Statutory Interpretation (7041): This course will introduce students to the legislative process and statutory interpretation, focusing on the latter subject. Statutes govern nearly every aspect of our society, and this course will give students the tools to understand how statutes are interpreted. We will spend our initial class meetings considering the perspective from which courts should interpret statutes. Courts often claim to interpret statutes from the perspective of an ordinary person, but statutes have technical language and often apply to heavily regulated areas of the economy. If the ordinary person perspective is unrealistic, we will consider whether the standard is that of an ordinary lawyer or member of Congress. Our focus will be on statutory interpretation done by the courts in the first instance. We will cover originalism, theories of linguistic indeterminacy, methodologies of interpretation, the use of legislative history, and major canons of construction. We will also examine doctrines of judicial deference to administrative agencies' statutory interpretations. In exploring these topics, we will consider cases and materials from many substantive areas of law, including criminal law, civil rights law, environmental law, labor and employment law, health care law, and national security law. The course will thus provide students with a small taste of many different areas of law. There are not, however, any prerequisites for the course. Grades will be based on attendance, class participation, and a final exam.
Statutory Interpretation (7041): Modern American law is made largely through statutes and agency regulations, and lawyers therefore need to understand how judges interpret them. This course examines how judges should, and do, approach that task. Topics include (1) the foundational theories of statutory interpretation (intentionalism, purposivism, and textualism); (2) how judges handle mismatches between a statute's text and its spirit; (3) specialized meanings (including scientific and technical meanings, legal terms of art, and colloquial usage); (4) legislative history; (5) linguistic and substantive canons of construction; and (6) when judges defer to agency interpretations of federal statutes. Throughout the course, we will also examine how constitutional structure--specifically, the relationship among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches--affects statutory interpretation. Grades will be based on attendance, class participation, and a final exam.
2021-2022 SpringSchedule No Longer Available
Statutory Interpretation (7041): Statutory law is the dominant source of contemporary law, and it is the form of law that lawyers are likely to confront most often in almost any area of practice. It is also an area of vibrant intellectual debate, as scholars, Supreme Court justices, and others debate the methods and aims of statutory interpretation. This course will stress both the practical and theoretical dimensions of interpretation. Students will learn and apply the methods of statutory interpretation. We will also spend considerable time on contemporary controversies, such as debates about textualist, purposive and dynamic interpretation; about the use of legislative history and canons of construction; about the special interpretive problems that arise in the context of direct democracy; and about the democratic and constitutional foundations of statutory interpretation itself. Readings will draw from political science as well as law. Elements used in grading: Class participation and final exam.
2020-2021 AutumnSchedule No Longer Available