Are Statutes Really 'Legislative Bargains'? The Failure of the Contract Analogy in Statutory Interpretation

Posted: 14 Oct 1999

See all articles by Mark Movsesian

Mark Movsesian

St. John's University School of Law


Recent scholarship draws an analogy between contract and statutory interpretation. In this article, Professor Movsesian explores and rejects that analogy. There are key differences between contracts and statutes, he argues; the intentionalism of contract law is inappropriate in the context of statutory interpretation. After critically examining the literature on the topic and demonstrating the operative distinctions between contracts and statutes, Professor Movsesian provides a useful illustration in the form of the famous case of Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States. Professor Movsesian shows how a comparison of contract and statutory interpretation sheds light on a number of interesting questions, including the character of third-party beneficiary contracts, the nature of political representation, the role of bicameralism and presentment in the legislative process, and the ongoing debate about the use of legislative history in determining the meaning of statutory language.

Suggested Citation

Movsesian, Mark, Are Statutes Really 'Legislative Bargains'? The Failure of the Contract Analogy in Statutory Interpretation. North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 76, No. 1145, 1998, Available at SSRN:

Mark Movsesian (Contact Author)

St. John's University School of Law ( email )

8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
718-990-5650 (Phone)
718-990-2199 (Fax)


Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics