Courts, Judges, and Politics
22nd, February 2013
Law is important in society, as it guides the lives of people, including their actions. The judges, through their laid down principles, participate in determining common law, which applies in the country and controls actions of people. This law today is set in a country’s legislation. In the process of writing law, legislators set out to use a kind of language that will be easily understood by officials, citizens, as well as judges. However, laws written in the past generations, which were different from the present generation, have outlived present generations. This kind of law, even though was clear to the past generations, becomes problematic in the present generation, and results in different problems, including its interpretation, as this can be seen as ambiguous or lead to different interpretations by judges. The fact that words attract different meanings has led to problems in interpretation of statutes.
Frankfurter Felix is right as he makes claims in text about statute interpretation, basing on his experience as an associate justice of the US Supreme Court in the past years. He identifies the main problem in interpretation of law as emanating from the use of words (Frankfurter, 1947). Words are used differently by different people, therefore, even in law; these might get different interpretations, which then might become problematic. For instance, if a statement reads workers in an industry are not required to carry luggage weighing more than 50kgs, might appear to legislation that these workers are only supposed to carry reasonable weight. However, the term reasonable will result in problematic interpretation, since this might mean a different thing to different judges. Therefore, Frankfurter’s claims about language and its problematic nature in interpretation of statutes are quite on point.
Frankfurter also notes that because language presents a problem in interpretation of statutes, which is commonly performed by judges, this casts a doubt on those statutes that are constructed by judges (Frankfurter, 1947). This is a matter of fact, because in such cases, the decisions on the statute are wholly left to the judges. These might use their own judgment and interpretation to interpret the statute. Some of the judges might be wrong in their interpretation. Frankfurter therefore, has emphasized on the need of judges to utilize their knowledge and professionalism appropriately in such cases. I concur with Frankfurter on this, because in such cases, the judges are regarded as in charge of polishing or refining some legislation, which requires processing. Legislation is important and affects people’s lives, therefore, just like Frankfurter, I believe judges should perform their best, while interpreting this, and should make use of their professionalism.
Sometimes the congress has deliberately left the role of legislation processing to the courts, so that these are responsible for the choice of policies in the country. Policies are crucial, therefore, judges must interpret statutes regarding these well. As Frankfurter notes, some judges might not understand the language of the Congress, and therefore, end up making their own interpretation, basing on what they choose to make out of the statute, or as Frankfurter has called it, “apperception mass” (Frankfurter, 1947, p. 505). Judges should interpret statutes, as the Congress would want them to. These should even use the congress dictionary, if they are supplied with it. This works to ensure good interpretation of statutes.
Frankfurter has also addressed the issue of laziness as inherent in most human beings. Judges being humans too, might portray this in their interpretation of statutes. For instance, judges might choose to pass a statute, without first being committed to understanding its interpretation (Frankfurter, 1947). Sometimes, a statute might have used complex language and complex content, which judges need to interpret. In some cases, the complexity of statutes will make judges pass them in order to save themselves the long and demanding process of interpreting them. This however, can be detrimental to the future of a country, and might have an influence on the nature of future legislation and statutes that judges will be presented with for interpretation. Generally, interpretation of legislation by judges is a process that judges should be address in the most careful manner, and with professionalism, as this affects many dimensions of a country.
Frankfurter, F. (1947). Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes. New York: The
Association of the Bar of the City of New York.
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