Questions with Sample Answer Chapter 1: Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning 1 Question with Sample Answer

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Appendix I:

Sample Answers for End-of-Chapter

Questions with Sample Answer
Chapter 1: Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning

1–2. Question with Sample Answer
After World War II, which ended in 1945, an international tribunal of judges convened at Nuremberg,Germany.The judges convicted several Nazis of “crimes against humanity.”Assuming that the Nazi war criminals who were convicted had not disobeyed any law of their country and had merely been following their government’s (Hitler’s) orders, what law had they violated? Explain.

Sample Answer:
At the time of the Nuremberg trials, “crimes against humanity” were new international crimes. The laws criminalized such acts as murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation,and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population.These international laws derived their legitimacy from “natural law.”Natural law,which is the oldest and one of the most significant schools of jurisprudence, holds that governments and legal systems should reflect the moral and ethical ideals that are inherent in human nature. Because natural law is universal and discoverable by reason, its adherents believe that all other law is derived from natural law. Natural law therefore supersedes laws created by humans (national, or “positive,” law), and in a conflict between the two, national or positive law loses its legitimacy. The Nuremberg defendants asserted that they had been acting in accordance with German law.The judges dismissed these claims, reasoning that the defendants’ acts were commonly regarded as crimes and that the accused must have known that the acts would be considered criminal. The judges clearly believed the tenets of natural law and expected that the defendants, too, should have been able to realize that their acts ran afoul of it. The fact that the “positivist law” of Germany at the time required them to commit these acts is irrelevant. Under natural law theory, the international court was justified in finding the defendants guilty of crimes against humanity.

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