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Legislation

Statutory interpretation

2002

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Statutes With Multiple Personality Disorders: The Value Of Ambiguity In Statutory Design And Interpretation, Joseph A. Grundfest, Adam C. Pritchard Jan 2002

Statutes With Multiple Personality Disorders: The Value Of Ambiguity In Statutory Design And Interpretation, Joseph A. Grundfest, Adam C. Pritchard

Articles

Ambiguity serves a legislative purpose. When legislators perceive a need to compromise they can, among other strategies, "obscur[e] the particular meaning of a statute, allowing different legislators to read the obscured provisions the way they wish." Legislative ambiguity reaches its peak when a statute is so elegantly crafted that it credibly supports multiple inconsistent interpretations by legislators and judges. Legislators with opposing views can then claim that they have prevailed in the legislative arena, and, as long as courts continue to issue conflicting interpretations, these competing claims of legislative victory remain credible. Formal legal doctrine, in contrast, frames legislative ...