Chapter 11. Interpretation of Statutes

  1. Dennis Patterson Professor2,3,4
  1. William N. Eskridge Jr

Published Online: 27 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444320114.ch11

A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory, Second edition

A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory, Second edition

How to Cite

Eskridge, W. N. (2010) Interpretation of Statutes, in A Companion to Philosophy of Law and Legal Theory, Second edition (ed D. Patterson), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444320114.ch11

Editor Information

  1. 2

    European University Institute, Florence, Italy

  2. 3

    Rutgers University School of Law, Camden, New Jersey, USA

  3. 4

    Swansea University, Wales, United Kingdom

Author Information

  1. John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence, Yale Law School, New Haven, Connecticut, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 27 JAN 2010
  2. Published Print: 19 MAR 2010

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405170062

Online ISBN: 9781444320114



  • interpretation of statutes;
  • statutory interpretation, since 1982 - enjoying a renaissance among scholars of public law;
  • Positivist Era, 1890s to 1930s - eclecticism and specific intent;
  • Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States - prolegomenon to era, judicial philosophy scorned as “mechanical jurisprudence”;
  • legal process era, 1938–69 - American law facing severe intellectual challenges;
  • World War II, legal academics developing - full-fledged “legal process”, theory of law and statutory interpretation;
  • Hart and Sacks's purposive theory of statutory interpretation - influential, leading works on statutory interpretation;
  • revival of positivism - formal theories of interpretation;
  • new legal processes - positivism, principles and pragmatism;
  • eclectic and instrumental features of process tradition - legal reasoning, grab bag of techniques


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • The Positivist Era, 1890s to 1930s: Eclecticism and Specific Intent

  • The Legal Process Era, 1938–69: Purposive Interpretation

  • Post–Legal Process Theories: 1969–Present

  • References