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Winter 2024 Course


Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: In Class

This course is about the method of statutory interpretation generally. You will not learn the doctrine of any specific type of law in this class. You will instead learn the process of how to approach a piece of statutory text, how to diagnose the interpretive problem in the text, and how to answer that problem. You will practice the observant reading of text; you will get a framework for breaking down and thinking about a legal question in any statutory case; and you will practice deploying interpretive tools to answer a question in the way that best “zealously advocates” for your client. This course will prepare you for legal work, as well as for other upper-level courses that rely extensively on statutory law (such as tax, securities, environmental law, labor law, health law, copyright law, etc.)

The course has three overall goals:

1) To provide you with an understanding of the relationships among legislatures, courts, and agencies. The course will include some basic information on how legislation and regulations get created and on the ways in which power is shared in the “making of law.”

2) To teach you the full toolkit of statutory interpretation so that you can diagnose any interpretation question and bring the right tools to bear on answering that question. This toolkit includes elements of the plain text, canons of interpretation, analysis of intent and purpose, and deference to agencies. By unpacking and analyzing these tools used by courts in various decisions, you will learn how to wield them yourself in order to reach different results.

3) To expose you to the theoretical debates around statutory interpretation. The tools that a judge chooses to use often depend on the judge’s theoretical position on statutory interpretation. Starting with materials that will frame the theoretical debate early in the semester, you will return periodically to questions about theory as you become more proficient in the toolkit.