(b) Legal arguments based on intent

Whereas textual arguments focus on what the lawmaker actually did—through the words actually used—'intent' arguments focus on what the lawmaker meant to do.272 'Intent' arguments might use the following kinds of evidence of intent, depending on the particular jurisdiction. Think about whether you can use any of the following kinds of 'intent' arguments, evidence of intent, and counterarguments.273

brainstorm BRAINSTORM

Thrust

Parry

‘My interpretation is supported by the authors’ intent. This intent is shown by:

  • the text itself (for example, a title, preamble, or statement of purpose)274
  • earlier versions of the text275
  • the historical context (for example, the events and conditions that might have motivated the legislature)276
  • the history of the text (for example, the legislative history, including committee reports and parliamentary debates)277
  • official commentary (for example, official comments to legislation)278
  • contemporary commentary (for example, the Federalist Papers279 US constitutional law), Convention Debates280(Australian constitutional law), Quick and Garran281 (Australian constitutional law)
  • interpretations of other texts (especially statutes) addressed to the same subject282
  • judicial interpretations of parallel statutes in other jurisdictions283
  • interpretations by lower and collateral courts284
  • for statutory law, interpretations by administrative agencies that enforce the statute285
  • interpretations by scholars286

‘The evidence of intent presented by my opponent is too weak; there is conflicting evidence of intent’287

‘The intent of the authors is no longer relevant because social or technological conditions have changed’288

‘The person on whose intent my opponent relies is hardly authoritative’288

Table 67: Arguments based on intent

272 Richard K Neumann Jr, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Style, and Strategy (5th ed, 2005) 183.

273 William Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument (2002) 31–9.

274 William Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument (2002) 34; Richard K Neumann Jr, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Style, and Strategy (5th ed, 2005) 185.

275 William Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument (2002) 35; Frederick Bernays Wiener, Briefing and Arguing Federal Appeals (1961, 2001 reprint) 170.

276 Richard K Neumann Jr, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Style, and Strategy (5th ed, 2005) 185; Frederick Bernays Wiener, Briefing and Arguing Federal Appeals (1961, 2001 reprint) 181–7.

277 William Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument (2002) 35; Richard K Neumann Jr, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Style, and Strategy (5th ed, 2005) 185; Frederick Bernays Wiener, Briefing and Arguing Federal Appeals (1961, 2001 reprint) 170, 174.

278 William Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument (2002) 38–9.

279 See further William Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument (2002) 39 and sources cited there.

280 Shorthand for the printed Hansard debates of the 2 great Conventions that met to frame the Australian Constitution between 1891 and 1898. See further, Gregory Craven, 'Convention Debates' in Tony Blackshield et al (eds), Oxford Companion to the High Court of Australia (2001) 150–152.

281 Shorthand for The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth (1901) by John Quick and Robert Garran.

282 Richard K Neumann Jr, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Style, and Strategy(5th ed, 2005) 185.

283 Richard K Neumann Jr, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Style, and Strategy(5th ed, 2005) 185.

284 Richard K Neumann Jr, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Style, and Strategy(5th ed, 2005) 185.

285 Richard K Neumann Jr, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Style, and Strategy(5th ed, 2005) 185.

286 Richard K Neumann Jr, Legal Reasoning and Legal Writing: Structure, Style, and Strategy(5th ed, 2005) 185.

287 William Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument (2002) 105–7.

288 William Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument (2002) 107–8.

289 William Huhn, The Five Types of Legal Argument (2002) 108–10.

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