Cover: Judging under Uncertainty: An Institutional Theory of Legal Interpretation, from Harvard University PressCover: Judging under Uncertainty in HARDCOVER

Judging under Uncertainty

An Institutional Theory of Legal Interpretation

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Product Details


$83.00 • £66.95 • €74.50

ISBN 9780674022102

Publication Date: 05/15/2006


346 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


This work of legal theory critiques the conceptual approach that derives the scope of judicial power from abstract principles of constitutionalism or democracy. Rejecting this framework, Vermeule argues that any legal interpretation rests on institutional premises about the effects of decisions and the abilities of judges. The book is divided into three sections: critique, reconstruction, and application of the new institutionalist theory. Because of the extreme uncertainty and limited information involved in judicial decision making, the author contends that the best decision-making system is restrictive and deferential to administrative agencies and legislatures in ambiguous scenarios.Law & Social Inquiry

This is an important book, different in both scope and methodology from ordinary works in interpretation in its ambition…and its willingness to borrow from a wide range of academic disciplines.—J. E. Finn, Choice

Judging Under Uncertainty uses three basic models of statutory interpretation, all three of which are justified by a cluster of competing normative and empirical assertions that come easily to the armchair quarterbacks known as legal scholars. What is most interesting about Vermeule’s work is that he attempts to strip away the normative angle and present a case for interpretive method based on the empirical side. Vermeule has contributed distinctive and imaginative scholarship on the subject of legal interpretation, clearly advancing the field substantially.—Philip P. Frickey, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley

The topic of legal interpretation is a large and enduring one, and Vermeule has made a distinct contribution. Part of that contribution comes simply from the way in which, more than any other scholar of interpretation, Vermeule combines the insights of legal philosophy, public choice theory, history, economics, social psychology, and political science, among others, with a prodigious knowledge of numerous areas of law to produce a genuine comprehensive work on legal interpretation. This is a serious, thoroughly academic, and wonderfully multi-disciplinary addition to the literature on legal interpretation, and in its focus on institutions and on less-than-perfect interpreters making decisions under conditions of uncertainty has a distinct argument and a distinct voice.—Frederick Schauer, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

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