Statutes and regulations are fundamental to modern legal systems and their interpretation is central to much of contemporary legal practice. Statutory regimes and their implementation, rather than the common law, have become the primary focus of many kinds of law practice, in areas as diverse as taxation, environmental law, telecommunications, civil rights, energy, immigration, and health care.
The specific content of the statutes and associated regulations that govern these areas are treated systematically in courses devoted to those subjects. This course, instead, addresses issues surrounding legislation that cut across fields. The first part of the course, addressing the processes by which legislation is enacted, focuses upon the operation of the Congress, the key role of congressional committees, and the importance of interest groups. It then addresses lobbying and its regulation, the range of public-policy justifications for legislation, and the vocabulary and toolkits available to lawmakers and regulators. The final part of the course focuses upon the rules, conventions, and dilemmas that characterize statutory interpretation by courts and agencies. It emphasizes theories of interpretation, canons of statutory construction, the relationship between the common law and statutes, and the use of legislative history. Throughout, the course focuses upon the federal government, but gives some comparative attention to legislation and interpretation in state legislatures and state courts.