Since my undergraduate studies at University College London, where my lecturer was Dr. (now Professor) Michael Freeman, I have been fascinated by the underlying concepts and philosophy of the law. My interest was further advanced during the LL.M. course at Haifa University, which was run by Professor Eli Salzberger, and I chose to present a thesis, in which I was greatly assisted by my mentor Dr. Doron Menashe.
For many years I have been dissatisfied with the use of Rights as the basis of legal (and social and political) relations. As a result, in my professional work, particularly as a Judge of the Family Court, I would frame relationships in terms of Duties, Obligations and Responsibilities. This was particularly the case in proceedings relating to children, where explaining to parents that it was their obligation to act together, despite any personal problems, in the interest of their child, helped to reach an agreed resolution in many cases.
I wanted to discover how Rights came to be so prevalent in legal discourse, in the western world and in a large number of international conventions, declarations and treaties, and wrote my thesis on the subject. I traced the history of the rights discourse, and the excellent elaboration of different types of legal relations by Wesley Newcomb Hohfeld, and came to the conclusion that legal relations, in all areas of law, can be described without recourse to the doctrine of Rights, hence the name of the thesis, “Hohfeld Without Rights”.
In my research it became clear that the Jewish legal system does not mention Rights at all. I have also collected reported judgments from many jurisdictions, and hope to identify why Rights analysis causes poor results, and encourages unnecessary litigation.
I propose to continue my research and writing in this area. I hope to demonstrate how the Rights analysis has damaged many areas of human life, particularly relating to children. I would like also to compare modern rights jurisprudence with other legal systems, with particular reference to ancient and traditional systems, such as those in the Orient.
In addition, the relatively new field of Political Hebraism, which demonstrates how many of the European philosophers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were familiar with Jewish sources, opens a different field of research: I hope to be able to discover how, if at all, the emergence and expansion of Rights discourse towards the end of the 18th century was based on what were perceived as principles from Jewish jurisprudence.