McGeorge School of Law

Spring Symposium Explores Legal Interpretation

May 7, 2015

symposium participants

From left, front row: Gideon Rosen, Princeton University; Jill Anderson, University of Connecticut; Karen Petroski, Saint Louis University; Benjamin Mark Shaer, Carleton University. Middle row: Larry Solum, Georgetown University; Dean Francis J. Mootz III; Nicholas Allot, University of Oslo; and Larry Solan, Brooklyn Law School.  Back row: Frank Ravitch, Michigan State University; Professor Brian Slocum. (not pictured: Kent Greenawalt, Columbia University)

McGeorge hosted a successful symposium on May 1, 2015, on the topic of “Inference, intention, and "ordinary meaning": What jurists can learn about legal interpretation from linguistics and philosophy.” Many prominent scholars joined McGeorge faculty to explore a wide array of issues relating to legal interpretation.

McGeorge Dean Francis J. Mootz, III and Professor Brian Slocum welcomed the symposium participants. Panel 1 focused on Constitutional Interpretation, with panelists Dean Mootz; Larry Solum, Georgetown University School of Law; Scott Soames, University of Southern California; Gideon Rosen, Princeton University; and Kent Greenawalt, Columbia University School of Law addressing issues relating to “originalism” and “public meaning” as they relate to constitutional interpretation.

Panel 2 explored Linguistics and Ordinary Meaning, and panelists addressed various issues relating to linguistics and legal interpretation, including structural semantic ambiguity, the interface of phonology and syntax, and, more generally, the contributions that linguistic theory can make to legal interpretation. Larry Solan, Brooklyn Law School; Jill Anderson, University of Connecticut School of Law; and Prof. Slocum were panelists.

Panel 3 delved into Theory and Legal Interpretation, with panelists addressing a wide variety of issues, including philosophical hermeneutics, the nature of the “normal speaker of English” referenced by Justice Holmes, legal speech acts, and the inferential nature of legal interpretation. Panelists were Nick Allott, Research Fellow, CSMN, University of Oslo; Karen Petroski, Saint Louis University School of Law; Benjamin Shaer, Health Canada; and Frank Ravitch, Michigan State University College of Law.

Solum posted about the symposium on his influential Legal Theory blog at