For all intents and purposes, programs enacted by state and federal legislatures dominate the social and legal landscape, affecting all of us every day and in myriad ways. The modern legal system is, in large degree, the product of both legislatures and complex bureaucratic structures known as agencies, which engage in legislative implementation. Outside the area of constitutional law, the courts today function largely as interpreters of the product of legislatures (known as statutes) and also as reviewers of the legality of the actions taken by agencies to implement statutes. No lawyer today can reasonably hope that his or her clients can escape the far-reaching jurisdiction of state and federal agencies that both regulate private activity and dispense various benefits, many of which are deemed fundamental in today’s society. Nor can any competent lawyer adequately serve his or her client without a reasonably sophisticated understanding of the interpretive techniques utilized by courts in “uncovering” the meaning of statutes.
This course has three main goals: first, to offer students an overall sense of how the legislative, administrative, and judicial arms of government interrelate in governing our society under a constitutional system of checks and balances; second, to familiarize them with the process of law-making and law-application as it is conducted in legislative bodies and in administrative agencies; and, third, to introduce them to the process of statutory interpretation both in theory and practice.