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Cooley Law School's Constitution Society Hosts Conversation on Textualism

Cooley Law School’s American Constitution Society held a discussion on textualism featuring Distinguished Professor Emeritus Joseph Kimble. Kimble’s presentation, which took place on Nov. 27, took a deeper look at how textualism and some of its so-called canons of construction affect the interpretation of statutes. Textualism focuses on the words, syntax, and structure of the text to try to derive its ordinary meaning.

During the presentation, Kimble said that he is not a fan of textualism as it is practiced.

“Textualism can create—and has in fact created—one-sided results,” said Kimble, who taught Research & Writing and Advanced Research & Writing during his tenure at Cooley Law School. He is now senior director of Cooley's Kimble Center for Legal Drafting. “I would, of course, want to carefully examine the text in legal documents but also bring to bear other considerations, such as legislative history, the expressed or apparent purpose, all forms of context, sensible policy, the consequences of a decision, and reasoned intuition. I believe judges should be universalists. No plausible analytical point should be off the table.”

Kimble has published dozens of articles on legal writing and has written three books: “Lifting the Fog of Legalese: Essays on Plain Language;” “Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law;” and “Seeing Through Legalese: More Essays on Plain Language.” During his career, Kimble has lectured on writing to legal organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Cooley Law School Distinguished Professor Emeritus Joseph Kimble

Distinguished Professor Joseph Kimble speaks about textualism during a discussion hosted by Cooley Law School’s American Constitution Society on Nov. 27.

Dec 01 2023