happen in such a way so that without modification of these principles the issue should be solved.

It is very common in the hard cases to decide the unsettled nature of the case the judge needs to go beyond the immediate context of the case. Here we can use the Rawls theory on narrow and wide versions of equilibrium in the context of ethical and political reasoning.

When we apply this narrow and wide equilibrium versions in hard cases, a narrow equilibrium focuses on reconciling judgements about any given case with explanatory standards, whereas wide equilibrium takes into account overarching normative theories. If we try to understand this distinction in simpler terms, a narrow equilibrium focuses on judgements, rules and mid-level explanatory principles, therefore it is restricted to these judgements and rules. But when it comes to the wide equilibrium, it cannot be much wide, it needs to limit itself in practical terms with regards to a certain set of principles and frameworks.

A narrow equilibrium is achieved when there is a link between the judge’s assessment and the existing legal standards. But it is often difficult to achieve this as in hard cases there is a question of fundamental difficulties. Therefore it becomes essential to switch towards the wider form of equilibrium. This broader reflection helps to come to an equilibrium in hard cases. Therefore the judges would start will the narrow interpretation of the cases and if it cannot be decided then they should come to the wide interpretation in order to produce an outcome.


Hard cases and easy cases as discussed above are two very different scenarios’s in the deciding the judgement of the case. The judicial role is the most important thing in deciding any case. When it comes to the hard cases, the role of judicial boy is more crucial as it is ultimately the judge who has to decide of the disputed matter. Here, the intuitive judgement of the judges with regard to any specific matter is the starting point upon which further decision of the judgement is dependent. To decide on any unsettled dispute the judge must interpret the relevant sections or provisions on the basic of the principles on which they were made. To decide this the judges may interpret beyond the written text. But they should not go too far, and start with a narrow interpretation, if there is a question of more important fundamental nature then they may go to a wider interpretation in order to come to a conclusion. How much we say about the interpretation but the ultimate power of the interpretation is with the judges and it’s their way that how they want to interpret it.

"Loved reading this piece by Abhinav das?
Join LAWyersClubIndia's network for daily News Updates, Judgment Summaries, Articles, Forum Threads, Online Law Courses, and MUCH MORE!!"

Tags :

Category Others, Other Articles by - Abhinav das