Based on the premise that the study of legislation requires more than simply an inquiry into the courts' efforts at legislative interpretation, this casebook employs a variety of approaches to convey the legislature's role in shaping the law, including political science materials, case studies, and appellate cases. Statutory interpretation is the central element of a course on Legislation and each chapter incorporates the basics of interpretation to clarify how each topic fits in with the course as a whole.
The authors first introduce students to legislation as the primary vehicle for making the law, before discussing the interaction of legislation and common law. They then address the structure of operation of the legislature as an institution of government to provide a foundation for approaches to interpretation stressing legislative purpose and legislative history. Discussion of the variety of legislative process restrictions applicable to legislative lawmaking introduces students to the anatomy of a statute and the formal and procedural constraints imposed by federal and state constitutions on the lawmaking process. With regard to statutory interpretation, a new way of organizing text-based arguments beyond plain-meaning interpretation precedes intent-based approaches to interpretation, in turn followed by canon-based arguments demonstrating the weaknesses inherent in their use.
Legislative Law and Statutory Interpretation then covers five broad areas generally organized to reflect questions of institutional (judicial or legislative) competence, including materials on clear statement requirements, retroactivity, severability, deference to administrative agency decisionmaking, and overruling of statutory precedents, and interpretation of state statutes by federal courts and vice versa.