St Catharine’s Fellow, Dr Liron Shmilovits (2018; Law), has been awarded the Yorke Prize for his doctoral thesis entitled ‘Deus ex Machina: Legal Fictions in Private Law’. The Yorke Prize is awarded annually by the Faculty of Law at the University of Cambridge for an essay of exceptional quality, which makes a substantial contribution to a field of legal knowledge.
The Yorke Prize was endowed in 1873 by Edmund Yorke, Scholar and Fellow of St Catharine’s College. Professor Sir John Baker (1970; Honorary Fellow, 2012) received the Yorke Prize in 1975.
Dr Shmilovits’s thesis is an evaluation of the controversial device known as a legal fiction. Simply put, a legal fiction is a false assumption that a court knowingly applies. Unprincipled, yet at times necessary and conducive to justice, legal fictions pervade our law. The project answers the following questions:
- What precisely is a legal fiction?
- Why does the law resort to blatant falsehoods?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of legal fictions?
- What are the alternatives?
- Which fictions should be abolished?
- When is it right to create a fiction?
Of most practical importance is the proposed ‘Acceptance Test’ for fictions. Presented as a flowchart, it is the culmination of the work. The thesis, which seeks to reform the treatment of legal fictions, is aimed at judges, legislators, policy-makers and scholars.