Prof. Cooley Howarth
Fall 2010 1L
NOTES FOR EXAM
LOOK AT STRUCTURE OF THE EXAMPLE REVIEW QUESTION
-START WITH RULES, UNDERLINE THEM
-arguments for Π and Δ
Textualist = follows teh plain meaning of the statutes text
-all cases can be resolved by reading the statute and applying its plain or most probable meaning to answer interpretive questions.
Intentionalist = identifies and then follows the original intent of the statutes drafters
-reporduce interpretive answer that would have been reached by the legislature originally enacting the statute. Look to extrinisic materials like legislative history in order to find the originally intended meaning. (contextual). What the words meant to the drafters. Plain meaning may not be the intended meanings. Figure out what congress did.
Attribution of Purpose = (purposivism) interpreter chooses the interpretation that best carries out the statutes purpose
-unless the statutory language clearly answers the interpretive question, the preferred interpretation is that which best advances the basic purpose of the statute. Clues like legislative history, text, and motive or purpose are used to find the intended meaning. Give the statute the meaning that best effectuates the purpose or goal of the statute.
What to look at:
A) To find the intent of congress through the text of the statute. Words are given their plain meaning. Best evidence of legislative intent is the text of statute
a. how to find plain meaning
i. look at statute definition section
1. this trumps everything else.
ii. rules of grammar of English language
iv. canons of statute interpretation
1. provides courts with clues of probable meanings of words
2. based on logical inferences of grammar or syntax of sentence
I. what if plain meaning leads to absurd result?
a. If congress intended absurdity, then statute cannot be applied since it goes against the substantive due process rationality rule and should be struck down as unconstitutional.
i. Textualism looks at public material and legislative history to determine if absurdity was intended by congress. If congress intended to do something absurd, legislature wasn’t acting rational and statute is unconstitutional and must strike it down. Textualism look at extrinsic material because strikinig it down is an extreme measure and they want to be sure of congresses intent.
b. If textualism finds an unwise or unjust statute, too bad,. Determination of fairness is to be decided by the legislature.
i. ABSURD = Absurd = contrary to reason and commonsense
ii. Absurd = no rational legislator could possibly have meant the statute to have its plain meaning. Lacks reason /common sense. Result is the key for absurdity
iii. AMBIGUITY—textualism answer is will not select statute to apply to situation if statute is vague/ambiguous to the case—throw it out unless it specifically covers this case.
II. what if textualism finds that congress didn’t intend absurd result, what then? How to find a definition, meaning?
i. Textual sources
1. Other parts of statute
2. Find a meaning that will do least violence to the text
3. Meaning that is most compatible with the surrounding body of the law (other statutes)
4. Textualists do not go into extrinsic material
5. Textualists only look at law that has been passed and signed and other statute with the same words to find definitions.
III. Critics of textualism
i. Ambiguity = creating and either/or situation of interpretation
ii. 3 types of ambiguity
1. semantic ambiguity
a. inherent in word which has been chosen, can’t be corrected by looking at the text
2. syntacial ambiguity
a. ambiguity created by how text is written
a. words of sentence are clear, but other sections don’t make it clear
i. Vagueness = degree of meaning—creasts variety of possible meanings
1. i.e. no campfires near buildings—what does near mean?
-Interpret vague word or phrase to contain that permissible meaning which…
-That permissible meainging which fits most logically and comfortably into the body of enacted law
-If its ambiguis, must choose between two possible meanings
-If its vague, must choose between a group of meanings
-How to choose
-Let choice be guided by: Makes most common sense in the context of the statute
-Ask yourself, which of possible meanings makes most sense in context of sentence, paragraph, and statute as a whole.
-Could argue inteionlism is unreliable, trappes in the past, MAKE THIS ON THE TEST
-looking for what legislative drafters intended. Legislators as agents.
-Words do not intperet themselves, you need context, and context wont give the plain meaining, sometimes plain meainigns
ts role is to discover original purpose of the statute
d) PRESENT—then court should pick interpretation that best promostes the legislature purpose at this point in modern day time if statute is intenitally vague—just look for meaning that best effectuates purpose today
(1) Best effectuates purpose = carry it out the best you can.
ii) Plain meaning or originally intended meaning might provide the interpretation but NEVER STOP THERE
iii) What is the interpretation that best promoted that purpose today.
iv) Purpose approach gives a court ability to adapt old statute to todays circumstances. Assumes old legislature would have wanted the purose/spirit of act to govern.
e) Assumed every statute has a purpose, if not, then it would be irrational and unconstitutional
2) RULE 1
a) Every statute has a purpose.
3) RULE 2
a) To interpret the words, must step back
-in order to intepret words, must step back, and try to figure out the underlining point of the whole statute, or atl ease the specific secion fo the statute–GET ABSTRACT
What was the problem perceived by the legislature and the proposed solution
-what was the evil to be remedied
-statute might have a prupseo section
-purpose of statute can be inferred from words of the text, or from nature of problem the statute is addressed to
-logical strucutre of the act can provide inferrence to the purpose of the s and section
2) LEGISLATIVE HISTORY
-holy trinity looked at house report
No one person control legislative history, so history may provide different views, so there are problems, but it can provide outl ine
3) HISTORICAL LEGAL CONTEXT
-looking at other stautes passed, legal context around statute may give clue to why they passed the statute
3) SOCIAL, POLITICAL, OR CULTURAL EVENT HAPPENING AT TIME STATUTE WAS PASSED
-social, political, economical events legislature was reacting too
-weber case, reaction to employment policies, holy trinity, reaction to labor party
4) ATTRIBUTE A PURPOSE TO A STATUTE
-Judicail attribution of purpose
-attribute = idenitty possible purposes of a statute using sources, if come up with more than one, try to figure out which of those would be most logical underlining purpose had in mind
-process of logical reasoning
-synthesis all of the possible purposes to infer which makes most sense.
-see if you can infer one or more general purposes from multiple
4) Hart and Sacks reasons for purpose approach
a) Specific intent too hard to find
i) May not exist, may be in conflict, could be result of legislature manipulation