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    10.21.14 Professor Lawrence Solan Comments on How the Increasing Use of Adverbs in Statutes Affects Judicial Decision Making in the Wall Street Journal
    Professor Larry Solan

    Professor Lawrence Solan spoke to the Wall Street Journal about how since the 1980s there has been a surge of adverb-dense disputes. In the past 30 years, he said, the criminalization of white-collar and regulatory offenses on the federal level has led courts increasingly to consider the meanings of adverbs in judicial decision making. Adverbs such as “knowingly,” intentionally,” and “recklessly” are used most frequently.

    In June, U.S. Supreme Court justices recognized religious protections of closely held companies, after pondering the significance of an adverb in a 1993 federal statute that guards against laws that “substantially burden” the exercise of religion.

    Solan said there has also been a trend toward painstakingly precise textual analysis in courts. “As the legal system, influenced by Justice Scalia, concerns itself more and more with the language of statutes, issues that once would have seemed arcane are now taking center stage,” he explained.

    Professor Solan is the author of The Language of Judges (U. of Chicago Press 1993), widely recognized as a seminal work on linguistic theory and legal argumentation and The Language of Statutes (U.of Chicago Press 2010).

    Read the full article.

    Read more about Professor Solan.