The Speluncean Explorers
is the story of a ficticious
legal case, written by Lon Fuller
and first published in the Harvard Law Review
in 1949. The article describes relevant details of the case and gives five Supreme Court
opinions which illustrate various principles of jurisprudence
. The case has spawned many articles and books, and appears to be commonly used in Introduction to Law
The case itself concerns the disposition of five spelunkers who, in 4299, are trapped in a cave. Their rescue takes several weeks and costs five rescuers' lives; midway through the rescue effort, they are able to communicate with the outside world and are advised that according to then-current estimates, they will starve before being extricated. They ask if they can avoid this fate by killing and eating one of the party members and are told that this is possible. Four of the explorers kill and eat the fifth, and survive to be rescued. Unfortunately (for them, and for beginning law school students since 1949), they are tried for murder under a simplistic law, stated as:
Whoever shall willfully take the life of another shall be punished by death.
They are found guilty
at trial, and the question now before the Supreme Court justice
s is whether to affirm or reverse the decision.