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Peer Disagreement in Law

Villanueva Breulmann, Isabell

Schriften zur Rechtstheorie, Vol. 295


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About The Author

Isabell Villanueva studierte Rechtswissenschaften, Philosophie und Kunstgeschichte an der Universität Trier, der Universidad de Sevilla, der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster und der Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. Von 2013 bis 2018 promovierte sie als Elsa-Neumann- und Caroline von Humboldt-Stipendiatin bei Prof. Dr. Keil und Prof. Dr. Christoph Möllers zu »Peer Disagreement in Law« mit einem zweieinhalbjährigen Forschungsaufenthalt an der New York University und Columbia University in den USA unter der Betreuung von Paul Boghossian und Joseph Raz. Seit 2019 ist sie als Richterin in Berlin tätig. Isabell Villanueva studied law, philosophy and art history at the University of Trier, the Universidad de Sevilla, the Westfälische Wilhelms-University of Münster and the Humboldt University of Berlin. From 2013 to 2018 she did her PhD under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Keil and Prof. Christoph Möllers and worked on »Peer Disagreement in Law« with a two and a half year research stay at New York University and Columbia University sponsored by Paul Boghossian and Joseph Raz. She has been working as a judge in Berlin since 2019.


Philosophers have been puzzled for quite some time by the fact that intelligent and generally reasonable individuals who are equally well-informed and familiar with the same bodies of evidence still disagree with one another. Legal theorists wonder why this is puzzling for philosophers in the first place as disagreement is the very foundation of their work. This book, placed at the intersection of philosophical epistemology and jurisprudence, deals with the theoretical challenges that disagreements between judges create. The philosophical debate is applied to German and American legal disputes. How can such disagreements be integrated into the general philosophical debate on »peer disagreement« and into the legal theory of judicial decisionmaking? How should one deal with such disagreements under the existing legal framework but also in terms of legal policy?

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Acknowledgements 5
Contents 7
I. Introduction 11
1. Peer Disagreement in Law 13
2. Deep Disagreements 15
3. Chapter Summary 15
4. Limitations 16
II. Supreme Court: Hobby Lobby 17
1. The Battle for Universal Health Care 17
2. The Hobby Lobby Case 18
a) Oral Argument 19
b) The Decision 20
c) Summary of Decision Grounds 20
3. The Disagreements Involved in the Hobby Lobby Case 21
4. The Disagreements in Detail 23
a) Are Closely Held Corporations Persons under the RFRA? 23
b) Can Closely Held For-Profit Corporations Engage in Religious Exercise? 24
c) Does the Contraceptive Mandate Substantially Burden the Exercise of Religion? 25
d) Is the Mandate the Least Restrictive Means of Furthering a Compelling Governmental Interest? 27
e) What Are the Consequences of the Decision for Similar Cases? 28
5. Overview of the Sources of Disagreement 29
6. Analysis Disagreements 30
a) Closely Held Corporations as Persons Exercising Religion under the RFRA 30
b) Contraceptive Mandate as a Substantial Burden to the Exercise of Religion 34
c) Mandate as the Least Restrictive Means of Furthering Compelling Interest 37
d) Consequences of the Decision 40
7. The Contraception Mandate Debate: Deep Disagreements 41
III. Bundesverfassungsgericht: Incest 44
1. Incest and the Criminal Law 44
a) Occurrence of Incest 45
b) Contested Ban 45
2. The Incest Case 48
a) The decision 49
b) Summary of Decision Grounds 49
3. The Disagreements Involved in Incest 50
4. Disagreements in Detail 52
a) What Were the Legislature’s Objectives When Enacting the Statute? 52
b) Can These Objectives Justify a Criminal Provision? 54
c) Is the Provision an Adequate Means to Foster the Desired Objectives? 55
d) Do as Effective but Less Restrictive Means Exist? 57
e) Is § 173.2 Sentence 2 StGB Proportionate in the Narrower Sense? 58
5. Overview Sources of Disagreement 59
6. Analysis Disagreements 60
a) The Objectives of the Norm 60
b) Can these Objectives Justify a Criminal Norm? 63
c) Is the Norm an Adequate Means? 67
aa) Protection of the Family 67
bb) Right to Sexual Self-Determination 68
cc) Protection of Public Health 69
d) A Less Restrictive but as Effective Means 70
e) Proportionality in the Narrower Sense 71
7. The Incest Debate: Deep Disagreements 72
IV. Disagreeing Justices 74
1. Peer Disagreement and Disagreeing Justices 74
a) Justices as Epistemic Peers 74
aa) They Must Know the Evidence 75
bb) Experts in the Law 76
cc) Overall Conditions are the Same, or Similar Enough 76
dd) Conclusion 78
b) Peer Disagreement as Higher Order Evidence 78
c) Specifics of Legal Disagreement 79
d) Peer Disagreement in Law 81
aa) Disagreement Is Nothing New in Supreme Courts 82
bb) Disagreement Is No Permissible Evidence 82
cc) Reasons v. Votes 83
dd) Individual Judgment Plays a Greater Role 84
ee) Disagreement Is No Indication of a Performance Error 84
e) Summary 85
2. Ideology and Disagreeing Justices 86
a) Ideological Explanations 87
b) Can Ideology Alone Explain Disagreements Among Justices? 88
aa) Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court 89
bb) Incest at the Bundesverfassungsgericht 91
cc) General Argument 92
c) Summary 94
3. Conclusion 95
V. Dealing with Disagreement 97
1. Legal Practice 97
a) Institutional Role Model 97
b) How Should Disagreement Affect Justices? 98
aa) Reexamine 98
bb) Seeking New Evidence 100
cc) Identifying Common Ground 100
dd) Finding Clarity 101
c) Specific Constellations 102
d) Summary 102
2. Legal Policy 103
a) Status Quo 103
aa) Supreme Court 103
bb) Bundesverfassungsgericht 104
b) Room for Improvement 105
c) Reaching a Legitimate Decision 108
aa) Majority Decision 108
bb) Lottery 110
cc) Consensus 110
d) Summary 111
3. Legal Disagreement and Philosophy 111
a) What Should Justices Believe and What Should They Do? 112
b) The Majority Vote Is the Best Decision Mechanism Available 113
c) Two Kinds of Suspension 114
References 116
Index 125