Law Schedule of Classes

NOTE: Course offerings change. Classes offered this semester may not be offered in future semesters.

Apart from their assigned mod courses, 1L students may only enroll in courses offered as 1L electives. A complete list of these courses can be found on the 1L Elective Listings page. 1L students must use the 1L class number listed on the course description when enrolling.

207.9 sec. 001 - Language and Legal Interpretation (Spring 2022)

Instructor: Brian G Slocum  
View all teaching evaluations for this course - degree students only

Units: 1
Grading Designation: Credit Only
Mode of Instruction: In-Person


Th 10:00 AM - 10:50 AM
Location: Law 140
From January 13, 2022
To April 22, 2022

Course Start: January 13, 2022
Course End: April 22, 2022
Class Number: 32564

Enrollment info:
Enrolled: 24
Waitlisted: 0
Enroll Limit: 40
As of: 07/19 11:58 AM

The functioning of the law is based on how language is interpreted. This course focuses on the role language plays in the interpretation of legal texts, such as constitutions, statutes, and contracts. These formal scenarios involving the interpretation of texts will be contrasted with informal scenarios involving the interpretation of oral statements, such as in police/citizen interactions. Issues of interpretation are constantly before the courts, even in relatively homogeneous, monolingual cultures. We will consider how the heterogeneous, multilingual nature of our society should impact both formal and informal legal interpretation. Thus, for instance, what does it mean for an “ordinary person” to have “fair notice” of the law? Is that a value that courts should promote? Should a court interpret a legal text according to its “ordinary meaning”? Is there such a thing as “ordinary meaning,” and if so, how can an attorney or court identify it? How should the language of a law, such as a civil rights statute, be interpreted over time? Is it inevitable that such a law will be interpreted dynamically? We will also critically analyze new research methods that courts are increasingly embracing, such as corpus linguistics, that purport to turn legal interpretation into an empirical endeavor.

Professor Brian Slocum has a JD and a PhD in Linguistics and writes extensively on issues of legal interpretation. Recent articles include, The Meaning of Sex: Dynamic Words, Novel Applications, and Original Public Meaning, 119 Mich. L. Rev. 1503 (2021) (with William N. Eskridge Jr. & Stefan Th. Gries), and Statutory Interpretation from the Outside, Colum. L. Rev. (forthcoming, 2022) (with Kevin Tobia & Victoria Nourse). Prior to joining legal academia, Professor Slocum was a Trial Attorney in both the Civil and Criminal Divisions of the Department of Justice.

Exam Notes: (P) Final paper  
Exam Length: 2 hours
Course Category: General Courses

If you are the instructor or their FSU, you may add a file like a syllabus or a first assignment to this page.

No reader.

Instructor has indicated that no books will be assigned.

Go to Course Search