Stern on Legal Fictions and Legal Fabrication @ArsScripta

Simon Stern, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, has published Legal Fictions and Legal Fabrication at Fictional Discourse and the Law 191 (Hans Lind, ed., Routledge, 2020).

This chapter examines two of the most influential theories of legal fictions, suggesting that neither one explains the distinctive features that doctrines such as corporate personhood, coverture, and civil death have in common. The chapter first examines Henry Sumner Maine’s theory; although his account is often quoted, it has received comparatively little scholarly attention. Sumner offers a genealogical account: on his view a doctrine’s fictional status depends crucially on the doctrine’s source — and yet scholars who draw on his theory rarely pay any heed to this criterion. For Fuller, the fictional status of a doctrine depends on its falsity, and this requirement, too, accords poorly with the category of legal fictions, when we consider the examples that usually account for scholarly interest in the subject. I suggest that a better way of understanding legal fictions is to see them as achieving, in legal thought, what metafiction achieves in the literary realm. I close by developing some implications of this analogy.

Download the essay from SSRN at the link.