Tools to Read a Statute | Summary and Q&A

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November 9, 2015
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YaleCourses
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Tools to Read a Statute

TL;DR

This video provides an introduction to statutory interpretation, highlighting three key lessons and discussing debates surrounding the use of extrinsic evidence and interpretive canons.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How can identifying the subject and verb of a statutory sentence help with interpretation?

Identifying the subject and verb provides a starting point for understanding the sentence's main idea and allows for further analysis of objects, references, and other phrases or clauses.

Q: What are the debates surrounding the use of extrinsic evidence in interpreting statutes and contracts?

Debates focus on the extent to which extrinsic evidence, such as legislative history or party testimony, should be admitted to resolve ambiguity, and whether it gives judges too much discretion.

Q: What are rules of construction, and how do they come into play when there is residual ambiguity?

Rules of construction, like the Contra profer rule, help interpret statutes when there is residual ambiguity, by choosing interpretations that disfavor the drafter or support public policy.

Q: What are some famous interpretive canons, and how have they been applied in specific cases?

The Naser aosi canon, Eiusdem Generis canon, and Expressio Unius canon are examples. For instance, the Naser aosi canon was used to determine that a floor used for storage did not fall under a statute covering passages.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Lesson 1: To understand a statutory sentence, it is helpful to identify the subject and verb, as well as any objects or references.

  • Lesson 2: There are ongoing debates about the use of extrinsic evidence in interpreting statutes and contracts, with considerations for narrowing interpretations and the intention of the parties involved.

  • Lesson 3: Statutory and contractual interpretation is complex and defies algorithmic treatment, with various interpretive canons often leading to opposing interpretations.

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