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Imago Decidendi

On the Common Law of Images

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Peter Goodrich

Taking as its exemplum the use of images in judicial decisions, this article argues that the ratio decidendi of legal precedent should be supplemented with the imago decidendi, the figure or depiction that motivates judgment. Drawing upon the history of legal humanism, and particularly the tradition of juristic emblems, it is argued that an adequate understanding of case law rules and decisions requires attention to the imagery that conceives and propels the reasoned deliberation that follows. To adequately apprehend the transmission of law in a digital age requires acknowledging that images think differently, that the ambulation of the eye in the image is very different to the linear glance of the text.