Professor Lawrence B. Solum Talks Interpretation and Construction

In the first installment of the Faculty Workshop Series, sponsored by the Frances Lewis Law Center, Professor Lawrence B. Solum, the John E. Cribbet Professor of Law & Philosophy and the Co-Director for Institute for Law & Philosophy at the University of Illinois College of Law, came to speak on September 17 about his new article, The Interpretation-Construction Distinction.

Professor Solum laid out his contention that two distinct and different stages occur when an authoritative legal text, such as a constitution or statute, is applied. The first stage is the interpretation, which seeks to explore the linguistic or literary meaning. During this moment, interpretors analyze the literal meaning of the words to create a basic meaning. The second stage is the construction, which gives the text a legal effect and applies it. This period takes the linguistic meaning and gives it legal force and understanding. Only the latter stage, Professor Solum argues, can be used to resolve any vagueness in the literal meaning of the text.

Professor Solum outlined his theory that the distinction between interpretation and construction is both real and fundamental and understanding the difference helps frame discussions and arguments about the legal effect of statutory texts.

Many thanks to Professor Solum for kicking off the Faculty Workshop Series. A copy of his paper may be found here.

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