Statutory Interpretation in Washington
5 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2009
Date Written: 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.
Keywords: Statutes, Statutory Interpretation
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