The Nature of Legislative Intent

Paperback | March 12, 2016

byRichard Ekins

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Are legislatures able to form and act on intentions? The question matters because the interpretation of statutes is often thought to centre on the intention of the legislature and because the way in which the legislature acts is relevant to the authority it does or should enjoy. Many scholarsargue that legislative intent is a fiction: the legislative assembly is a large, diverse group rather than a single person and it seems a mystery how the intentions of the individual legislators might somehow add up to a coherent group intention. This book argues that in enacting a statute the well-formed legislature forms and acts on a detailed intention, which is the legislative intent. The foundation of the argument is an analysis of how the members of purposive groups act together by way of common plans, sometimes forming complex groupagents. The book extends this analysis to the legislature, considering what it is to legislate and how members of the assembly cooperate to legislate. The book argues that to legislate is to choose to change the law for some reason: the well-formed legislature has the capacity to consider whatshould be done and to act to that end. This argument is supported by reflection on the centrality of intention to the nature of language use. The book then explains in detail how members of the assembly form and act on joint intentions, which do not reduce to the intentions of each member, beforeoutlining some implications of this account for the practice of statutory interpretation. Developing a robust account of the nature and importance of legislative intention, the book represents a significant contribution to the literature on deliberative democracy that will be of interest to all those thinking about legal interpretation and constitutional theory.

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Are legislatures able to form and act on intentions? The question matters because the interpretation of statutes is often thought to centre on the intention of the legislature and because the way in which the legislature acts is relevant to the authority it does or should enjoy. Many scholarsargue that legislative intent is a fiction: ...

Professor Richard Ekins is a Tutorial Fellow in Law at St John's College. He received his BA, LLB (Hons) and BA (Hons) degrees from The University of Auckland, before going on to read for the BCL, MPhil and DPhil at Oxford. He has worked as a Judge's Clerk at the High Court of New Zealand at Auckland, a Lecturer at Balliol College, an...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.69 inPublished:March 12, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198766203

ISBN - 13:9780198766209

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction2. Sceptical Arguments3. Joint Intention and Group Agency4. Legislating Without Reasoning5. What It Is to Legislate6. The Legislative Assembly7. Language Use and Intention8. The Nature of Legislative Intent9. Intentions in Interpretation

Editorial Reviews

"Ekins skillfully defends the ancient idea that a legislature can intend to change law, and the job of courts is to give effect to that intent." --Adam J, Macleod, Liberty Lawsite