Ignorance of the law

“Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” according to one legal maxim.  And yet, in order for people to obey the law, there must be a “presumption of knowledge of the law.”  Today, though, we not only have laws passed by legislatures, we have regulations passed by bureaucrats.  These have the force of law, and if you violate them, you can go to prison.  But whereas traditional laws have a connection to a moral principle–and so are knowable and understandable to the conscience–regulations simply promote a governmental goal.  And there are so many of them that is almost impossible to know them all.

So says Michael Anthony Cottone in “Rethinking Presumed Knowledge of the Law in a Regulatory Age,” in the Tennessee Law Review.  George Will reviews the article after the jump. [Read more…]