Determining a Law's Applicability: How Social Norms Impact Legal Interpretation

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Lavallee, Regan
Issue Date
2021
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Journal Article
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Opening Paragraph|In this essay, I argue that there is a relationship between written text and social norms which guides how we interpret legal language. This relationship is necessary since it ensures that written legal language reflect societal values. By reflecting societal values, laws remain relevant over time: laws are enforceable since society acknowledges that these laws are pertinent for the protection of societal values. In order to make this claim, I will first discuss why legal language relies upon ambiguity for interpretations of the law. I will then discuss how social norms narrow this ambiguity to guide the interpretation of written legal language. I will conclude by analyzing the language of the 14th Amendment to illustrate how the ambiguity of legal language constrained by social norms allow laws to remain relevant to a society over time. Throughout this essay, I will refer to legal language from the United States Constitution; I believe this document contains legal language which we are familiar with the written text as well as how this language is applied to our lives.
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Creighton University
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