Artificial Intelligence and Law

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 51–91

An argumentation framework for contested cases of statutory interpretation

  • Douglas Walton
  • Giovanni Sartor
  • Fabrizio Macagno

DOI: 10.1007/s10506-016-9179-0

Cite this article as:
Walton, D., Sartor, G. & Macagno, F. Artif Intell Law (2016) 24: 51. doi:10.1007/s10506-016-9179-0


This paper proposes an argumentation-based procedure for legal interpretation, by reinterpreting the traditional canons of textual interpretation in terms of argumentation schemes, which are then classified, formalized, and represented through argument visualization and evaluation tools. The problem of statutory interpretation is framed as one of weighing contested interpretations as pro and con arguments. The paper builds an interpretation procedure by formulating a set of argumentation schemes that can be used to comparatively evaluate the types of arguments used in cases of contested statutory interpretation in law. A simplified version of the Carneades Argumentation System is applied in a case analysis showing how the procedure works. A logical model for statutory interpretation is finally presented, covering pro-tanto and all-things-considered interpretive conclusions.


Argumentation systems Interpreting statutes Ordinary language meaning Argument from purpose Ambiguity Abductive reasoning Argumentation schemes 

Funding information

Funder NameGrant NumberFunding Note
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • f Canada Insight Grant 435 - 2012 - 0104

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas Walton
    • 1
  • Giovanni Sartor
    • 2
  • Fabrizio Macagno
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Research in Reasoning, Argumentation and Rhetoric (CRRAR), Department of PhilosophyUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada
  2. 2.EUI Law DepartmentEuropean University InstituteFlorenceItaly
  3. 3.Instituto de Filosofia da Linguagem, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e HumanasUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortual

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