This casebook is designed as a companion for Statutory Interpretation: Theory and Practice (Toronto: Emond Montgomery, 2001) (“Theory and Practice”). While Theory and Practice deals with the theoretical underpinnings of statutory construction, this casebook is designed to demonstrate the “nuts and bolts” of the subject. The cases found in the present work have been selected for the purpose of introducing students to basic interpretive arguments and “rules,” which will help students build upon the interpretive theories developed in Theory and Practice.
Together, the present work and Theory and Practice are designed to constitute a complete set of materials for a course on statutory interpretation. This casebook should be regarded as the primary source of readings for such a course. At the beginning of each chapter of this casebook, students are directed to a set of required readings from Theory and Practice. Those readings explain the competing interpretive theories that informed the decisions found in the relevant chapters of this book. By combining the theories developed in Theory and Practice with the selection of cases presented in this book, students will develop a high degree of skill in the interpretation of legislative language: a skill that will assist students throughout the remainder of their legal studies and their subsequent careers.
It is often difficult to evaluate student progress in a course combining practical skills with complex legal theory. In order to assist instructors, each chapter of this casebook concludes with a series of exercises designed to test student progress. Instructors should feel free to pick and choose from these assignments when designing their own courses. The best way to develop skills in the interpretation of statutes is to practise interpreting legislative text. As a result, most of the exercises found in this book require students to apply the text of legislative provisions to concrete fact scenarios. Through these exercises, students should come to appreciate the difficulty involved in applying interpretive theory to real-life situations. More importantly, students will hone the analytical and rhetorical skills that are critical for success in the legal profession.
A secondary purpose of this book is to demonstrate the current relevance of statutory construction. While the phrase “statutory interpretation” tends to conjure up images of dusty legal tomes with little relevance for current legal scholars, the truth of the matter is that many of the most controversial legal decisions in recent years have centred on problems of statutory interpretation. In order to emphasize this point, this book features cases dealing with controversial topics including abortion, pornography, same-sex marriages, gun control, and the sex industry. While cases of this nature tend to hold student interest, they also emphasize the increasing importance of legislative language in the regulation of deeply personal choices. Students will come to realize that whatever controversial legal issues they encounter, the debate will eventually turn on matters of statutory construction. By honing their own interpretive skills, students will enhance their ability to participate in the legal debates that shape every field of human endeavour.
The materials in this book were selected, in part, according to the input of students I taught at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, and the University of New Brunswick. I am grateful to all of the students who provided me with their comments. In particular, I would like to thank Matthew Letson, LLB 2002, for the valuable research assistance that he provided throughout the preparation of this text. I would also like to thank Joanne Levison and Wanda Bailey for their indispensable administrative support. Finally, I would like to thank my partner, Stephanie Montgomery, for all of the help and inspiration that she never fails to provide.
Randal N. Graham