Curriculum

Legislation

B554 is taught by Popkin, D. Widiss

Most law today is found in statutes and it is therefore important to understand how courts deal with statutory law. The major emphasis in this course is statutory interpretation.

Part I deals with the history of statutory interpretation, from the early period when judgemade law dominated to the current period, when statutes dominate.

Part II discusses both the theory and technique of statutory interpretation, focusing on text, external context, and change. We want to know what the modern textualists are trying to tell us and whether their efforts at controlling judicial discretion are successful. Textualism is contrasted with purposivism (the dominant approach during much of the 20th Century). We also consider canons of construction, which is the technique by which judges bring substantive values to interpretation. An important question is how modern textualists with these canons. Finally, a separate chapter deals with Change and how different judges adapt a statute to changing circumstances.

Part III deals with administrative interpretation and legislative history. It dwells on the shift from judicial enthusiasm for considering such history in the mid20th Century to current suspicion about its use. It also considers the effectiveness of rules about statutory interpretation adopted by courts and legislatures.

Part IV discusses statutes as a source of law how statutes interact with the common law and with each other to create law. Now that most law is statutory, working out the interaction of statutes has become more important than the older problem of working out the relationship of statutes to traditional common law.

On a broader note, the course takes two approaches the practical side of helping lawyers tell judges how to interpret legislation and the jurisprudential perspective of worrying about what approach is best in our constitutional democracy.