Emory Law Journal


Jonathan Turley


In this Article, Professor Turley explores the concept of social harm in the context of two recent cases in the United States and Canada over the criminalization of polygamy. The cases not only resulted in sharply divergent conclusions in striking down and upholding such laws respectively, but they offered strikingly different views of the concept of harm in the regulation of private consensual relations. Professor Turley draws comparisons with the debate over morality laws between figures like Lord Patrick Devlin and H.L.A. Hart in the last century. Professor Turley argues that the legal moralism of figures like Devlin have returned in a different form as a type of ¿compulsive liberalism¿ that seeks limitations on speech and consensual conduct to combat sexism and other social ills. The alternative, advocated in this Article, is the adoption of a Millian approach to harm that requires a more concrete form of injury or harm to justify individual choice. In what he calls the ¿Loadstone Rock¿ of constitutional analysis, the definition of harm continues to dictate the outcome of the conflict between individual choice and social mores.