Law is the study of a system of rules that governs how people behave. It covers a range of disciplines, from administrative law and criminal law to property law, civil rights law, and international law. Oxford Reference offers authoritative, accessible information on the most important legal terms and concepts across this broad discipline, from basic definitions to in-depth, specialist encyclopedia entries.
The “Right as Outcome” Model
The “right as outcome” model of right-holders’ rights is hospitable to those who are skeptical of the notion that law’s edicts can be fully determined without the incorporation of extra-legal reasons and considerations (see Leiter 2005: 50-53; MacCormick 1977: 189; Raz 1994: 255-259; Wellman 1995: 24-29). In such a context, however, an inadvertent violation of a legal right may still count as a legal reason justifying a remedial rule or duty grounded on the violation of other underlying rights or reasons.
According to this view, the only way that a violation of a legal right can be justified is if the violated right or its underlying reasons are able to project normative force. For example, a breach of the legal right to freedom of speech could be justified as a remedial rule grounded on an underlying duty to protect a person from wrongful retaliation or defamation by public officials who are not authorized to do so under the law.
This conception of legal validity largely derives from the tradition of legal positivism in general jurisprudence, though it is compatible with other jurisprudential traditions as well.
While this conception of legal validity is a strong basis for justification, it has to be understood that such justifications typically involve other legal norms–in this case, the “rule” or “law” of the particular case in which the legal right arises.
Moreover, such justifications often turn on how courts and legislatures recognize the legal right-holder’s right or rule. This is a crucial point to consider in any discussion of legal rights, since it suggests that, at times, the legal right-holder may be regarded as the “bottom line” in a case’s legal reasoning or justification.
In a similar vein, legal rights are sometimes described as “preemptory” in that they are preemptory in the sense that they block or exclude consideration of certain other reasons pertaining to whether or not to enact or enforce the right-holder’s claim, privilege, or power (Lyons 1982: 147-176; Jones 1994: 18-19; Hart 1982: 86-253; Griffin 2008: 76). This explains why such “naked” liberties or privileges qualify as “rights” in the Hohfeldian sense–even though they do not necessarily accompany any specific legal claims, powers, or immunities against interference with ph-ing.
Despite their defeasible character, however, legal rights can be problematic when in conflict with utilitarian ideals or, more generally, the common good. Such conflicts can also lead to a tension between legal rights and the law’s duty to respect and safeguard individual persons.