The Case of the Speluncean Explorers by Lon Fuller first appeared in the Harvard Law Review in 1949. It has since become the most famous fictitious legal case in the US and is used widely by law schools. The case revolves around an episode in the year 4,300. A band of explorers become trapped in a cave and are forced to cannibalize a member of their team. When they are rescued, five Supreme Court judges provide opinions on what should be done with them. Peter Suber has added nine new opinions along feminist, communitarian, economic, constructionist, postmodern theories of law. The complete Fuller article is included in the beginning of the book.
Why read this book? One reason is to get beyond sloganeering about "judicial activism" and "activist judges". The book is an enjoyable and even-handed way to understand what the debate is about. It doesn't tell you what to think, but illustrates the contending positions and lets you think for yourself. It will show you how judges with different moral and political beliefs interpret written law, how they use precedents, how they conceive the proper role of judges, how they conceive the relationship between law and morality, and how they defend their judicial practices against criticism. It anchors all of this in a Supreme Court hearing of a gripping, concrete case on which real people disagree. (Challenge: Take any view of how judges should interpret law, especially any view that makes it sound easy, and try it out on this case. How well can it respect the facts and law? How well can it answer the objections from judges who take other views? How well does it deliver justice?) The book uses no jargon and assumes no prior knowledge of law or legal philosophy.