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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Public Law Interpretation (LAWS10261)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course addresses how to interpret public law instruments (such as constitutions). We evaluate the ¿leading¿ approaches to public law interpretation, and focus on the problem of ¿originalism¿ (i.e. whether, and how, laws may change in content over time).
Course description Legal interpretation is a key skill for everyone needing to identify the content of legal instruments, and so to determine what they are permitted or required to do (or prohibited from doing). Among the most important legal instruments are constitutions, as well as statutes concerning constitutional (or other public law) matters. The course addresses how to interpret and apply public law instruments from both theoretical and practical legal perspectives. We look at what, interpretation is, critique the ¿leading¿ theories of legal interpretation, and examine the similarities (and differences) between statutory and constitutional interpretation. We then ask whether (and how) the content of a Constitution can change simply through the passage of time (the problem of ¿originalism¿). Finally, we turn to some issues specific to interpreting UK public law: conforming readings under the Human Rights Act 1998, s.3, and the highly controversial so-called ¿principle of legality¿.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 100 %, Coursework 0 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) A written 2-hour (in-person) exam (100%).
Feedback Students will receive feedback on an ongoing basis (through class discussions). Students will be encouraged to complete a written formative assessment and will received generic feedback on this, in class, as well as individual verbal or written feedback (at the option of the student). Students will be encouraged to post on the Course Discussion Forum and the Course Organiser will participate in this.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Articulate what linguistic interpretation is, and what function it performs in understanding and applying legal instruments.
  2. Explain the key features of public law instruments that influence how they should be interpreted, and the ways in which they do so
  3. Demonstrate understanding of ¿originalism¿ and the possible approaches to it, and critically assess their relative merits
  4. Critically analyse and evaluate the academic literature, and form sound and persuasive arguments, regarding legal interpretation.
  5. Engage in constructive debate about complex theoretical issues.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsPublic law; interpretation; language; constitution; originalism; dynamic interpretation; living con
Course organiserDr Martin Kelly
Tel: (0131 6)51 7112
Course secretaryMiss Emma Hughes
Tel: (0131 6)50 2008
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