The Role of the Jurist: Reflections around Radbruch


  • Roger Cotterrell

    1. Queen Mary, University of London, Department of Law, London, UK
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    • I am grateful to Stanley L. Paulson for many insightful comments on an earlier version of this article, and also to Zenon Bańkowski, Emilios Christodoulidis, Sean Coyle, Maks Del Mar, Nicky Priaulx and Jirí Pribán for helpful discussion.


Many different kinds of professionals work with law, but often they seek to use law for particular governmental or private purposes, they focus on some specific areas or aspects of its creation, interpretation or application, or they study it for its interest judged by criteria that are given by fields of scholarly practice outside it. Is there a special significance for a role exclusively concerned with analysing, protecting and enhancing the general well-being or worth of law as a practical idea? This article argues that such a role is important. Building on Gustav Radbruch's juristic thought, it asks how that role could be elaborated and how a professional responsibility for discharging it might be envisaged. Many professionals concerned with law adopt such a role incidentally or intermittently, but it needs more prominence and clear demarcation. The article suggests that it might be seen as the specialised role of the jurist, treated as a particular kind of legal professional. The term “jurist” would then have not just an honorific connotation. It would indicate a Weberian “pure” type that may approximate some current understandings of “juristic” practice; but it would also identify a normative ideal—something intrinsically valuable. Seen in this way, the jurist is one who assumes a certain unique responsibility for law.