Judging Statutes: Interpretive Regimes
62 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2007
Theories of statutory interpretation abound. Scholars, judges and commentators have long puzzled over the best method to locate the meaning of a statute and to this end have proposed a range of approaches that rely on various forms of evidence, including statutory text, legislative intent, agency interpretations, cultural norms, and judicial precedent. These theories do not merely offer competing modes of analysis: they also highlight competition among and between federal actors for control over the law-making process.
In this Symposium essay, we not defend an interpretive approach; many others have done that. Nor do we seek to develop a novel understanding of statutory interpretation; others have done that as well. Rather our goal is something more modest: to provide a descriptive mapping of statutory interpretation in the business context - specifically, in disputes over the meaning of the Internal Revenue Code. To that end, we analyze every tax ase decided by the Supreme Court since Congress adopted the modern tax law, with an eye for identifying the various rationales deployed by the justices, as well as the some commonly held-beliefs about trends in statutory interpretation over time.
Keywords: courts, statutory interpretation, tax, empirical
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