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Legal effect

See also the discussion of legal effect in our Research Study on Text-driven Law.

Working definition

  1. The consequence of a legally relevant fact, which consequence is attributed by positive law, and consists of a change in the legal status of a legal subject, including a change in their legal powers, their rights or obligations: 

    • this can entail e.g. the attribution of a right, the voiding of an obligation, or the qualification of some state or behaviour as either lawful or unlawful;  
    • the attribution of legal effect is brought about by a legal norm that consists of a set of legal conditions (Tatbestand) that attribute the legal effect if the conditions are fulfilled; 
    • the attribution is neither caused nor logically inferred; it is performative in the sense of speech act theory; 
    • for instance, fulfilling the conditions that constitute a criminaloffence have the legal effect of being punishable, not of being punished (which is another matter);  
  2. The set of legal conditions (Tatbestand) that result in a legal effect are specified in positive law, more precisely in a source of law: legislation, case law, customary law, or fundamental principles 
  3. As positive law depends on the relevant jurisdiction, legal effect in turn differs per jurisdiction, even if some legal effects may apply in many jurisdictions 

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This page was last updated on 16 March 2023.