Legislative History and Statutory Interpretation: The Supreme Court and the Tenth Circuit

Fritz Snyder, University of Montana School of Law


The author analyzed all the U.S. Supreme Court cases and all the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals cases for the calendar year 1995 to see how heavily legislative history was used to interpret statutes. The author begins this article by discussing the different theories of statutory interpretation, noting how legislative history fits into the picture and observing the reliance on dictionaries for interpreting words and phrases. The author also looks to see what use is being made of administrative interpretations of statutes and how that ties in with legislative history. Finally, the author looks at how U.S. Supreme Court justices and justices in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals view statutory interpretation and legislative history. In Appendix C, the author explains how to do legislative history research and how to find legislative history materials.