Saturday, July 9, 2011

Teaching Statutory Interpretation

Considering that a great deal of law is statutory, statutory analysis is a foundational skill for law students.  I think that a course in statutory analysis should be included in the first-year curriculum.  However, since only a few law schools have such a course in the first year, it is often up to legal writing teachers to introduce law students to statutory interpretation.

Almas Khan has just posted a short article on SSRN entitled Teaching a Master Class on Legislation to First-Year Legal Writing Students, which discusses how to teach statutory analysis to first years in one two-hour class.  He uses the examples and exercises in Helene S. Shapo, Marilyn R. Walter & Elizabeth Fajans, Writing and Analysis in the Law (5th ed. 2008), which are excellent examples and exercises for teaching statutory analysis.  In addition, Public Citizen v. Dept. of Justice, 491 U.S. 440 (1989) is an excellent case to use for teaching statutory analysis because the majority opinion (Brennan) adopts a purposivist approach, while the concurring opinion (Kennedy) uses a textualist approach.


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That's why tax is the ideal first year course. It has everything. Grounded in the Constitution. Based on statute. Brimming with regulations and other administrative issuances. Replete with judicial opinions in all sorts of courts. Flavored with state and local issues and international concerns. Policy and normative analytical opportunities. Affects most people and entities. Can be fun for students because it touches on things near and dear to them: gift exclusion, scholarship exclusion, job hunting expense deductions, dependency exemptions, withholding, employee v independent contractor, casualty losses, and so on. But the word tax strikes such fear in the hearts of so many law faculties and law students that the first-year students are missing out on the chance of a lifetime. :-)

Posted by: Jim Maule | Jul 10, 2011 12:50:38 PM

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