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Law's Audiences

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Abstract

This dissertation explores the concept of audience in contemporary theories of legal interpretation, examining the varied roles that nonjudicial legal actors play in interpreting, constructing, and applying statutes and the Constitution. So defined, legal audiences include both those who are actively engaged with, as well as those who are passively affected by, legal rules, in addition to those outside the formal legal system but who nevertheless assert claims about legal meaning. Orienting legal interpretation around nonjudicial legal audiences provides an important contrast to predominant approaches in American public law legal theory, which tend to situate acts of legal interpretation as practices primarily for judges. Prominent debates in both constitutional and statutory interpretation are often most concerned with providing accounts about the proper role of unelected and politically unaccountable judges when interpreting democratically promulgated constitutional and statutory texts. Instead, this dissertation focuses on how the content of the law is also developed as a collaborative endeavor between judges as authors about rules for legal interpretation, and the relevant legal audiences who bring the law to life, through their implementations, applications, and interpretations. In particular, the dissertation analyzes the distinctive conversational, confrontational, and cooperative dynamics that develop between courts and other legal audiences involved in making claims about the meaning of law.

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This item is under embargo until October 12, 2023.