Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Commonweal has posted my review of Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts, by Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner. The piece is behind a paywall, I'm afraid. The review reflects on the nature and value of the canons of textual interpretation--the book's primary focus. Indeed, it might have been better if the canons had been the book's exclusive focus. The sections devoted to constitutional theory are not the best parts of the book. The review also discusses the sense in which--notwithstanding the skeptical criticism that has been leveled at them throughout the realist period and thereafter--the canons create something like a linguistic tradition for lawyers. Here is a fragment:
Some of the most interesting studies of law approach it as a distinctive tradition. And like many traditions, law has its own language which informs and suffuses the thought of those who think and speak through it. If the language of the law is not preserved—if it decays through lack of use, disregard, or skeptical dismissal as just so much transcendental nonsense—then the tradition of law dies as well . . . .The core aim of the book is to retrieve and systematize one of the law’s most important and enduring linguistic traditions—the canons of textual interpretation. The canons are not rules as much as rules-of-thumb, presumptions about the meaning of legal texts. Skill in legal interpretation involves the capacity to discern when a canon should, and should not, yield to countervailing considerations . . . .
Reading Law is, as the authors put it, a normative treatise that introduces the language of law to an audience for whom it is largely alien while offering a refresher course for attorneys and judges who have forgotten (or who never really learned) their canons. Like all treatises, the point is not to read through from front to back and I cannot recommend marching through the book’s 414 pages (that’s before the appendices). No one who isn’t looking for it will much miss the “Scope-of-Subparts Canon” explaining the relationship of subparts to parts, or the “Punctuation Canon,” which warns against “hostility to punctuation” and whose examples include various obscure nineteenth-century precedents involving the use of semicolons. But lawyers faced with interpretive problems will find in Reading Law a pathway to a set of linguistic precepts that structure and enrich the tradition of American law. That is a worthy contribution.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
The most recent issue of the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly (Spring 2013) is devoted to critiques of the new natural law theory (NNLT). The issue contains articles by Father Kevin Flannery SJ, Steven Long, and John Goyette and shorter essays by Fulvio Di Blasi, Matthew O'Brien, Michael Pakaluk, and Edward Feser. Many of the pieces focus on the NNLT's understanding of intention, an issue that has been featured in earlier discussions on Mirror of Justice of issues such as craniotomy and the treatment of ectopic pregnancies.
Monday, October 10, 2011
My friend, Fr. Thomas Williams, has a brand-new book out on Catholic Social Thought, called "The World as it Could Be." Here's one blurb:
Providing insight and into the world's most pressing concerns--those of human rights, human dignity, and world peace--bestselling author and priest Thomas D. Williams adds his reassuring voice to the panoply of issues that call to question the meaning of faith. One of the most trusted and dynamic voices from the Catholic community and the official Vatican analyst for CBS News, Father Williams helps parishioners step back from today's controversies and understand Catholic teachings in a deeper way. Addressing the most heated debates ripped from national headlines and fervently discussed between Catholics--from abortion and capital punishment to the economy--Father Williams draws upon his years of teaching in this detailed yet accessible analysis of the moral dilemmas and political challenges that Catholics face every day. Examining these moral conflicts, and the often opposing forces of individual rights versus those of the community, Father Williams speaks to orthodox Catholics and non-Catholic observers alike in this examination of the Catholic faith, it's influence around the world, and what it teaches millions of followers about human rights and a better world.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
My own mind tends to focus more on other tournaments during March but . . . the good folks at First Things are running their "Tournament of Novels" over at the First Thoughts blog. Head over and vote (early and often) for Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian (and four others of your choice). My four, for what it's worth, were The Brothers Karamazov, The First Circle, Silence, and The Power and the Glory.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010