Proportionality in Lawmaking

An Attempt of Justification in the Light of a Constitutionalist and Argumentative Conception of Law
  • Gema MarcillaEmail author
Part of the Legisprudence Library book series (LEGIS, volume 5)


The judgment of proportionality—i.e. the weighing or balancing of two or more competing legal principles—is often said to be the core of legal reasoning. One of the premises underlying such a contention is that judges (should) adhere to a non-positivistic legal approach: when justifying their rulings, that is, they are certainly “bound by the Law”, but not as this is understood within legal positivism. A non-positivistic conception of law entails the claim that judges interpreting and applying legal norms do combine, in fact, legal and moral reasoning. On the other hand, constitutionalism , as a paradigm in law and jurisprudence, implies that a culture of justification extends to all public authorities, i.e. not only to the executive branch and the judiciary but also to legislatures. Thus, the sole fact that a parliament has been democratically elected is not enough to entirely satisfy its claim to legitimacy—in other words, winning elections cannot be the only basis of legislative authority. Against this backdrop, the focus of this chapter is to explore the possibility of broadening the principle of proportionality , as characterized by Robert Alexy, to legislative decisions. Additionally, and in connection with the non-positivistic legal approach just mentioned, the second part of the essay will highlight some misunderstandings about the study of lawmaking which one can find in the province of legal theory.


Alexy Proportionality Legal drafting Lawmaking Constitutionalism Post-positivism 



This contribution is part of the Research Project DER2017-82484-P (“Precedent and legal reasoning. A comprehensive vision of precedents in civil law systems”), directed by Marina Gascón and Leonor Moral, and supported by the Programa Estatal de Fomento de la Investigación de Excelencia of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN).


  1. Alexy R (2002) A theory of constitutional rights (trans: Julian Rivers). Oxford University Press, Oxford. See the original version from 1986: Theorie der Grundrechte, Frankfurt am Main: SuhrkampGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexy R (2014) Constitutional rights and proportionality. Revus: J Constitutional Theory Philos Law 22:51–65. At Scholar
  3. Alexy R (2015) Human dignity and proportionality analysis. Joaçaba (Edição Especial) 16(3):83–96Google Scholar
  4. Araszkiewicz M, Pleszka K (eds) (2016) Logic in the theory and practice of lawmaking. Springer, ChamGoogle Scholar
  5. Atienza M (1997) Contribución a una teoría de la legislación. Civitas, MadridGoogle Scholar
  6. Atienza M (2018) Legislation and argumentation: towards a model for the analysis of legislative reasoning. In: Oliver-Lalana AD (ed) Conceptions and misconceptions of legislation. Springer, Cham. (in this volume)Google Scholar
  7. Calvo García M (2018) Back to regulation. In: International conference on legisprudence - Zaragoza 22/24 February 2018 (Proceedings). Faculty of Law, ZaragozaGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell L (2008) Criminal justice and penal populism in Ireland: the clash between the judiciary and the legislature. Available at SSRN:
  9. Carnelutti F (1930) La crisi della legge. Rivista di diritto pubblico e della pubblica amministrazione in Italia 22:424–431. Available at Scholar
  10. Carnelutti F (1946) La crisi del Diritto. Jurisprudenza italiana 4:65–78Google Scholar
  11. Carnelutti F (1953) La morte del Diritto. In: Balladore Pallieri G (ed) La crisi del Diritto. Cedam, Padova, pp 172–190Google Scholar
  12. Díez-Ripollés JL (2017) El abuso del sistema penal. Revista electrónica de ciencia penal y criminología 19:1–24. Available on Scholar
  13. Ferrajoli L (2006) Diritto e Ragione. Teoria Del Garantismo Penale. Pref. Di N. Bobbio. Laterza, RomaGoogle Scholar
  14. Ferrajoli L (2013) Principia iuris. Teoria del diritto e della democrazia. 3 vols. Laterza, RomaGoogle Scholar
  15. Filangieri G (1780/1784) Scienza della legislazione (trans: Ribera J) as Ciencia de la legislación (1823). Madrid: Imprenta de Don Pedro Beaume. See Ciencia de la legislación (2012). Buenos Aires: EdiarGoogle Scholar
  16. Fuller L (1964) The morality of law. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  17. García-Amado JA (2000) Razón práctica y teoría de la legislación. Derechos y libertades: Revista del Instituto Bartolomé de las Casas 9:299–318Google Scholar
  18. García-Figueroa A (2017) The ubiquity of principles. Some critical remarks on Robert Alexy’s Exklusionstheorem. In: Borowski M, Paulson S, Sieckmann J-R (eds) Rechtsphilosophie und Grundrechtstheorie. Robert Alexys System. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, pp 523–557Google Scholar
  19. Hierro L (1996) El imperio de la ley y la crisis de la ley. Doxa. Cuadernos de Filosofía del Derecho 19:287–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hunt A (2012) From control orders to TPIMs: variations on a number of themes in British legal responses to terrorism. Crime Law Soc Change 19. Available at SSRN:
  21. Karpen U (1986) Zum gegenwärtigen Stand der Gesetzgebungslehre in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Zeitschrift für Gesetzgebung 1:5–32Google Scholar
  22. Karpen U (ed) (2008) Gesetzgebungslehre – neu evaluiert/Legistics – Freshly evaluated. Nomos, Baden-BadenGoogle Scholar
  23. Khan A (2006) The challenges of maximalist democracy. Global Dialogue. Available at SSRN:
  24. Laporta FJ (1994) El imperio de la ley. Reflexiones sobre un punto de partida de Elías Díaz. Doxa. Cuadernos de Filosofía del Derecho 15(16):133–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Maestro M (1976) Gaetano Filangieri and his science of legislation. Trans Am Philos Soc 66(6):1–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Marcilla G (2005) Racionalidad legislativa y crisis de la ley. La nueva ciencia de la legislación. CEPC, MadridGoogle Scholar
  27. Marcilla G (2010) Balancing as a guide to legislative reasoning. Legisprudence 4(1):93–104. Scholar
  28. Marcilla G (2018) Deontologismo y consecuencialismo en la ponderación de principios constitucionales. In: Ródenas A (ed) Repensando los derechos humanos. Palestra-Temis, Lima, pp 161–219Google Scholar
  29. Noll P (1973) Gesetzgebungslehre. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbeck bei HamburgGoogle Scholar
  30. Oliver-Lalana D (2018) Legislative deliberation and judicial review: between respect and disrespect for elected lawmakers. In: Oliver-Lalana AD (ed) Conceptions and misconceptions of legislation. Springer, Cham. (in this volume)Google Scholar
  31. Pratt J, Michelle M (2017) Penal populism: the end of reason. The Chinese University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research, 2017(2). Available at SSRN:
  32. Prieto L (1998) Ley, principios, derechos. Dykinson, MadridGoogle Scholar
  33. Prieto L (2013) El constitucionalismo de los derechos. Ensayos de filosofía jurídica. Trotta, MadridGoogle Scholar
  34. Ripert G (1949) Le déclin du Droit. LGDJ, ParisGoogle Scholar
  35. Sieckmann J-R (2018) Legislation as balancing. In: Oliver-Lalana AD (ed) Conceptions and misconceptions of legislation. Springer, Cham. (in this volume)Google Scholar
  36. Stelmach J, Brozek B (2006) Methods of legal reasoning. Springer, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  37. Turegano I (2018) Modelos de cosmopolitismo para Europa. In: Bengoetxea JR (ed) Nuevas Narrativas para Europa. ¿Qué Europa Reconstruir tras 60 años de los Tratados de Roma? Dykinson, Madrid, pp 57–72Google Scholar
  38. van Klink B (2018) Legislation, communication, and authority. How to account for the bindingness of law? In: Oliver-Lalana AD (ed) Conceptions and misconceptions of legislation. Springer, Cham. (in this volume)Google Scholar
  39. Weber M (1919) Politiks als Beruf. Dunker & Humblot, MünchenGoogle Scholar
  40. Wintgens L (2012) Legisprudence. Practical reason in legislation. Ashgate, AldershotGoogle Scholar
  41. Wroblewski J (1987) Law-making and hierarchies of values. Duncker & Humblot, LeipzigGoogle Scholar
  42. Zapatero V (1994) De la jurisprudencia a la legislación. Doxa. Cuadernos de Filosofía del Derecho 15/16:769–789Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad de Derecho, Campus de Albacete, Universidad de Castilla-La ManchaAlbaceteSpain

Personalised recommendations