Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2191145
 
 

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On the Interpretability of Law: Lessons from the Decoding of National Constitutions


James Melton


University College London - School of Public Policy

Zachary Elkins


University of Texas, Austin

Tom Ginsburg


University of Chicago Law School

Kalev H. Leetaru


University of Illinois

December 18, 2012

British Journal of Political Science, FirstViewArticle, December 2012
University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 624

Abstract:     
An implicit element of many theories of constitutional enforcement is the degree to which those subject to constitutional law can agree on what its provisions mean (call this constitutional interpretability). Unfortunately, there is little evidence on baseline levels of constitutional interpretability or the variance therein. This article seeks to fill this gap in the literature, by assessing the effect of contextual, textual and interpreter characteristics on the interpretability of constitutional documents. Constitutions are found to vary in their degree of interpretability. Surprisingly, however, the most important determinants of variance are not contextual (for example, era, language or culture), but textual. This result emphasizes the important role that constitutional drafters play in the implementation of their product.

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Date posted: December 19, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Melton, James and Elkins, Zachary and Ginsburg, Tom and Leetaru, Kalev H., On the Interpretability of Law: Lessons from the Decoding of National Constitutions (December 18, 2012). British Journal of Political Science, FirstViewArticle, December 2012; University of Chicago Institute for Law & Economics Olin Research Paper No. 624. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2191145

Contact Information

James Melton
University College London - School of Public Policy ( email )
29/30 Tavistock Square
London, WC1H 9QU
United Kingdom
Zachary Elkins
University of Texas, Austin ( email )
Austin, TX 78712
United States
Tom Ginsburg (Contact Author)
University of Chicago Law School ( email )
1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
Kalev H. Leetaru
University of Illinois ( email )
601 E John St
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
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