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    Interpretation and Construction in Contract Law

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    Interpretation determines the meaning of a legal actor’s words and actions, construction their legal effect. Although the interpretation-construction distinction has a long pedigree, contract scholars today rarely attend to it, and the relationship between the two activities remains understudied. This Article provides an account of the interplay between interpretation and construction in contract law. It begins with the history of the concepts, focusing on the works of Lieber, Williston and Corbin. It adopts Corbin’s complimentary conception, according to which interpretation alone never suffices to determine speech act’s legal effects; a rule of construction is always required. The Article departs from Corbin, however, by arguing that contract law recognizes multiple types of meaning, and therefore calls for different types of interpretation. Legally relevant meanings include plain meaning, contextually determined use meaning, subjective and objective meanings, purpose, and the parties’ beliefs and intentions. Which type of meaning is legally relevant when depends on the applicable rule of construction. Consequently, although interpretation comes first in the process of determining parties’ legal obligations, the correct approach to legal interpretation is determined by rules of construction. The Article identifies two additional ways construction can be said to be prior to interpretation in contract law. First, judicial acts of construction can attach to contract boilerplate standard legal effects that depart from the words’ ordinary meaning, turning them into a legal formality. Acts of construction can thereby give boilerplate new semantic meanings, to which interpretation must attend. Second, when parties choose their words in light of their legal effects, rules of construction often figure into their communicative intentions. Rules of construction can therefore also be prior the pragmatic meaning of what parties say and do. Understanding this complex interplay between interpretation and construction is essential to understanding how the law determines the existence and content of contractual obligations. Although this Article does not argue for one or another rule of interpretation or construction, it lays the groundwork for analyses of which rules are appropriate when

    Contracts, Constitutions, and Getting the Interpretation-Construction Distinction Right

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    Interpretation determines the meaning of a legal actor’s words or other significant acts, construction their legal effect. Using contract law and then two nineteenth century theories of constitutional interpretation as examples, this Article advances four claims about interpretation, construction, and the relationship between the two. First, many theorists, following Francis Lieber, assume that rules of construction apply only when interpretation runs out, such as when a text’s meaning is ambiguous or does not address an issue. In fact, a rule of construction is always necessary to determine a legal speech act’s effect, including when its meaning is clear and definite. Construction does not supplement interpretation, but compliments it. Second, there exists more than one form of interpretation, and correspondingly more than one type of meaning. The meaning a text or other speech act has depends on the questions one asks of it. Third, which type of meaning is legally relevant depends on the applicable rule of construction. Rules of construction are in this sense conceptually prior to legal rules of interpretation. This priority has important consequences for how legal rules of interpretation are justified. Finally, because there exist multiple types of meaning, when one form of interpretation runs out, another form might step in. Whether that is so again depends on the applicable rule of construction.These four claims apply to legal interpretation and construction generally. This Article supports them with a close examination of the interpretation and construction of contractual agreements. It then argues that this account of interpretation and construction illuminates the shared structure of Joseph Story’s and Thomas Cooley’s theories of constitutional interpretation, and by extension theories of constitutional interpretation generally

    The Application of Legal Construction in the Rulings of the Constitutional Court

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    The Constitutional Court does not only interpreting the Constitution in judicial review cases. The Courtalso applies legal construction which include constitutional construction and statutory construction. Thisarticle aims to identify this approach in the Court rulings. It also seeks to find conditions that trigger theCourt to venture on discovering the law by applying legal construction

    The Interpretation-Construction Distinction

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    The interpretation-construction distinction, which marks the difference between linguistic meaning and legal effect, is much discussed these days. I shall argue that the distinction is both real and fundamental – that it marks a deep difference in two different stages (or moments) in the way that legal and political actors process legal texts. My account of the distinction will not be precisely the same as some others, but I shall argue that it is the correct account and captures the essential insights of its rivals. This Essay aims to mark the distinction clearly! The basic idea can be explained by distinguishing two different moments or stages that occur when an authoritative legal text (a constitution, statute, regulation, or rule) is applied or explicated. The first of these moments is interpretation – which I shall stipulate is the process (or activity) that recognizes or discovers the linguistic meaning or semantic content of the legal text. The second moment is construction – which I shall stipulate is the process that gives a text legal effect (either my translating the linguistic meaning into legal doctrine or by applying or implementing the text). I shall then claim that the difference between interpretation and construction is real and fundamental. Although the terminology (the words interpretation and construction that express the distinction) could vary, legal theorists cannot do without the distinction. One more preliminary point: the topic of this Essay is narrow and conceptual. This Essay, has three goals: (1) to explicate the nature of the interpretation-construction distinction, (2) to argue that this distinction marks a real difference, and (3) to suggest that the distinction is helpful in that it enables legal theorists to clarify the nature of important debates, for example debates about constitutional interpretation. The Essay does not offer any particular theory of interpretation or construction – that it is, it remains agnostic about questions as to how linguistic meaning can be discerned or how legal content ought to be determined. Nor does this theory offer an account of the history and origins of the distinction. Those topics are important, but raising them in this Essay might shift attention away from prior questions about the nature and value of the distinction itself. Here is the roadmap. In Part II, this Essay shall discuss two preliminary sets of ideas: (1) vagueness and ambiguity, and (2) semantic content and legal content. In Part III, this Essay shall use these preliminary ideas to answer the questions, What is interpretation? and What is construction? In Part IV, this Essay shall consider some objections to the interpretation-construction distinction. In Part V, this Essay shall develop the argument that the distinction is fundamental and indispensable

    The concept of disability discrimination and its legal construction

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    The purpose of this paper is to examine the key issues surrounding the legal construction of the concept of discrimination based on disability. This paper examines these issues in the context of the European Community’s framework directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation , in order to highlight the particular needs which must be addressed in developing laws to combat such discrimination. Where relevant, the paper contrasts the approach necessary for disability based discrimination with the traditional approach in relation to sex and race discrimination. The paper therefore examines the following areas: (i) the purpose of enacting non-discrimination laws in the context of disability; (ii) the definition of ‘disability’ as a ground of discrimination; (iii) the concepts of direct and indirect discrimination; and (iv) the duty to provide reasonable accommodations.</p

    Construction management contracts: law and practice

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    The context of construction management (CM) reveals that this method of procurement is as much a management philosophy as a contract structure. It is important to consider legal and contractual issues in this context. The interplay between management and law is complex and often misunderstood. Before considering specific issues, the use of contractual remedies in business agreements is discussed. In addition, the extent to which standardising a form of contract detracts or contributes to the success of projects is also considered. The dearth of judicial decisions, and the lack of a standard form, render it difficult to be specific about legal issues. Therefore, the main discussion of legal issues is centred around a recently completed research project which involved eliciting the views of a cross-section of experienced construction management clients, consultants and trade contractors. These interviews are used as the basis for highlighting some of the most important legal points to consider when setting up CM projects. The interviews revealed that the advantage of CM is the proximity of the client to the trade contractors and the disadvantage is that it depends on a high degree of professionalism and experience; qualities which are unfortunately difficult to find in the UK construction industry

    The Continuity of Statutory and Constitutional Interpretation: An Essay for Phil Frickey

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    This Essay seeks to honor Phil by exploring the contributions of his Legal Process approach to a problem near and dear to his heart: the uses and legitimacy of canons of statutory construction. I focus, as Phil did in his most recent work, on the canon of constitutional avoidance—that is, the rule that courts should construe statutes to avoid significant ―doubt as to their constitutionality. This Essay largely supports Phil‘s defense of the avoidance canon, but links that defense to another set of canons that Phil has criticized: the various clear statement rules of statutory construction that Phil and Bill Eskridge memorably labeled ―quasi-constitutional law. These rules require that Congress make its intent especially clear when it legislates in areas of particular constitutional sensitivity—for example, by intruding on the prerogatives of the states. This Essay proceeds in three parts. Part I develops two problems in statutory construction—the canon of constitutional avoidance and judge-made clear statement rules—by reference to some major cases decided in the Supreme Court‘s 2008 Term. Part II elaborates the Legal Process School‘s approach to these sorts of problems of canonical construction, with particular emphasis on Professor Frickey‘s work in this vein. Part III then develops the central Legal Process insight that rules of construction are part of constitutional interpretation as a means of interpreting and protecting the broader structural aspects of the Constitution, namely, federalism and separation of powers

    A 'deleterious' effect? : Australian legal education and the production of the legal identity

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    A body of critical legal scholarship argues that, by the time they have completed their studies, students who enter legal education holding social ideals and intending to use their legal education to achieve social change, have become cynical about the ability of the law to do so and no longer possess such ideals. This is explained by critical scholars to be the result of a process of ideological indoctrination, aimed at ensuring that graduates uphold the narrow and conservative interests of the legal profession and capitalist society, being exercised by law schools acting as adjuncts of the legal profession, and exercised upon the passive body of the law student. By using Foucault’s work on knowledge, power, and the subject to interrogate the assumptions upon which this narrative is based, this thesis intends to suggest a way of thinking differently to the approach taken by many critical legal scholars. It then uses an analytics of government (based on Foucault’s notion of ‘governmentality’) to consider the construction of the legal identity differently. It examines the ways in which the governance of the legal identity is rationalised, programmed, and implemented, in three Queensland law schools. It also looks at the way that five prescriptive texts to ‘surviving’ law school suggest students establish and practise a relation to themselves in order to construct their own legal identities. Overall, this analysis shows that governance is not simply conducted in the profession’s interests, but occurs due to a complex arrangement of different practices, which can lead to the construction of skilled legal professional identities as well as ethical lawyer-citizens that hold an interest in justice. The implications of such an analytics provide the basis for original ways of understanding legal education, and legal education scholarship

    The Continuity of Statutory and Constitutional Interpretation: An Essay for Phil Frickey

    Get PDF
    This Essay seeks to honor Phil by exploring the contributions of his Legal Process approach to a problem near and dear to his heart: the uses and legitimacy of canons of statutory construction. I focus, as Phil did in his most recent work, on the canon of constitutional avoidance—that is, the rule that courts should construe statutes to avoid significant ―doubt as to their constitutionality. This Essay largely supports Phil‘s defense of the avoidance canon, but links that defense to another set of canons that Phil has criticized: the various clear statement rules of statutory construction that Phil and Bill Eskridge memorably labeled ―quasi-constitutional law. These rules require that Congress make its intent especially clear when it legislates in areas of particular constitutional sensitivity—for example, by intruding on the prerogatives of the states. This Essay proceeds in three parts. Part I develops two problems in statutory construction—the canon of constitutional avoidance and judge-made clear statement rules—by reference to some major cases decided in the Supreme Court‘s 2008 Term. Part II elaborates the Legal Process School‘s approach to these sorts of problems of canonical construction, with particular emphasis on Professor Frickey‘s work in this vein. Part III then develops the central Legal Process insight that rules of construction are part of constitutional interpretation as a means of interpreting and protecting the broader structural aspects of the Constitution, namely, federalism and separation of powers
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