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Policy Preferences and Legal Interpretation

Ward Farnsworth, Dustin Guzior and Anup Malani
Journal of Law and Courts
Vol. 1, No. 1 (March 2013), pp. 115-138
DOI: 10.1086/668603
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/668603
Page Count: 24
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Policy Preferences and Legal Interpretation
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Abstract

AbstractThis article presents an empirical study of statutory interpretation. Respondents were asked to read statutes and answer questions about how they should be applied to simple cases. The results suggest, first, that it is difficult to separate judgments about the linguistic meaning of a statute from policy preferences about it. Different ways of framing the interpretive question have consequences, however; asking how an ordinary reader would interpret a text helps produce answers that are distinct from a respondent’s own preferences about it. The article considers why this might be so and discusses implications for the interpretation of statutes by courts.

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