Divining Legislative Intent Can Be Key to Winning Lawsuit

United states code legislative history

Legislative intent is loosely defined as what lawmakers meant when they voted in favor of a law. Because some laws were written vaguely and many are 100 or more years old, it sometimes falls to a judge in a lawsuit or criminal case to have to determine “what is legislative intent.” For the parties involved in such cases, they may want to turn to a legislative intent service to have a better chance of winning an argument about legislative intent.

In many cases, the law is clear and unambiguous, but in some others, either the intent of the law is not clear, or the circumstances have changed so much that the law needs to be interpreted in the context of modern life. A good example of this is the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, both of which are more than 200 years old. Many of the laws laid out in those documents don’t neatly fit today’s standards. For example, courts for years have wrestled with the intent of the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment. Is it an absolute right that any private citizen can own firearms with little or no government regulation? Many people argue that it is. Others, however, focus on the part of the amendment that talked about a well-regulated militia, and argue that with a standing military and thousands of police forces across the country, there is less of a need for ordinary citizens to own firearms.

For lawyers facing a case in which the intent of a law is not clear, they may benefit from using a legislative intent service. Such services offer access to scholarly and legal opinions about the intent of individual laws and statuatory history. Having such information can greatly improve an attorney’s chances of getting a favorable ruling.

For some smaller cases, a change in established case law may not make that big of a difference, but in larger ones, a change could literally upend society. That has been the case with a Supreme Court rule that same-sex couples have a right to marry. That created new federal regulations that conflicted with many state ones.

Few laws can stand the test of time because of societal and other changes, which is why we in the U.S. have been flexible with our Constitution and other laws.

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