Disagreement exists within both the literary and legal communities about authorial intent’s proper role in interpretation. In an effort to balance textualism’s strict limits with intentionalism’s risk of constructed meaning, this Comment approaches the debate from a literary perspective focused on the text but open to limited evidence of the author’s intended meaning. Some literary critics suggest that evidence of an author’s understanding of and associations with particular words can provide a useful tool for objective interpretation. A judge drawing on such evidence could analyze statutory text by juxtaposing a statute’s language with limited evidence of the enacting legislature’s understanding of the language’s meaning. The resulting interpretation would remain grounded in the nature of the words used, but it would avoid imposing meaning upon the language because it would situate the disputed language within a larger statutory context. Structural juxtaposition therefore might assuage the fears of text-focused judges who express concern that reliance on legislative intent creates opportunities for abuse. To illustrate structural juxtaposition’s impact on interpretation, this Comment concludes with an evaluation of the opinions that constitute a circuit split over interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Examination of the opinions demonstrates that a statutory analysis that begins with a text’s language and then expands to include contextual information properly balances the legal need for determinacy against the temptation to impose meaning on statutory text.
Juxtaposition and Intent: Analyzing Legal Interpretation Through the Lens of Literary Criticism,
98 Marq. L. Rev. 1841
Available at: https://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/mulr/vol98/iss4/11