Fraternal Twins: Legislative History and the History of Legislation
Louisville Bar Briefs, July 2012
2 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2016 Last revised: 8 Apr 2016
Date Written: July 1, 2012
The "legislative history" that lawyers research to help them interpret the language of statutes, bears very little resemblance to the actual history of how that law was passed. In his The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate historian Robert A. Caro showed LBJ's gritty, convoluted and intensely personality driven battle to pass a civil rights act. The texts of the laws passed in these years reflected compromises, political decisions, and intentions only dimly reflected in the bills, amendments, House and Senate reports, and debates that one would examine using the traditional implements of legislative history. Moreover, sometimes the tools that historians use — papers, accounts of journalists, memoirs — are available to lawyers soon enough to use along with the legislative history toolkit to interpret federal legislation. This short article discusses a few of these resources and offers examples of good histories and journalistic treatments of lawmaking.
Keywords: book review
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