Speaker Meaning and the Interpretation and Construction of Executive Orders

8 Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy 319 (2018)

Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper

43 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2017 Last revised: 16 May 2018

Date Written: May 15, 2018


This Article explores the interpretation and construction of executive orders using as examples President Trump’s two executive orders captioned “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” (the “Two Executive Orders”).

President Trump issued the Two Executive Orders in the context of (among other things) Candidate Trump’s statements such as: “Islam hates us,” and “[W]e can’t allow people coming into this country who have this hatred.” President Trump subsequently provided further context including his tweet about the second of his Two Executive Orders: “People, the lawyers and the courts can call [the second of the Two Executive Orders] whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!”

Although President Trump replaced the first of the Two Executive Orders with the second one and although the Supreme Court by orders dated October 10, 2017 and October 24, 2017, vacated and remanded litigation involving the second order on grounds of mootness, the Two Executive Orders remain highly instructive for those who would understand the interpretation and construction of executive orders.

This article therefore examines in detail the original speaker's (i.e., President Trump's) intended meaning and effect of the Two Executive Orders. It performs such examination using insights from the semiotic subfield of pragmatics, a semiotic subfield which explores how real-world people actually use, interpret, and construe language in various real-world contexts (including contexts where the issuer of the Two Executive Orders himself has claimed that “Islam hates us” and has tweeted “TRAVEL BAN!”). Using such insights of pragmatics, this Article also explores why reasonable judges thoroughly versed in legal theory, legal practice, and pragmatics should conclude that President Trump unlawfully targeted Muslims in the Two Executive Orders. This Article, among other things, also questions the sensibility of such notions as “facial legitimacy” to the extent such notions suggest text has meaning apart from context.

Keywords: executive orders, speaker meaning, interpretation, construction, semiotics, pragmatics, originalism, speech acts, context, facial legitimacy, Constitutionality, First Amendment,Trump v. Int’l Refugee Assistance Project, Scalia, immigration, semantics, original meaning, travel ban, Trump, textualism

Suggested Citation

Lloyd, Harold Anthony, Speaker Meaning and the Interpretation and Construction of Executive Orders (May 15, 2018). 8 Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy 319 (2018), Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3032788 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3032788

Harold Anthony Lloyd (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University School of Law ( email )

Winston-Salem, NC
United States

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