The notion of exception is used ubiquitously in legal debate, especially in times of crisis. Yet, the term has no meaning in and of itself. Rather, it can only be understood within the specific context within which it is being used as an illustration of the opposite. Although devoid of general meaning, the exception nevertheless fulfills three crucial functions within legal discourse, which will be illustrated by analyzing two case studies regarding the interpretation of the German Basic Law in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks when the German legislature reformed the Aviation Security Act. For one, the notion of exception can be purely descriptive: What is being described depends on the corresponding category to which the exception refers. The notion of exception can be factual in the sense that it illustrates the opposite to what is often labeled as normality, or normative in cases in which the exception refers to another legal provision. Secondly, the term has a legitimizing dimension, given that it can provide a justification for handling exceptional circumstances differently. Finally, it also serves reassuring purposes: it implies that situations described as exceptions are actually uncommon. In reality, these three functions often overlap. While differentiating between them might seem artificial at first glance, conceptual clarity is essential in order to avoid that the notion of exception is used so as to expand the boundaries of existing legal concepts and categories – an effect that can in particular be observed in times of crisis.
|Translated title of the contribution||The function and impact of ‘the exception’ on Law’|
|Number of pages||28|
|Journal||Archiv des oeffentlichen Rechts|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Oct 2015|