Role of Court Decisions in the Interpretation of Statutes – Discussion

Discussion Instructions

Post an explanation of the role of court decisions in the interpretation of statutes. Be specific and use examples to support your explanation.

Sample Discussion

A statute is a specific enactment of legislature that governs a given state or local authority. It is a specific law that sets proposition upon which courts derive legal decisions depending on circumstances. Statutory legislation therefore, is the process by which courts apply statutes in the justice processes. Certain cases that fall under statutory legislation require interpretation of the same since cases differ in nature despite falling under the same spectrum of jurisprudence. Statutes require interpretation because of their nature. Some statutes have plain meaning while others exhibit ambiguity and vagueness especially in terms of wording.

Statutes require interpretation by judges and the various tools are used to interpret statutes. Some of these tools include traditional tenets of statutory interpretation, legislative history, and purpose (Hames, 2015). The role of court decisions in the interpretation of the law is to show how legislation should apply in a given case since no legislation is always enacted to address all matters. Legislation may contain ambiguity for a variety of reasons one of which being the nature of the case for which it is supposed to resolve.

More often than not, words are usually imperfect symbols to derive intent. Despite being ambiguous, they meanings change over time. For example the word “let” may mean several things, some of which include prevent, hinder or allow. Additionally, statutes may constitute uncertainties and this happens especially during enactment of statutes. A statute may include among other things a need for a compromise such as catering to special interests group. Given these circumstances, the role of courts’ decisions in the interpretation of the law is critical to the understanding of situational cases as well as the requisite resolution to case.


Assuming all motor vehicles are mandated by law to register with the Department of Motor vehicles for motorists to use public roads. If the statute does not define the word motor vehicle then the word motor vehicle will have to be defined/ interpreted in case a related issue arises in court. A motorist riding his motor cycle may be apprehended by traffic police for not registering with the Department of motor vehicles. The individual may argue that a motor cycle is not a motor vehicle. This is where the role of the court in interpreting statutes becomes critical in the judicial system.

The United States Supreme Court has handled an array of cases using statutory interpretation. The court has always held that the terms used in a statute should be interpreted as they are, that is, in literal form (Siegel, 2005). While the court is expected to effectuate and determine the intent of legislature using the plain meaning of the law, more often than not, the courts are subjected to cases whereby ambiguity of the law and the nature of the case do not allow for literal interpretation of the law. In such circumstance the court effectuates the purpose of the law by interpretation the law based on the nature of the case. Therefore, the role of the court in statutory interpretation is based on three general factors, which are, the nature of the case, the ambiguity of the statute and the reasonability of the courts.

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