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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 155231 Find in a Library
Title: Court of Appeals at the Cocktail Party: The Use and Misuse of Legislative History
Journal: Maryland Law Review  Volume:54  Issue:2  Dated:(1995)  Pages:432-465
Author(s): J Schwartz; A S Conn
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 34
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reviews how the Maryland Court of Appeals currently approaches issues of statutory construction, how its use of legislative history potentially undermines the court's stated goals, and why a more disciplined use of legislative history would better serve the quest for "the truth of the statute."
Abstract: Part I examines statutory construction and the reality of Maryland's Legislature. Topics discussed are sources of legislative history, the authoritative voices of the key players, and distinguishing among the various types of legislative history. Part II reviews the interpretive process of the Maryland Court of Appeals. The discussion notes that in its use of legislative history to arrive at an understanding of the General Assembly's intent in the applicable law, the court sometimes does not pay sufficient attention to a particular document's relationship to the enacted statute. The court also sometimes relies on the reasoning of a law's advocates who were not key participants in the enactment process. Also, the court has treated documents prepared outside the Legislature long after the enactment of the provision in question as if they were legislative history. Part III details problems with the court's use of legislative history. In offering recommendations for the court's improved use of legislative history, the article suggests that it follow a disciplined methodology of statutory interpretation that avoids unnecessary recourse to legislative history. The court should always begin by deducing the meaning that the text alone most probably would have conveyed to the reasonable legislator. When the meaning the court derives from particular statutory text alone is indefinite or seems not to fit within the context of the language of the statute as a whole, the legislative evolution of the statute's language, or related law, then the court should turn to the legislative history. A clear sense of hierarchy should guide the court's review of legislative history, with some elements of the history receiving more weight than others. 173 footnotes
Main Term(s): State courts
Index Term(s): Criminology; Judicial decisions; Jurisprudence; Maryland
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