Statutory Interpretation in Washington

Helen A. Anderson

University of Washington - School of Law

February 1, 2009

It is easy to be cynical about statutory interpretation. It often appears that courts simply grab what is handy - be it legislative history, canon of construction, or caselaw - to support an interpretation. Washington courts do have a loosely prescribed procedure for investigating statutory meaning. It is far from rigid, either in definition or application, but it represents an effort to achieve consistency. The court is to begin with the statute's plain meaning, and only if plain meaning leaves an ambiguity should the court resort to extrinsic aids to construction, such as legislative history or policy-based canons. This procedure is flexible. Plain meaning includes not only text but also context. The definition of ambiguity and the rule to avoid absurd results give further interpretive room. Nevertheless, the approach provides some structure for advocates and courts.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 5

Keywords: Statutes, Statutory Interpretation

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Date posted: July 7, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Helen A., Statutory Interpretation in Washington (February 1, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1337710 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1337710

Contact Information

Helen A. Anderson (Contact Author)
University of Washington - School of Law ( email )
William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

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