A Prolegomena to Federal Statutory Interpretation: Identifying the Sources of Interpretive Problems


This article traces the problems encountered in interpreting statutes to twenty-nine distinct problems encountered in creating statutory rule systems. Specifically, given their purposes and other purposes the law is simultaneously pursuing, statutory rule systems inevitably emerge incomplete in a least sixteen types of ways and containing key words and phrases with meanings that are in part inappropriate in at least thirteen types of ways. Interpreting a statute includes completing its incomplete rule system and modifying the meanings of words and phrases to bring the statute into better allignment with underlying purposes. So understood, the process of interpreting statutes can add to the substance of statutory text in a manner that is suitably constrained and consistent with the principle of legislative supremacy.



Date of this Version

March 2006