Statutory interpretation is the process of discerning the meaning of legislation, and U.S. law has permitted courts to find meaning through a variety of often contradictory interpretive approaches. As a result, U.S. litigants often are uncertain about the interpretive approach a court will apply to a statute, even though the choice of the interpretive approach may determine the outcome of the litigation. Until the recent decision in Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v. Hart, English approaches to statutory interpretation were more circumscribed because English courts foreclosed the intentionalist approach. This Article considers the impact that Pepper has had on statutory interpretation in England.
The second Part of the Article briefly describes the broad range of conflicting approaches to statutory interpretation that jurists now commonly employ in U.S. courts. It then contrasts the interpretive rules of U.S. law with those of English law. Part three of the Article discusses the House of Lords decision in Pepper, which abandoned the bar against intentionalist interpretation. This part shows how the House of Lords endeavored to protect English statutory interpretation from being Americanized by adopting several threshold requirements intended to ensure that courts would pursue intentionalist interpretations only in rare cases. Part four considers whether the House of Lords succeeded in placing principled limits on intentionalist interpretations of English statutes.
The Article concludes that English rules of statutory interpretation have become much more like U.S. rules and that Pepper itself shows how English law can be transformed, notwithstanding the House of Lords' effort to place principled, clear, and significant limits on intentionalist interpretation.
Michael P. Healy, Legislative Intent and Statutory Interpretation in England and the United States: An Assessment of the Impact of Pepper v. Hart, 35 Stan. J. Int’l L. 231 (1999).