Lawmaking: Introduction to Statutory and Regulatory Interpretation
J.D. Course 023
| 3 credit hours
In the first year curriculum, you are taught to “think like a lawyer.” Because of the predominance of common-law subjects in your first year (such as contracts, torts and property), this means you are taught to think like a “common-law lawyer.” And you are being taught to think this way at the same time that you are learning the doctrine in those courses. In your second and third years, you will spend much more time learning to think like a “statutory lawyer.” The focus on statutory courses in the upper curriculum makes sense. The modern legal system and modern legal practice overwhelmingly depend on laws enacted by legislatures and agencies. These public laws define almost every aspect of our lives. Therefore, in legal practice you will deal much more with statutes and regulations than you will deal with common law -- no matter what area of law you practice in.
In most upper-level courses, however, you will be focusing on learning the doctrinal substance of the particular area of law, rather than learning the techniques of statutory and regulatory interpretation generally. By contrast, this course is, in part, about the process and techniques of statutory and regulatory interpretation. We will not focus on the doctrine of any specific type of law in this class; instead you will learn the theory and practice of interpretation, including how to read a statutory text with care, how to diagnose the interpretive problem in the text, and how to address that problem using the tools developed and debated by courts and legal scholars. You will also learn to recognize the theoretical commitments that motivate different judicial approaches to statutory and regulatory interpretation. Finally, this course will provide you with an understanding of how legislation and regulations are created and of the ways in which power is shared in the making of law between legislatures, agencies and courts. In this class you will learn not only by reading, but also by doing. You will apply what you learn in a number of interpretive exercises.
This course is excellent preparation for summer legal work, for upper-level courses that rely extensively on statutory law (such as tax, securities, environmental law, labor law, copyright law, etc.), and for legal practice after graduation.
Students may not receive credit for both this course and the upperclass course, Legislation; or the upperclass courses, Legislation and Statutory Interpretation or Lawmaking and Statutory Interpretation Seminar.
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