Save the Date: Plain Meaning in Context

This blog, and the Journal, has been all quiet since exams appeared on our radar in December, but it is a new year and we hope to have the Law and Liberty Community up and running soon.

In the meantime, the Journal will be hosting a symposium, Plain Meaning in Context: Can Law Survive its Own Language?, on February 18, 2011, here at the NYU Law School. From our information sheet:
  1. Generalist Panel
    In our introductory panel, discussion will be focused on the broad question: when does plain meaning break down as a concept? Most lawyers and judges agree that the plain meaning of a text can do most, if not all of the interpretive work most of the time. Thus, another question is: why does plain meaning work most of the time? Finally, panelists will be encouraged to provide suggestions for how legal practice can be improved to avoid these interpretive dilemmas.
  2. Administrative Law Panel
    In the administrative law context, much work is done resolving ambiguity in statutory authorization for agency action. This panel will be addressing the question: does the Chevron line of cases provide meaningful vindication of Congressional intent / does a Chevron-like solution make any sense in determining the plain meaning of an authorizing statute? More broadly, this panel will address the institutional question of whether courts are uniquely-positioned semantic detectives, or whether they are on an equal footing with other possible actors.
  3. Intellectual Property Law Panel
    One of the areas where context for meaning seriously matters is in intellectual property. The precise meaning of a symbol has huge implications for interpreting patent scope, for deciding when to enforce trademarks, and in determining whether or not something is “fair use” for copyright purposes, in the art context and elsewhere. This panel will focus on areas in IP where determining the plain meaning of a symbol is difficult, with suggestions for how to improve and clarify existing law, and thoughts on which institutional actors are best suited to make interpretive determinations.
We'll be posting more information, including our participants in the surprisingly few weeks remaining until the event.