Proposal for Clarification of "Should" Statements as Mandatory in Kleros Policy Documents

I am proposing a modification regarding the interpretation of the term “should” in Kleros policies, specifying that “should” statements are to be treated as mandatory unless explicitly specified otherwise. Currently, the usage of “should” has led to issues and uncertainties, particularly when its mandatory or optional nature is not explicitly defined.

Many court policies, such as the Token Curated List Policies and the Proof of Humanity Registry Policy, extensively employ the term “should.” For instance, in the one-page Token Curated List Policies,[1] “should” appears 14 times, and in the Proof of Humanity Registry Policy,[2] it appears 9 times. Importantly, in most of these documents, “should” signifies a requirement rather than a mere recommendation. To illustrate, consider a section in the Proof of Humanity Registry Policy that previously stated, “The picture should include the face of the submitter facing the camera, and the facial features must be visible.” The use of “should” here led to a misconception among jurors in the popular #Case 554,[3] where some believed that facing the camera was merely an optional requirement.

In light of these instances, it is evident that there is a clear misconception regarding the use of the word “should” in the policy documents. To rectify this, it is essential to augment the general policy with explicit language stipulating that “should” conveys a mandatory requirement unless expressly stated otherwise. This modification will provide clarity, prevent misunderstandings, and ensure consistent interpretation of “should” across all Kleros policies.

Proposed Modification

I propose the addition of the following clause to the general policy to explicitly convey the interpretation of “should”:

“Should” statements within Kleros documents are to be interpreted as mandatory requirements unless explicitly stated otherwise. Parties and jurors are required to adhere to the guidelines outlined in “should” statements. Non-compliance with “should” statements will be considered a violation of policies and may result in consequences as outlined in the respective policy documents."


The main rationale behind this proposed change is to address the inherent ambiguity associated with the term “should” within Kleros policies. Currently, the interpretation of “should” as a recommendation has led to misunderstandings, given its multiple definitions. According to Bryan A. Garner’s Modern American Usage, “should” can express a sense of duty, outline a condition, or convey an expectation.[4] This diversity in definitions contributes to confusion and misinterpretation. By explicitly stating that “should” conveys a mandatory requirement, we aim to eliminate this ambiguity and provide users with a clear understanding of their obligations.

Also, it is important to ensure the consistent interpretation of “should” across all Kleros policies is paramount for the fair and equitable application of guidelines. The current variation in how “should” statements are perceived introduces the risk of disparate enforcement, leading to inconsistencies in dispute resolution outcomes. With this, there will not only be the promotion of more consistency in policy enforcement, but there will also be promotion of a culture of adherence to policies, reducing the likelihood of non-compliance.


This modification carries several benefits aimed at enhancing the overall effectiveness of Kleros policies, including:

  1. Clarity: By explicitly defining the term “should” within our policies, users gain a clear and unambiguous understanding of their obligations. This clarity eliminates potential confusion arising from the multiple definitions of “should,” fostering a transparent and user-friendly dispute resolution experience.

  2. Reduced Disputes and Misinterpretations: The clarity introduced by the modification significantly reduces the likelihood of disputes and misinterpretations related to the term “should.” Parties and jurors, armed with a standardized understanding, are less prone to misunderstand the nature of guidelines, resulting in more straightforward and fair dispute resolution outcomes.

  3. Consistent Policy Enforcement: Establishing a uniform interpretation of “should” promotes consistent policy enforcement across all Kleros documents. This consistency contributes to a more predictable dispute resolution process, ensuring that similar cases are treated uniformly.

  4. Improved Compliance: Encouraging adherence to the intended mandatory nature of “should” statements aligns with the broader goal of ensuring compliance with established guidelines. Users are more likely to comply with policies when the mandatory nature of “should” is clearly outlined.

Potential Concerns and Response

A key concern surrounding the proposed modification might be the perception that interpreting “should” as mandatory might introduce a rigid and inflexible approach, potentially limiting the adaptability of Kleros policies in various scenarios.

While this concern is valid, the proposed modification seeks to strike a balance between providing a default understanding of “should” for clarity and allowing for necessary flexibility when explicitly stated otherwise. The intention is not to impose unwarranted stringency but to establish a baseline interpretation that can be adapted to specific contexts. By clearly defining default expectations, the modification aims to reduce ambiguity and ensure a more standardized application of guidelines.

Also, the proposed modification explicitly includes the clause “unless explicitly stated otherwise,” acknowledging the importance of flexibility. This clause provides room for nuanced interpretations when necessary, allowing for exceptions and adaptations based on specific contexts. In instances where a more flexible approach is required, the policy can explicitly define alternative interpretations of “should,” ensuring that the guidelines remain adaptable to the diverse scenarios encountered in decentralized dispute resolution.

Next Steps

Your feedback is crucial to the success of this proposal. Please share your thoughts, suggestions, and concerns in the comments section. To bolster meaningful discussion about this proposal, here are some discussion points:

  1. Do you believe this modification will enhance the clarity of Kleros policies?
  2. Are there specific concerns or considerations you would like me to address in the proposal?
  3. How do you foresee this change impacting the overall user experience on the Kleros platform?


[1] Token Curated List Policies. Retrieved from

[2] Proof of Humanity Registry Policy. Retrieved from

[3] Kleros Case 554. Retrieved from Klerosboard 3.0

[4] Oates, L. C., Enquist, A., & Francis, J. (2021). Legal writing handbook: Analysis, research, and writing (8th ed.). Aspen Publishing p. 723.2

How possible that 2 different users talk about “should” roughly at the same time?

See also: The problem of 'should' statements in primary documents. General Court Policy amendment proposal to clarify that they are to be interpreted as imperative (and other suggested solutions)

I always assumed that SHOULD is as complying with RFC 2119:

  1. SHOULD This word, or the adjective “RECOMMENDED”, mean that there
    may exist valid reasons in particular circumstances to ignore a
    particular item, but the full implications must be understood and
    carefully weighed before choosing a different course.
  1. SHOULD NOT This phrase, or the phrase “NOT RECOMMENDED” mean that
    there may exist valid reasons in particular circumstances when the
    particular behavior is acceptable or even useful, but the full
    implications should be understood and the case carefully weighed
    before implementing any behavior described with this label.


Kleros is blockchain is tech. Therefore rules of tech apply.

I understand your concern and appreciate your insightful comment. However, I don’t think the RFC 2119 should apply here unless specifically stated. As you said RFC are rules guiding tech/software development, but the policies in questions aren’t rules guiding kleros as a software but policies which jurors rely on when making rulings which are two completely different things. RFCs are specifically for usage by “Software developers, hardware manufacturers, and network operators around the world” (IETF | RFCs) however, policies here are designed for jurors, which may or may not fall into those categories.

it is from misconceptions like yours that this change is necessary- so that people don’t just assume that “should” statements are mere recommendations as they are in the RFC. By reading the contents of the policy statements stated above, and from the decided case mentioned, it is easy to tell that should is used as a requirement. Therefore, the policy documents, through the general policy should reflect that to avoid confusion.

Regarding your assumption, Mars, and in line with Kay’s response, I also believe that RFC 2119 applies in the Kleros justice system only if its regulations explicitly refer to it.

RFC 2119 does not inherently constitute a normative framework regulating a system or sphere of interaction, such as the Kleros justice system.

A system of rules must be established by agents or entities with legitimacy to do so, and through pre-established procedures for such purpose.

Regarding Kleros normative system, legitimacy to establish primary documents and court policies lies with services/platforms/dApps and Kleros, respectively, through their respective governance systems.

In this regard, RFC 2119 is a mere recommendation for regulations, which may be taken as a reference when designing a normative system, either explicitly or through incorporation by reference. It is undoubtedly advisable to consider it as a recommendation due to its content and the authority of the institution from which it emanates.

Finally, if a normative system does not prescribe specific meanings to the words “should” and “should not” – either explicitly or by reference to a meaning outlined in an external document, such as RFC 2119 – it is reasonable to interpret these terms in accordance with their common understanding in everyday language. This brings us back to the initial challenge of interpretative ambiguity.

In this context, an example of primary documents from services/platforms/dApps integrated with Kleros that explicitly establish the parameters for interpreting the terms “should” and “should not” – among others – by referring to RFC 2119, is Consensus Layer Withdrawal Protection Registry Acceptance Policy (available at