Legal cases can be divided into three categories, corresponding to the way that law engages with the underlying claim of being-pained:
1. Cases in which the underlying pain is both legally cognizable and legally remediable;
2. Cases in which the underlying pain is not legally cognizable;
3. Cases in which the underlying pain is cognizable but whose remedy is preempted by an overriding legal interest;
(1), the most straightforward of the three, is the category of case that courts most commonly see. The majority of claims for relief are cognizable; and most remedies are uncontroversial as a matter of form, if not of substance. This does mean that the majority of legal claims are successful. It means only that most claims are comprehensible to law, and that their constitutive questions—has a legal violation occurred, and if so, how should it be rectified?—can be resolved by applying the usual tools of legal reason.
(2) and (3) are theoretically richer than (1), for the simple reason that they represent exceptional cases. Cases in category (2) are interesting because they exist at the margins of law’s purview and, therefore, demarcate the boundaries of law. Finding that a claim is not legally cognizable, the Court does not necessarily denigrate its underlying pain. The pain exists; it was felt. The question, however, is whether this pain, though undeniably alive and actual in the plaintiff’s life-world, is also alive and actual in the law. Cases of the category (2) are responsible for maintaining the interface between law and the larger social world. Many rulings in this category could therefore be called “procedural,” because they concern the elements necessary to bring a legal claim in the first place.
Cases from category (3) are interesting for the same overarching reason as cases from category (2)—both set the bounds of law vis-à-vis the larger social world—but categories (2) and (3) nevertheless operate differently. Where cases from category (2) determine if the law can countenance a plaintiff’s pain in the first place, cases from category (3) determine if a plaintiff’s pain can be relieved. For the purposes of category (3), the legal status of the pain in question is unambiguous; the pain can be cognized and parsed. The question, therefore, is what law can do about the pain, and the answer is that law is barred from issuing a remedy. This happens for a variety reasons, including including constitutional preemption (the suit is barred by a constitutional provision), and estoppel by immunity (the defendant or defendants are judgment-proof).