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Legislation and Statutory Interpretation
University of Dayton School of Law
Howarth, Cooley R.

I.                    Theories of Interpretation
a.       Textualism
                                                               i.      Cases should be resolved by reading the text of the statute and applying the plain meaning to the words in the statute
b.      Intentionalism
                                                               i.      Find the answer that the enacting legislature would have reached if they were faced with the same issue
                                                             ii.      Look to extrinsic materials in order to find the originally intended meaning.
c.       Purpose Approach
                                                               i.      Unless the statutory language clearly answers the interpretive question, the preferred interpretation is one which best effectuates the purpose of the statute
                                                             ii.      Legislative history and text may be used as clues to the purpose
                                                            iii.      Can use deductive reasoning to figure out the best purpose.
II.                 Textualism
a.      Begin with the plain meaning of the statute
                                                               i.      The best and most legitimate evidence of legislative intent or purpose is the text of the statute itself
                                                             ii.      Courts are to assume that the plain meaning of the words in the statute is the meaning which the enacting legislature intended the words to bear
                                                            iii.      Ordinary rules of grammar and usage apply unless found in definition section to mean otherwise
                                                           iv.      “Best and most legitimate” intended meaning
                                                             v.      Reasonable person’s understanding
b.      Goals/benefits of textualism
                                                               i.      Arguably most consistent with the Constitution (separation of powers)
                                                             ii.      Reading the text is more in judicial competence than judges trying to figure out the minds of legislature
                                                            iii.      Ordinary meaning is common understanding what of the law is (notice, due process)
                                                           iv.      Predictability and consistency to the law without judicial lawmaking
c.       Finding vagueness and/or ambiguity
                                                               i.      Textualists will rely on the plain meaning unless there is something in the text of the statute to indicate otherwise (there must be actual ambiguity in the text itself)
                                                             ii.      The fact that the statute may have another possible meaning is irrelevant unless something in the text seems to say that something other than the plain meaning was the intended meaning
d.      If there is an ambiguity: (worth 2 points on rubrick)
                                                               i.      If the statute is vague or ambiguous or overly general the textualist will pick the interpretation which “fits most logically and comfortably into the body of enacted law.”
                                                             ii.      To do this the textualist will examine:
1.      the structure of the statute
2.      other parts of the statute where the same text might appear
3.      other statutes on similar topics where contain the same or similar text
                                                            iii.      These texts may provide a clue as to what the intended meaning was
1.      The same terms may be used in another part of the statute in a better grammatical context so as to gain a clearer understanding of the meaning.
2.      Or the whole statute may indicate that the

ing, the court must consider that evidence to give the statute its legislatively intended meaning
III.               Intentionalism
a.       Four Steps:
                                                               i.      Plain Meaning (textualism)
                                                             ii.      Specific intent in the legislative history
                                                            iii.      Imaginative reconstruction
                                                           iv.      Spurious interpretation (weak point in theory)
b.      Faithful Agent
                                                               i.      The goal of the intentionalist is to make the words have the meaning that the original drafters intended the words to have
                                                             ii.      Intentionalists feel they are better agents because they don’t stop at the plaint meaning – the plain meaning is not always what the legislature intended and plain meaning can evolve over time
                                                            iii.      Reliance on the plain meaning alone ignores the fact that words have context and that the meaning of words depends on the context in which the words are used. SO when there is contextual evidence that the legislature meant something other than the plain meaning, the court should consider that meaning.
                                                           iv.      Intentionalists never assume a plain meaning, they look for confirmation of the “plain meaning” in history (legislative, times the law was enacted)