Elected Judges and Statutory Interpretation

69 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2012 Last revised: 16 Jan 2013

See all articles by Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl

Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl

William & Mary Law School

Ethan J. Leib

Fordham University School of Law

Date Written: January 15, 2013


This Article considers whether differences in methods of judicial selection should influence how judges approach statutory interpretation. Courts and scholars have not given this question much sustained attention, but most would probably embrace the “unified model,” according to which appointed judges (such as federal judges) and elected judges (such as many state judges) are supposed to approach statutory text in identical ways. There is much to be said for the unified model — and we offer the first systematic defense of it. But the Article also attempts to make the best case for the more controversial but also plausible contrary view: that elected judges and appointed judges should actually interpret statutes differently. We explain and defend that view and explore some of its implications and limits. We identify categories of cases in which the argument for interpretive divergence is at its strongest. We also show how the possibility of interpretive divergence might illuminate several specific doctrinal problems related to judicial federalism and judicial review of agency action.

Keywords: statutory interpretation, legislation, legisprudence, judicial elections, state courts

Suggested Citation

Bruhl, Aaron-Andrew P. and Leib, Ethan J., Elected Judges and Statutory Interpretation (January 15, 2013). University of Chicago Law Review, vol. 79, p. 1215, 2012, Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2026284, U of Houston Law Center No. 2026284, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2026284

Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States

Ethan J. Leib

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

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