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Jurisprudence Dissertation Topics

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Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 1:

The 'lone bomber': The use of utilitarian arguments to justify the State-sanctioned killing of one to save a nation.

Increasing concern over terrorism has led to questions as to when, if it any time, it is acceptable for a government to sanction the killing of a few to save the lives of thousands. In fact, Germany, though briefly, enacted legislation which allowed for the use of weapons against airplanes where the airplane was presumed to be about to be used against the lives of other human beings. While the law was quickly ruled unconstitutional, the question still remains whether there can ever be situations where the sanctioned killing of a single bomber, or the shooting down of a hijacked civilian filled plane, could be used to save the lives of thousands.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hornle, T, 'Shooting down a Hijacked Plane - The German Discussion and Beyond' [2009] 3(2) CLP 111
  • Bohlander, M, 'In Extremis - Hijacked Airplanes, 'Collateral Damage' and the Limits of Criminal Law' [2006] CLR 579
  • Stephens, D, 'Flying Under the Radar - The Use of Lethal Force against Hijacked Aircraft' [2007] 7(1) OUCLJ 265

Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 2:

An examination of whether the use of section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 against Twitter 'trolls' is an example of how societal morals shape law.

Recently, the Communications Act 2003 has been used to successfully prosecute those labelled as 'trolls' on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. However, originally the Communications Act could not have envisaged such use as Facebook as an entity was launched in 2004. Therefore, have societies morals shaped the way the Communications Act 2003 is used? Should legislation, originally intended to regulate a specific entity, be reshaped by societal morals? This dissertation looks first at the connection between morality and the law and then at how morals have shaped the use of subject specific legislation to cover wider areas of the law.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Edwards, L, 'Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003: Threat or Menace?' [2012] 23(4) SCL 134
  • Hart, H L A, 'Positivism and the Separation of Law and Morals' [1958] 71(4) HLR 593
  • Gillespie, A, 'Twitter, Jokes and the Law' [2012] 76(5) JCL 364

Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 3:

How the unwritten constitution provides greater access to human rights.

This dissertation looks at the correlation between greater access to human rights and the use of unwritten constitutions. Unwritten constitutions allow the continuing and fluid development of human rights to accommodate society's changing views on moral and ethical issues. This dissertation will contrast countries with written constitutions (such as the United States) with the UK's unwritten constitution and look at how the development of human rights has occurred. The constitutional right to bear arms, for example, has arguably resulted in the limitation of the human rights of the Columbine victims. Do the rigid constructs of written constitutions result in the limitations of others human rights?

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Beatson, J, 'Reforming an Unwritten Constitution' [2010] LQR 48
  • Hazell, R, 'The Continuing Dynamism of Constitutional Reform' [2007] 60(1) 3
  • Pek, J, 'Things Better Left Unwritten?: Constitutional Text and the Rule of Law' [2008] 83 NYULR 1979

Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 4:

The origins of law: An in-depth study of how Judeo-Christian, Roman and Islamic law shape modern legal philosophies.

This study looks at the way in which the Judeo-Christian, Roman and Islamic legal principles have shaped the law in the UK. Arguably much of UK law is based on Judeo-Christian and Roman legal principles; however, the legal principles of Islamic philosophers may, more so in modern times, shape the way law is created in the UK. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, famously suggested that aspects of Sharia law should be adopted in the British legal system. Moreover, with continuing cultural diversity, the imposition of Islamic legal philosophies becomes a more realistic prospect. This study will analyse the varying continued impacts of the three legal philosophies.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Taher, A, 'UK's First Official Sharia Courts' (Sunday Times, 14th September 2008)
  • Williams, R, 'Civil and Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective' [2008] 10(3) 268
  • Carter, J, Law, Its Origins, Growth and Function (Beard Books, 2000)

Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 5:

Greek law and order: How the great Grecian thinkers shaped modern law.

Greek philosophers, such as Sophocles, contemplated the origin of law, espousing the existence of 'law that in the highest heaven had their birth'. Such law was innate and not created by man but by the divine power of reason. As Cicero noted, such 'natural law' was 'the law which was never written... but which was drawn from Nature herself, in which we have never been instructed... but with which we are all imbued'. This dissertation looks at how the concepts of a higher law have created and moulded the modern common law legal system. While much of the British legal system is derived from Roman law did the Grecian philosophers mould the concept of law in any way?

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Luban, D, 'Some Greek Trials: Order and Justice in Homer, Hesiod, Aeschylus and Plato' [1987] 54 Tenn L Rev 279
  • Hamburger, M, Morals and Law: The Growth of Aristotle's Legal Theory (Biblo and Tannen, 1965)
  • Witte, J, 'From Homer to Hegel: Ideas of Law and Culture in the West' [1991] 89 MLR 1618

Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 6:

Natural law and the creation of a universal system of justice.

Natural law dictates that law is determined by nature and thus is a universal concept. Aristotle suggested while 'particular' laws were created and enforced by individuals the 'common' law was one which was created only by the single force of nature. Given this, using the concept of natural law, can and should a universal system of justice be created? In international public law the concept of jus cogens suggests that some laws are universal and should be protected by all. Can such a theory be extended to create a universal legal system?

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Charney, J, 'Universal International Law' [1993] 87(4) AJIL 529
  • Finnis, J, Natural Law and Natural Rights (2nd edn, 2011 OUP)
  • Paust, J, 'The Reality of Jus Cogens' [1991] 7 Conn JIL 81

Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 7:

Criminal law: The enforcement of moral thinking upon the wider public.

Is criminal law used to enforce a strict set of morals? This dissertation looks at the tendency of criminal law to enforce the morals of present day society. In ancient Greece homosexuality was openly explored. Accordingly, homosexual acts were not criminalised or repressed through law. However, when homosexuality was deemed to be amoral, laws were passed against participation in homosexual acts. Now, criminal law is used to criminalise those who with HIV/AIDS who have unprotected sex and those who participate in sado-masochistic relationships. Thus, with changing moral attitudes, such as the relatively modern concept of 'safe sex', come new interpretations and applications of the criminal law.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Weait, M, 'Criminal Law and the Sexual Transmission of HIV: R v Dica' [2005] 68(1) MLR 121
  • Dworkin, R, 'Lord Devlin and the Enforcement of Morals' [1966] 75(6) YLJ 986
  • Andenaes, J, 'The Moral or Educative Influence of Criminal Law' [1971] 27(2) JSI 17

Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 8:

Gay marriage, equal pay and the increasing number of female politicians: A move towards feminist legal theory?

In recent years the number of female politicians has risen, with more and more women becoming actively involved in government. Has this increase in female voices resulted in a more 'feminist legal' approach towards law making, one which recognises the rights of females and minorities? This dissertation looks at whether the increased number of women in politics has resulted in more progressive law making, such as the Equality Act 2010, which furthered the rights of women and minorities more than any other piece of legislation. Moreover, the possible introduction of gay marriage is yet another sign that over a relatively short period Parliament has become significantly more liberal.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Craig, E, 'Converging Feminist and Queer Legal Theories: Family Feuds and Family Ties' [2010] 28 WYAJ 1
  • Atchison, A and Down, I, 'Women Cabinet Ministers and Female-Friendly Social Policy' [2009] 1(2) PPP 1
  • Kittilson, M, 'Women, Parties, and Platforms in Post-Industrial Democracies' [2011] 17(1) PP 66

Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 9:

A critical study of feminist judging.

This dissertation looks at the core works of 'feminist' judging and aims to determine whether such judging produces more favourable judgments. Feminist judging inherently requires that the judge view the case in an unbiased manner, but specifically viewing all the issues from a feminist perspective. Can such a biased viewpoint produce more fair and coherent results or is it prone to unfair and unjust results? While many suggest that feminist judging usually only changes the manner in which the same decision is found, some results are vastly different. Do such varying judgments aid or hinder the justice system and to what extent does it matter how a judge gets to the judgement?

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hunter, C and Fitzpatrick, B, 'Feminist Judging and Legal Theory' [2012] 46(3) TLT 255
  • Hunter, R, McGlynn, C and Rackley, E, Feminist Judgements: From Theory to Practice (OUP 2010)
  • Davies, M, 'The Law Becomes Us: Rediscovering Judgement' [2012] 20(2) FLS 167

Example jurisprudence dissertation topic 10:

Evidence of mercy in justice in British prisons.

Justice is meted out in prison for offences committed within its walls, not only by representatives of the law but by the prisoners themselves. This dissertation examines the application of mercy by prisoners for transgressions committed against them by other prisoners. It considers the degree to which prisoners may demonstrate mercy to each other, for example in the case of minor theft, or assault, and the degree to which prisoners will undertake their own measures of justice against those whom they deem insufficiently punished, such as the rapists of children. It evaluates whether the justice that is exercised by prisoners is a 'truer' form of justice than that within courts, and whether the law can learn from what some may claim is little more than favouritism and savagery.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bottoms, A E, 'Interpersonal Violence and Social Order in Prisons' [1999]. 26 Crime & Just, 205
  • Cooke, D J, 'Violence in Prisons: The Influence of Regime Factors' [1991]. 30(2) Howard J Crim J 95
  • Liebling, A and Arnold, H, 'Social Relationships between Prisoners in a Maximum Security Prison: Violence, Faith, and the Declining Nature of Trust' [2012] 40(5) J Crim J 413

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