Statutory Analysis Analyzing Statutory Authority Techniques of Interpretation
Statutory law When researching a legal problem, where do you begin? Legislative bodies (such as U.S. Congress, State Legislatures and administrative bodies) are empowered to enact statutes
The Hierarchy of Enacted Law U.S Constitution Federal Statutes and Treaties Federal Executive Orders and Administrative Regulations State Constitutions State Statutes State administrative regulations and municipal enactments
Relationship with Case Law The legislature may… 1) Pass statutes which change the common law. 2) Or create new statutory causes of action which were not available at common law.
Relationship with Case Law But the Courts may… 1) Determine if legislative acts are constitutional or enacted under valid powers. 2) And create case law to determine how a statute is to be interpreted or applied.
The Parts of a Statute Purpose Sections Definition Sections Operative Language Sections Effective Date
Modifying and Codifying Be sure to read the title, definition sections, statement of policy or preamble to a statute. They may not only reveal what year the statute took effect but also whether the statute was written to codify or modify the common law. What is the difference?
Analyzing Statutory Authority Step One: Read the Statute The first step in statutory analysis is too read the statute carefully.
Read The Animal Control Act (Handout) To whom it is addressed? What conduct does it prohibit? How the parts of the statute relate to each other ?
Analyzing Statutory Authority Step Two: The next step is to identify the issue in your case relative to the statute.
Identifying the Issue(s) A.To do this, first determine whether the statute applies. B.If the statute applies, identify the elements of the statute and whether they were violated.
Does the statute apply to the first set of facts ? The second? The Animal Control Act Definition Section Owner means any person who has a right of property in an animal, keeps or harbors an animal, has an animal is his of her are, or acts as custodian of an animal.
If the statute applies, then identify the elements. If a dog or other animal, without provocation, damages another’s property or injuries any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where the person may lawfully be, the owner of the dog or other animal is liable for the damages or the injury caused.
After you identify the elements, you can identify the legal issue: What is the legal issue when the statute is applied to the second set of facts? Whether the Meadows’ dog acted “without provocation” when it bit Missy when Eli was yelling because the dog had started barking?
If it is not clear how a statute applies to your problem, where do you look for assistance with interpretation? An outline of a Memorandum of Robinson v. Meadows might look something like this:
I. Did the Meadows’ dog act “without provocation” when it bit Missy although it was Eli who was yelling because the dog had started barking (and thus are they liable under the statute?) (ISSUE) A) Set out the Statute (RULE) B) Roadmap the Elements(APPLICATION) –1) Dog or other animal –2) Without provocation –3) Damages property injures person –4) Peacefully conducting himself –5) Where he may lawfully be C) Liable under the act (CONCLUSION)
What do you do when there is no binding case law construing the language of a statute relevant to your problem. Judges will have to decide how the general language of the statute applies to the facts of your case. In fact, statutory language may be intentionally vague in order to allow for judicial discretion (i.e. reasonable use)
Judges interpret statutes by considering the following: 1)The text itself; 2)The intent of the legislature; 3) The policies implicated by the possible interpretations; 4) The interpretation of any governmental agencies charged with enforcement of the statute; and 5) The opinions of other courts and of respected commentators.
“Plain Meaning” When the plain meaning of the words is unambiguous, a court may not permit other evidence of the statute’s interpretation. Plain meaning is determined by ordinary, dictionary language, by definition sections in a statute and by technical definitions within a trade or industry. Other uses of the same word in the statute may also help determine the “plain meaning.”
Legislative History If the plain language is unclear or if the plain meaning would lead to absurd or unintended results, courts will consider legislative intent. The most common evidence which goes to prove legislative intent, is the legislative history of a statute.
Legislative History A Legislative History consists of: Predecessor statutes to the one at issue; and Documents that were produced during the statute’s legislative history such as committee reports, speeches, witness testimony and studies introduced into the record.
More about legislative history “I’m just a bill” When a bill becomes a law it is called a statute, gets a public law number and is published in pamphlets called slip laws which are in turn published chronologically in the US Statutes at Large and then by subject in the Codes.
Cannons of Construction Shapo pp. 69-71 In addition to legislative history, courts may look to a number of other clues to determine plain meaning and legislative intent. These are cannons or maxims stating customary ways of interpreting statutes. The cannons however, often yield inconclusive results
1) Ejusdem generis:(of the same genus or class) whenever a statute contains specific enumeration followed by a general catch-all phrase, the general words should be construed to only things of the same character or as the specified words. 2) Expressio unis, exclusio alterius (expression of one thing excludes another) is applied to mean that if a statute expressly mentions what is intended to be within its coverage, then the statute excludes that which is not mentioned.
3) Statutes in pari materia (on the same subject matter) should be read together. 4) A penal statute should be strictly construed. 5) Statutes in derogation of the common law should be strictly construed; remedial statutes should be liberally construed (what if the remedial statute is in derogation of the common law)
Policies and Agency Interpretation Another tool for statutory interpretation is an analysis of policy concerns implicated by the statute. Courts will also pay attention to the way a government agency has chosen to enforce a statute when that agency has been given specific enforcement authority. Finally, courts may recognize persuasive value of opinions of other courts and respected commentators.