On 10 June at 11 Liina Reisberg will defend her doctoral thesis “Semiotic model for the interpretation of undefined legal concepts and filling legal gaps”.
Prof. Raul Narits (University of Tartu)
Assoc. Prof. Ivo Pilving (Supreme Court of Estonia)
The aim of this an interdisciplinary approach was chosen to expand the outlook of legal theory: the integration of a semiotic model for the interpretation of undefined legal concepts and filling legal gaps into the methodology of law. Legal semiotics allows modelling legal processes from the perspective of meaning-making, which in turn facilitates answering fundamental questions of legal theory, e.g. identifying the meaning of a legal norm. Directivity and binarity are the two semiotic properties of the legal norm as a sign that determine the formation of meaning. These semiotic properties also play a role in the formation of meaning in a place of legal gap. The principles of binarism and directivity allow us to draw the following conclusions about the interpretation of law. Firstly, the methodological similarity of the interpretation of the norm and the gap is the most apparent in the case of undefined legal concepts. Secondly, the legal system as a cohesive modelling system has the ability to generate a suitable solution in place of a gap, as the sum total of the meanings of individual words is greater than the meaning of each word by itself and the entire legal code becomes activated. Mechanisms imparting meaning to the gap in the legal system as a whole can be divided into three types: the iconic, indexical, and symbolic sign relationship, known in jurisprudence as analogy, teleological interpretation, and value judgement. Thirdly, every legal concept, but also every legal gap in its context is, on one hand, a reflection of the legal system and on the other hand, a reflection of the society. The tension between the two – self-reference and external reference of law – , their binarism, is perceptible in the interpretation of undefined legal concepts in both Estonian and European case-law, proving that it is necessary to consider both sides.