This chapter examines a range of approaches to statutory interpretation. In particular, it explores how Congress actually functions, how Congress signals its meaning, what Congress expects of those interpreting its laws, and how courts in their interpretative role become participants in the legislative process. After discussing how Congress works and the lawmaking process as it has evolved, the chapter explains how legislators who comprise Congress signal their legislative meaning to agencies—the first interpreters of statutes—and how agencies regard Congress's work product in interpreting and executing the law. It then describes two approaches to the judicial interpretation of statutes, purposivism and textualism, and argues that a purely textualist approach is inadequate when interpreting ambiguous laws. Finally, it considers practical ways in which Congress may better signal its meaning and how courts may better inform Congress of problems they perceive in the statutes they review.
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