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Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0314275554
ISBN-10: 031427555X
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 608 pages
  • Publisher: West; 1 edition (June 19, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031427555X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0314275554
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #34,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I write this on the evening before the Supreme Court's expected ruling on the fate of the Affordable Health Care Act (a/k/a Obamacare) because I don't want the decision in that case to color my favorable opinion of the book, which it might.

Justice Scalia is well known, but Bryan Garner, the co-author and the editor of Black's Law Dictionary, is less so. They have collaborated on a prior book, The Art of Persuading Judges, which I liked, and I like this book even more. I don't think it is intended to be read cover-to-cover like the prior book, but as a condensation of the principles of constitutional and statutory interpretation, it is unrivaled. You could read cases for decades and not get as clear an understanding of how to interpret them as you would from thumbing through this book while attempting to interpret a particular statute.

The first 51 pages, which include the Introduction and Principles Applicable to All Texts fall into the category of exposition on theories of interpretation. It is humorous in places. For example, at one point the authors quote from a constitutional scholar who says "the language structure, and history of law serve best as mediums [sic.] of restraint rather than excuses for intrusion." The use of the Latin abbreviation "sic." for "sic erat scriptum" or "thus was it written" leads you to punchline contained in the footnote which says "unless the passage refers to clairvoyants, media is the proper term." I'm not sure if that is Scalia's or Garner's work on display, but I still found it funny.

In short, it is recommended for anyone who must interpret statutes. I consider it more a reference than an exposition, but one that save readers gobs of time when deciding what a statute does, or should mean.
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Format: Hardcover
I practice law in the areas of probate litigation and estate planning. For almost twenty years I argued probate cases before judges who ultimately had to interpret the meaning of probate statutes and a legal document (a trust for instance). Two years ago I quit litigation and devoted my practice to preventative law--that is, I am attempting on behalf of my clients to either prevent probate litigation with carefully drafted documents, resolve probate disputes outside of court with carefully customized probate ADR agreements, or contain litigation in court with the most carefully drafted estate planning documents I can write--documents that judges cannot misinterpret. I recently had one of my documents tested in the Utah Supreme Court, where the Court unanimously (5-0) found that the text was clear and unambiguous on the dispute in issue and overturned the trial court's decision to the contrary. A frustrating case in that I thought my writing was clear enough for the trial court to understand.

Then I read yesterday's WSJ review on Justice Scalia's and Mr. Garner's book "Reading Law" (I wish Amazon would give reviewers a little more control in utilizing underlining or italics.) I bought a copy last night and have not been able to put it down.

This book is a goldmine for drafters of legal documents. The fundamental, semantic, syntactic, and contextual canons are not only fascinating to read, but are providing eminently practical drafting guidelines that have me intellectually hopping for joy. This book has already taken its place within handreach of my beloved Ninth Edition Black's Law Dictionary (thank you, Mr. Garner), my Chicago Manual of Style (thanks again for Mr. Garner's contributions), and my battered twenty-year-old Roget's Thesaurus.
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Format: Hardcover
My professional interest as an attorney originally attracted me to Reading Law. Having finished the first 107 pages, I enthusiastically echo another Amazon reviewer who wrote, "This book is a goldmine for drafters of legal documents. The fundamental, semantic, syntactic, and contextual canons are not only fascinating to read, but are providing eminently practical drafting guidelines that have me intellectually hopping for joy."

But Reading Law is not just for attorneys. Every American should read this book, in part to create accountability among judges at every level of government. Every American should know how judges should interpret the vast array of statutes and regulations now so deeply embedded in the fabric of American life. Judges should read it, obviously. So should legislators, many of whom are legal laymen needing better understanding of how their legislation should be read and it should fit within the template of federal and state constitutions. Yet, ordinary Americans, those whose lives and livelihoods are later judged against legislative standards may need this book even more, to anticipate how they will be judged and, later, to comprehend why.
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Format: Hardcover
Being a graduate of both of MIT and the University of Michigan Law School, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the legal mind of Justice Scalia. While I may not agree with everyone of his votes while on the Supreme Court, I am in 100% agreement with using Textualism and Originalism in deciding constitutional law cases. At time where judges confuse their roles and attempt to subvert the Constitution's clear language and meaning, this book is a breath of fresh air. Highly recommended!
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