Statutory interpretation and the counterfactual test for legislative intention

Law and Philosophy 8 (3):383 - 404 (1989)
Abstract
In this paper I examine the counterfactual test for legislative intention as used in Riggs v. Palmer. The distinction between the speaker's meaning approach and the constructive interpretation approach to statutory interpretation, as made by Dworkin in Law's Empire, is explained. I argue that Dworkin underestimates the potential of the counterfactual test in making the speaker's meaning approach more plausible. I also argue that Dworkin's reasons for rejecting the counterfactual test, as proposed in Law's Empire, are either too weak or unsound. A deeper reason for rejecting the counterfactual test as a method for the speaker's meaning approach is proposed in this paper. The difference between the counterfactual test and other tests for legislative intention which seem also to make use of counterfactual conditions in explained.
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