In this book, Adrian Vermeule shows that any approach to legal interpretation rests on institutional and empirical premises about the capacities of judges and the systemic effects of their rulings. He argues that legal interpretation is above all an exercise in decisionmaking under severe empirical uncertainty. In view of their limited information and competence, judges should adopt a restrictive, unambitious set of tools for interpreting statutory and constitutional provisions.
Today, statutes make up the bulk of the relevant law heard in federal courts and arguably represent the most important source of American law. The proper means of judicial interpretation of those statutes have been the subject of great attention and dispute over the years. This book provides new insights into the theory and practice of statutory interpretation by courts. Cross offers the first comprehensive analysis of statutory interpretation and includes extensive empirical evidence of Supreme Court practice. He offers a thorough review of the active disputes over the appropriate approaches to statutory interpretations, namely whether courts should rely exclusively on the text or also examine the legislative history. The book then considers the use of these approaches by the justices of the recent Rehnquist Court and the degree to which they were applied by the justices, either sincerely or in pursuit of an ideological agenda.
In an ideal world, the laws of Congress--known as federal statutes--would always be clearly worded and easily understood by the judges tasked with interpreting them. But many laws feature ambiguous or even contradictory wording. How, then, should judges divine their meaning? Should they stick only to the text? To what degree, if any, should they consult aids beyond the statutes themselves? Are the purposes of lawmakers in writing law relevant? Some judges, such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, believe courts should look to the language of the statute and virtually nothing else. Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit respectfully disagrees. In Judging Statutes, Katzmann, who is a trained political scientist as well as a judge, argues that our constitutional system charges Congress with enacting laws; therefore, how Congress makes its purposes known through both the laws themselves and reliable accompanying materials should be respected. He looks at how the American government works, including how laws come to be and how various agencies construe legislation. He then explains the judicial process of interpreting and applying these laws through the demonstration of two interpretative approaches, purposivism (focusing on the purpose of a law) and textualism (focusing solely on the text of the written law). Katzmann draws from his experience to show how this process plays out in the real world, and concludes with some suggestions to promote understanding between the courts and Congress. When courts interpret the laws of Congress, they should be mindful of how Congress actually functions, how lawmakers signal the meaning of statutes, and what those legislators expect of courts construing their laws. The legislative record behind a law is in truth part of its foundation, and therefore merits consideration.
International lawyers have long recognised the importance of interpretation to their academic discipline and professional practice. As new insights on interpretation abound in other fields, international law and international lawyers have largely remained wedded to a rule-based approach, focusing almost exclusively on the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Such an approach neglects interpretation as a distinct and broader field of theoretical inquiry. Interpretation in International Law brings international legal scholars together to engage in sustained reflection on the theme of interpretation. The book is creatively structured around the metaphor of the game, which captures and illuminates the constituent elements of an act of interpretation. The object of the game of interpretation is to persuade the audience that one's interpretation of the law is correct. The rules of play are known and complied with by the players, even though much is left to their skills and strategies. There is also a meta-discourse about the game of interpretation - 'playing the game of game-playing' - which involves consideration of the nature of the game, its underlying stakes, and who gets to decide by what rules one should play. Through a series of diverse contributions, Interpretation in International Law reveals interpretation as an inescapable feature of all areas of international law. It will be of interest and utility to all international lawyers whose work touches upon theoretical or practical aspects of interpretation.
Vague expressions are omnipresent in natural language. As such, their use in legal texts is virtually inevitable. If a law contains vague terms, the question whether it applies to a particular case often lacks a clear answer. One of the fundamental pillars of the rule of law is legal certainty. The determinacy of the law enables people to use it as a guide and places judges in the position to decide impartially. Vagueness poses a threat to these ideals. In borderline cases, the law seems to be indeterminate and thus incapable of serving its core rule of law value. In the philosophy of language, vagueness has become one of the hottest topics of the last two decades. Linguists and philosophers have investigated what distinguishes " vagueness from other kinds of linguistic indeterminacy, such as ambiguity, generality, open texture, and family resemblance concepts. There is a vast literature that discusses the logical, semantic, pragmatic, and epistemic aspects of these phenomena. Legal theory has hitherto paid little attention to the differences between the various kinds of linguistic indeterminacy that are grouped under the heading of ", let alone to the various theories that try to account for these phenomena. Bringing together leading scholars working on the topic of vagueness in philosophy and in law, this book fosters a dialogue between philosophers and legal scholars by examining how philosophers conceive vagueness in law from their theoretical perspective and how legal theorists make use of philosophical theories of vagueness. The chapters of the book are organized into three parts. The first part addresses the import of different theories of vagueness for the law, referring to a wide range of theories from supervaluationist to contextualist and semantic realist accounts in order to address the question of whether the law can learn from engaging with philosophical discussions of vagueness. The second part of the book examines different vagueness phenomena. The contributions in part 2 suggest that the greater awareness to different vagueness phenomena can make lawyers aware of specific issues and solutions so far overlooked. The third part deals with the pragmatic aspects of vagueness in law, providing answers to the question of how to deal with vagueness in law and with the professional, political, moral, and ethical issues such vagueness gives rise to.
The close connection between philosophy of language and philosophy of law has been recognized for decades through the work of many influential legal philosophers. This volume brings recent advances in philosophy of language to bear on contemporary debates about the nature of law and legal interpretation. The book builds on recent work in pragmatics and speech-act theory to explain how, and to what extent, legal content is determined by linguistic considerations. At the same time, the analysis shows that some of the unique features of communication in the legal domain - in particular, its strategic nature - can be employed to put pressure on certain assumptions in philosophy of language. This enables a more nuanced picture of how semantic and pragmatic determinants of communication work in complex and large-scale systems such as law. Chapters build on explanations of key elements of statutory language, such as the distinction between what is said and what is implicated, the possibility of ascribing truth-values to legal prescriptions and the structure of legal inferences, the various forms of vagueness in the law, the distinctions between vagueness, ambiguity, and polysemy in legal language, and the distinction between concept and conceptions, mostly in the context of constitutional interpretation. The book demonstrates that paying close attention to the kind of speech acts legal directives are, and how they determine the content of the law, enables a better understanding of the boundaries between normative and linguistic determinants of legal content.
Countries solemnly intone their commitment to human rights, and they ratify endless international treaties and conventions designed to signal that commitment. At the same time, there has been no marked decrease in human rights violations, even as the language of human rights has become the dominant mode of international moral criticism. Well-known violators like Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan have sat on the U.N. Council on Human Rights. But it's not just the usual suspects that flagrantly disregard the treaties. Brazil pursues extrajudicial killings. South Africa employs violence against protestors. India tolerate child labor and slavery. The United States tortures. In The Twilight of Human Rights Law--the newest addition to Oxford's highly acclaimed Inalienable Rights series edited by Geoffrey Stone--the eminent legal scholar Eric A. Posner argues that purposefully unenforceable human rights treaties are at the heart of the world's failure to address human rights violations. Because countries fundamentally disagree about what the public good requires and how governments should allocate limited resources in order to advance it, they have established a regime that gives them maximum flexibility--paradoxically characterized by a huge number of vague human rights that encompass nearly all human activity, along with weak enforcement machinery that churns out new rights but cannot enforce any of them. Posner looks to the foreign aid model instead, contending that we should judge compliance by comprehensive, concrete metrics like poverty reduction, instead of relying on ambiguous, weak, and easily manipulated checklists of specific rights. With a powerful thesis, a concise overview of the major developments in international human rights law, and discussions of recent international human rights-related controversies, The Twilight of Human Rights Law is an indispensable contribution to this important area of international law from a leading scholar in the field.