- March 28, 2013
- Posted by: essay
- Category: Term paper writing
The interpretation of laws is very important for the adequate understanding of laws, their observation and proper execution of existing legal norms. However, this is exactly, where the heat debate among professionals as well as among the public arises, because the problem of the adequate interpretation of laws is crucial for their proper implementation and execution. At this point, it is possible to distinguish two antagonistic views. On the one hand, some views the interpretation of laws, which is the fundamental principle of the common law, as the way to manipulation with laws by judges because they may interpret laws respectively to their own vision of laws and understanding of laws. On the other hand, some argue that the interpretation of laws is very strict and narrow to the extent that laws are interpreted literally and there are virtually no variations for the interpretation of laws. In this regard, Antonin Scalia suggests an alternative view on the matter of interpretation of laws because, even though he is more inclined to the strict interpretation of laws, Scalia still stands on the ground that judges can interpret laws but they should be interpreted within a limited range of meaning taking into consideration the original meaning of laws and the current environment in which they are interpreted.
In fact, Scalia sets himself out as a textualist, interpreting a text as it is written, neither more nor less (23). However, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the interpretation of texts is dependent on the context in which the text was written and on the current environment in which the text is interpreted. At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that Scalia argues that words do have a limited range of meaning, and no interpretation that goes beyond that range is permissible (Scalia, 31). This means that Scalia sets certain range of meaning for texts, including laws and judges cannot go beyond this range of meaning. Therefore, laws should be interpreted on the ground of texts, which lay the foundation for the interpretation being conducted by judges but judges cannot bring in new shades of meaning to the laws and interpret them irrelevantly to the text.
In other words, judges cannot manipulate with the text according to their wishes and interests. Instead, according to Scalia, judges should interpret texts of laws within the framework of meaning set by the original text.
However, this is rather an ideal vision of interpretation of laws than real one. In this regard, Scalia writes that U.S. courts, sadly, have no intelligible, generally accepted and consistently applied, theory of statutory interpretation (Scalia, 102). He describes as principle, dating back to 18th century England, judges interpreting a statute to give effect to the intent of the legislature’ (Scalia, 103). Judges, he adds, are supposed to resolve inconsistencies in such a fashion as to make the statute, not only internally consistent, but also compatible with previously enacted laws (Scalia, 104). In such a way, judges interpret laws quite subjectively and often they fail to interpret laws respectively to the original texts.
At this point, Antonin Scalia refers to the position of other researchers, such as Ronald Dworkin, who points out that there are in fact two types of textualists (or originalists): semantic-originalists who look at what the authors intended to say, and expectation-originalists, looking at what authors intended the outcome of the legislation to be (Scalia, 120). In addition, Wood, for example, tries to show that in the past legislative and judicial functions were often merged (Scalia, 60). Scalia rightly asks why this history mattersjust because it was done does not make it a good thing (Scalia, 131). Scalia’s own propositions can be met with the same argument, however: even if we were able to determine what the legislature meant to say, or even what a legislature meant to effect, who is to say that this is the best way to interpret a text? Why not interpret a text differently from what it was supposed to mean upon its creation? In such a way, the question concerning the interpretation of the laws, which were written decades ago and the current environment, in which they are implemented today. Therefore, the question concerning the gap between the original interpretation of laws and the current interpretation of laws arises. In this regard, Scalia stresses that context is everything, and concerning the Constitution, he writes: Šthe Constitution tells us not to expect nit-picking detail, and to give words and phrases an expansive rather than narrow interpretation – though not an interpretation that the language will not bear (Scalia, 37).