Scalia and Garner on legal interpretation by Mark Liberman.
Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner have recently (June 19) published Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, a 608-page work in which, according to the publisher’s blurb, “all the most important principles of constitutional, statutory, and contractual interpretation are systematically explained”.
The post is full of pointers to additional materials both on this publication and notions of legal interpretation more generally.
A glimpse of why I think texts are so complex.
BTW, for the record, I disagree with both Scalia and the post-9/11 Stanley Fish on discovering the “meaning” of texts or authors, respectively. We can report our interpretation of a text, but that isn’t the same thing.
An interpretation is a report we may persuade others to be useful for some purpose, agreeable with their prior beliefs or even consistent with their world view. But for all of that, it remains always our report, nothing more.
The claim of “plain meaning” of words or the “intention” of an author (Scalia, Fish respectively) is an attempt to either avoid moral responsibility for a report or to privilege a report as being more than simply another report. Neither one is particularly honest or useful.
In a marketplace of reports, acknowledged to be reports, we can evaluate, investigate, debate and even choose from among reports.
Scalia and Fish would both advantage some reports over others, probably for different reasons. But whatever their reasons, fair or foul, I prefer to meet all reports on even ground.