What Is A Legal Right?

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During the First World War, a young Yale law professor tried to unearth what judges meant when they were talking about legal rights. His conclusion was that legal rights were the benefits bequeathed upon one legal person against another by legal rules. The first party has the legal advantage, which is known as a right, while the other stands at a corresponding legal disadvantage. Two parties are always thus involved.

What Is A Legal Right?

Not everyone agrees with this opinion. The perspective can also get complicated. However, most law judges eventually refer to this opinion when dissecting legal rights. It’s worth noting that only a legal person has the capability of having a legal right. This is why legal personhood is our main focus.

The professor came up with 4 correlating pairs of benefits and disadvantages, which include legal rights of four kinds.

Liberties

A liberty allows one to do whatever they please, though they’ve no right to get respect for their liberty. This is a permission devoid of protection which correlates with the ‘no-right.’ This means that one doesn’t have a claim on what another person can or cannot do. The relationship between a ‘no-right’ and a liberty is illustrated by the analogy that though one is at liberty to look over their neighbor’s fence, they (the neighbor) isn’t obliged to stand there to be looked.

Claims

A claim stresses the need for respect, thus placing a correlating ‘duty’ upon a person to act, or not to act, in some manner towards the plaintiff. If two people sign a contract in which one party agrees to sell their house for an agreed sum and the other agrees to pay, then they have a claim for the house. The first party is obligated to give the other custody of the said property.

A ‘power’ affects the rights of the person who’s likely to be affected. The power to sue is arguably the most significant power which exists.

Immunities

Lastly, an ‘immunity’ legally discharges one person from being interfered with by a different party. Claims inform people what they aren’t allowed to do while immunities define what people are forbidden from doing by the law. One person can’t enslave another because this is prohibited. Immunities such as freedom from torture and enslavement are the most fundamental human rights. And it’s such legal rights that we argue that they also apply to some nonhuman animals.

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