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On the Interpretability of Law: Lessons from the Decoding of National Constitutions

Melton, James and Elkins, Zachary and Ginsburg, Tom On the Interpretability of Law: Lessons from the Decoding of National Constitutions. Working Paper Political Concepts, Committee on Concepts and Methods Working Paper Series

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A critical component of law is the ease by which experts and lay persons can understand it. If a law is unclear, it is unlikely to generate compliance and enforcement. Using data from a project conceived to understand the content of national constitutions, we assess the effect of contextual, textual, and interpreter characteristics on the interpretability of constitutional documents. We find that constitutions do vary in their degree of clarity. However, contextual barriers do not seem to matter: constitutions written in bygone eras, in different languages, or in far different cultural milieus are no less interpretable by readers than are those written in closer temporal and cultural proximity. On the other hand, several textual characteristics do have a sizable impact on interpretability, a result that emphasizes the important role that constitutional drafters play in the implementation of their product.

Item Type: Working Paper (Working Paper)
Identification Number: 44
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
Research Area: Economics and Institutional Change
Depositing User: Users 25 not found.
Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2011 15:32
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2011 14:32
URI: http://eprints.imtlucca.it/id/eprint/46

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