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Law Outlines > Legislation and Regulation (Admin Law) Outlines

Puposivism Outline

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This is an extract of our Puposivism document, which we sell as part of our Legislation and Regulation (Admin Law) Outlines collection written by the top tier of NYU School Of Law students.

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  1. Adherents believe that a court should attribute a purpose to a statute and then construe the details of that statute to be consistent with its general purpose; that the principle of legislative supremacy not only permits but requires the court to deviate from a literalist reading of the text.

  2. Adherents believe that reshaping the text to fit a statute’s apparent purpose is not substituting the will of a judge for that of a legislator, but rather a superior way of discovering the true legislative will or intent (superior to text).

  3. Based on an idea that Congress enacts a law to achieve a purpose, and interpreters should read those laws accordingly.

  4. Purposivism assumes that because of limited legislative foresight and the transaction costs of translating policies into words, Congress will sometimes inadvertently fail to draft a stuatte that captures its background purposes.

  5. “Light Purposivists” will use purpose as a tie breaker to help construe ambiguous statutes.

  6. “Hardcore Purposivists” will set aside even clear text when it conflicts with the general purpose.

  7. Riggs v. Palmer: (Strong Purposivism)

    1. Facts: Deceased left estate to grandson. In order to prevent the deceased from revoking the will, the grandson murdered his grandfather and claimed the property, claiming that because the testator is dead and because his will was made in due form, the will must have effect according to the New York Wills Formalities Act.

    2. Applicable Statutory Language: “No will in writing, except in the cases hereinafter mentioned, nor any part thereof, shall be revoked or altered otherwise.”

    3. Issue: Whether a beneficiary who murders the testator be permitted to inherit that which was willed.

    4. Holding: It would be inconceivable and unreasonable to suppose that it was the legislature’s intent, in enacting a law for the orderly, peaceable, and just devolution of property, to allow the operation of the law in favor of one who murdered his ancestor so that he might expedite his inheritance.

    5. Plain Meaning

      1. Both the majority and dissent emphasized that the plain meaning was clearly that one cannot revoke a will unless certain exceptions apply (undue influence, coercion, duress, forgery, etc.), and as none of the exceptions include murdering testator, the courts cannot revoke or alter the will.

    6. Purpose

      1. The majority holds that the purpose of the statute was to enforce the testator’s “final wishes,” which presumably does not include giving money to one’s murderer. It used this purpose to override the text.

        1. Common Sense Inference: In discovering this legislative intent, the court did not use specific evidence contained in legislative speeches. Rather the majority relied almost entirely on subjective intent (common sense)—“if the law’s specific application in this case was put before the legislature, they surely would have said that this is not what they had in mind.”

      2. Dissent argued that majority failed to consider other purposes that might support a different result (illustrates risk that inferences of purpose to trump text may ignore other purposes equally imputable to the specific statute):

        1. Purpose of making sure crimes are well defined in statutes and not allowing the court to supplant criminal penalties with additional penalties.

        2. Purpose of limiting judicial discretion to prevent the destruction of clear, bright-line rules.

        3. Purpose of administrative simplicity.

    7. Canon

      1. The majority relied on the anti-derogation canon, that statutes should be construed not to be in derogation of the common law (common law maxim that one should not profit from his own crimes).

      2. Dissent argued that majority failed to consider other canons that might support a different result:

        1. Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterious (anti-redundancy): A list of exceptions to a general rule ought...

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