Inference and representation in legal interpretation
A workshop about inference, linguistic representation and mental representation in the interpretation and meaning of legal language
What determines the meaning of a legal text? Is it the original meanings of the words used, or their meanings now, intentions of the producer of the text, or some combination, or something else?
Does this meaning include elements that are not part of the encoded meaning, such as (conversational) implicatures, or other pragmatically inferred material?
How does this relate to the maxim that what courts seek is the ‘ordinary meaning’ of the text, and to principles of judicial interpretation such as ejusdem generis, noscitur a sociis, ‘reading down’ and ‘reading in’?
Can facts about linguistic syntax and semantics clarify disputes about legal meaning and interpretation? For example, how does jurists' talk of ‘ambiguity’ and ‘vagueness’ relate to linguists’ and philosophers’ notions? And does the (controversial) distinction between the analytic and synthetic play a role in legal interpretation?
How do judges and other consumers of legal texts understand and interpret them? What are the roles played in judicial interpretation by linguistic decoding, inference and more creative legal decision-making?
Such questions are the focus of a growing body of work by legal scholars who are beginning to apply notions from linguistics and philosophy of language to questions of legal interpretation and by linguists and philosophers of language who have turned their attention to the meaning and interpretation of legal ‘speech’ including statutes, constitutions, contracts and even legal notices, and to the role of judges and judicial adjudications. A key focus of this workshop is therefore the implications for the understanding of law of theoretical advances in philosophy of language, and in linguistics, particularly linguistic semantics and pragmatics. A question that naturally follows is what the import is of this theoretical work for the practice of law. Does it, for example, support or rule out any theories of intepretation current among jurists, such as varieties of textualism and originalism?
Hrafn Asgeirsson – University of Surrey
Victoria F. Nourse – Georgetown Law School
Georges Rey – University of Maryland, College Park
Benjamin Shaer – Carleton University, Ottawa
Brian Slocum – McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, Sacramento
Lawrence Solan – Brooklyn Law School
Nicholas Allott – University of Oslo
Friday 7th October
09:45 Welcome & introduction
10:00 Victoria Nourse (Georgetown Law School): Lessons from the Philosophy of Language for Modern Statutory Interpretation (pdf of slides)
11:30 Nicholas Allott (University of Oslo) & Ben Shaer (Carleton University, Ottawa): The Pragmatics of Statutory Enactment (pdf of slides)
13:00 Lunch break
15:30 Coffee break
16:00 Larry Solan (Brooklyn Law School): From Textualism to Pragmatism in the U.S. Supreme Court? (pdf of slides)
Saturday 8th October
10:30 Hrafn Asgeirsson (University of Surrey): Vagueness, Reasons, and Judicial Discretion (pdf of slides)
12:00 Lunch break
13:00 Nicholas Allott (University of Oslo) & Ben Shaer (Carleton University, Ottawa): The Pragmatics of Judicial Adjudication (pdf of slides)
14:30 Coffee break
15:00 Brian Slocum (McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, Sacramento): Language and Judicial Review of Agency Statutory Interpretations (pdf of slides)
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