Love is Like A Law Degree

In trying to work my way through the Priestly Eleven, I collected some of the most profound ways studying the law shaped my interpretation of love.


Actus Novus Interveniens - Torts


Actus Novus Interveniens, or intervening acts, refer to the occurrence of an event which breaks the connection between the action of the defendant and harm suffered by a victim. The presence of an intervening act will diminish, if not remove entirely, the blame from the defendant. In reality (or more accurately, exams), they seem to pop up whenever the victim does something very unreasonable, a third party becomes involved or a natural disaster occurs. They are most analogous to almost relationships or “situationships". The kinds you can graze with your fingertips but never quite grasp. Often in these kinds of relationships, extraneous forces are blamed for the fact they never made it, like crazy exes or long distance. However, can we really say that there is such a thing as intervening acts? In a relationship there are two people. And if those two people want to be together, they will. There is no mystical force keeping them apart. It is that simple.


Persona Designata - Constitutional Law


The principle of persona designata is frankly (and honestly) the only part of constitutional law I remember. It provides that subject to a couple exceptions, a Judge with Federal Jurisdiction can only be appointed another role incompatible with their exercise of Judicial Power, so long as this is in their personal, rather than professional, capacity. At the time, I struggled to comprehend this concept because I could not understand how you could possibly split a person in two. That was until I realised that I do this all the time when I justify problematic behaviour from the people I care most about.


When I was studying constitutional law, I was infatuated with a boy who used to sneak me into his parents house and refused to see me before twilight. I ignored the colony of red flags because I really liked him, and he often talked about our future and the things we would eventually do together. However, as much as I wanted to be blissfully ignorant, I know now that I cannot disassociate a person’s bad traits because I really like the good. I cannot, and will no longer, split a person in two.


Irreconcilable Differences - Family Law


In Australian family law, irreconcilable differences refer to a no-fault reason for divorce. This means no culpability is attached to the breakdown of the marriage. In a way, I think the idea of irreconcilable differences is kind of beautiful, because sometimes down to the bone marrow, two people are simply and wholly incompatible. And no matter how hard you’d like it to be otherwise, this incompatibility cannot be overcome. In the way some puzzle pieces simply do not fit together, no matter how hard you try, some people are just not meant to be. And that’s okay.


Settlement versus Negotiation - Civil Procedure


In civil procedure, there is significant emphasis on the just, efficient, timely and cost-effective resolution of the real issues between parties in dispute. You can find it right there in Section 7 of the Civil Procedure Act 2010 (Vic). The rationale is that many disputes could actually be resolved through alternative dispute resolution avenues, like negotiation, without the aid of the courtroom. However, contrary to the principles underpinning civil litigation, when it comes to relationships, it is never worth settling. To settle for someone when you know in your stomach it just isn’t right, is not only an injustice to you, but an injustice to them who would miss out on finding their person.


There is a distinction between ultimately settling for a person, and negotiating, or giving them a chance. It is important not to immediately rule a person out just because they don’t meet the “type” you normally go for (cough six-foot-something basketball players cough). If after a couple of dates there is no spark, you can confidently say you’ve given it a chance before going back to the courtroom (Here the court is most likely Hinge or the local Squire).


Breach of Confidence - Equity


The Breach of Confidence doctrine aims to protect a person’s claim to confidentiality by preventing the unauthorised use of confidential information. This same claim to confidentiality should arise in relationships. In fact, the courts have actually addressed breach of confidence in cases likeGiller v Procepets 2004which involved the defendant sharing intimate videos of the plaintiff after they broke-up. Whether it be through sharing intimate photos and videos, or by divulging some of our most vulnerable desires, tragedies and experiences, we place a lot of trust in our partners. We should be able to do this with the knowledge that what we share is treated as confidential and never used against us, regardless of how the relationship ends.


Merits Review - Administrative Law


Administrative law allows review of decisions made by the government (and their agencies) in two ways:

  • (1) through judicial review which looks at the procedure and process in which the decision was actually made;

  • (2) by reviewing the merits of the case, looking at the facts and circumstances which surround the decision.

For the most part, these are two separate inquiries. The first is really looking at how and the second why. Yet sometimes, the merits tend to seep their way into the consideration of the procedure - like if you are looking at whether a decision was unreasonably made - you might be looking at the procedure but need to inform yourself on the merits of the case. I myself know I can be hard on the people I am dating sometimes. I put them on a pedestal and can hold them to an incredibly high standard - when they inevitably fail to meet it - I bail. It is only in the last year I’ve started to realise that I can’t rely on this process - I need to look at the person I could be missing out on - and why things aren’t what I think they should be - because we are only people. When it comes to love, you need to look out for yourself (procedure) while giving good things a chance to be good (merits).


Egg Shell Skull Rule - Criminal Law


Well established in the common law, the ‘egg shell skull’ rule, in simple terms, means that you take your victim as you find them. The idea is that, if you cause injury to another person, you are liable for all consequences to that person regardless of their severity. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t intend to cause that extent of injury to the person - or that what shatters one person’s skull (as if it were an eggshell) would barely bruise another. When it comes to dating, virtually everyone has history from their past relationships, “situationships” and experiences in today’s social-media-manic world. We all have our doubts, insecurities and concerns about opening ourselves up to be vulnerable. Hurting and harming are two things that are inevitable in this world, so it is important to be kind, and understand. If we don’t give people, or dating, a chance - aren’t we just going to hurt ourselves for missing out on something that could be great?




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