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Statutory Analysis. The Relationship with Case Law Techniques of Interpretation. Statutory law. When researching a legal problem, where do you begin if there is no applicable Constitutional provision ?

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Statutory Analysis

The Relationship with Case Law

Techniques of Interpretation


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Statutory law

  • When researching a legal problem,where do you begin if there is no applicable Constitutional provision ?

  • Remember that state legislatures and other administrative bodies as well as the United States Congress may enact statutes.


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The Relationship Between Case Law and Statutes

  • Courts may…

  • 1) Determine if legislative acts are constitutional or enacted under valid powers

  • 2) and create case law to determine how a statute is to be interpreted or applied.


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The Relationship Between Statutes and Case Law

  • The legislature may…

  • 1) Pass statuteswhich change thecommon law or

  • 2) create new statutory causes of action which were not available at common law.



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Statutory Interpretation

  • Statutory language may be intentionally vague in order to allow for judicial discretion (i.e. reasonable use)

  • What do you do when there is no binding case law construing the language of a statute relevant to your problem?


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Judges interpret statutes by considering the following:

  • 1) The text itself (plain language);

  • 2) legislative intent;

  • 3) implicated policies;

  • 4) interpretation of any governmental agencies;

  • 5) or opinions of respected commentators.


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“Plain Language”

  • Plain language/meaning is determined by:

  • ordinary, dictionary language;

  • by definition sections in a statute;

  • by technical definitions within a trade or industry;

  • or other uses of the same word in the statute.


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Legislative Intent

  • If the plain language is unclear or if the plain meaning would lead to absurd or unintended results, courts will consider legislative intent by looking at the legislative history.

  • In addition to predecessor statutes , Legislative History consists of:

  • Documents that were produced during the statute’s legislative history such as

    • committee reports,

    • speeches,

    • witness testimony and

    • studies introduced into the record.

      (State v. Blight revisited)


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Canons of Construction

  • These are also canons or maxims stating customary ways of interpreting statutes. The cannons however, often yield inconclusive results and not often determinative.

  • 1) Ejusdem generis (of the same genus or class) a specific enumeration followed by a general catch-all; words construed to things of the same character.

  • 2) Expressio unis, exclusio alterius (expression of one thing excludes another) if a statute mentions what is within its coverage, that which is not mentioned is excluded.

  • 3) Statutes in pari materia (same subject matter) should be read together. 

  • 4) A penal statute should be strictly construed.

  • 5) Strictly construe statutes in derogation of the common law; liberally construe remedial statutes.

  • What if the remedial statute is in derogation of the common law?


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Analyzing Statutory Authority

  • Read the Statute

  • When reading the statute be sure to consider. . .

  • To whom is it addressed

  • What conduct it prohibits/permits

  • How the parts of the statute relate to each other.

  • Read the Dog-Bite Act (Handout)


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The Parts of a Statute

  • Purpose Sections

    (modify/codify common law)

  • Definition Sections

  • Operative Language Sections

  • Effective Date


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Analyzing Statutory Authority

  • The next step is to identify the issuein your case relative to the statute.

  • Does the statute apply on its face?

  • If so, identify the elements/analytical categories to determine which have been violated/satisfied.


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  • The Dog Bite Statute

  • If any dog shall,

  • without provocation,

  • bite or injure

  • any person who is at the time and place where the person has a legal right to be,

  • the owner of the dog

  • is liable for the damages

  • to the person bitten or injured.


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  • After you identify the elements, identify the legal issue.

  • What is the legal issue(s) when the statute is applied to your set of facts?

  • Under Ala. Code § 3-6-1 whether . . ..


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Outline Your Issue

Assuming your issue is whether Mondays is liable as/for… (not the extent of his liability)


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  • Set out § 3-6-1

  • Explain Buttercup did bite Douglas without provocation while on Mondays’ property. Thus the two remaining issues are whether Mondays was an “owner” and whether Douglas had a “legal right” to be on the property.

  • I . The court will likely find Mondays was/was not Buttercup’s owner because . . .

    • Rule sentence giving definition of owner

    • Case Discussion of Humphries

      Will discuss-

      Counter-arguments

      Mini-conclusion

  • II. The court will likely find Douglas was/was not legally on Monday’s property because . . .

    • Set out § 3-6-2

      Will discuss

      Counter-arguments

      Mini-conclusion


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