Dalhousie Law Journal


lawyers, authority, law, power, judges, jurists, legal writing and research, identity, discrimination, racism


Lawyers hanker after authority. Whether it be in enforcing the law or justifying law's institutional power, there is an almost desperate yearning to establish and maintain the legitimacy of law and, therefore, of themselves, in a social world in which the whole notion of authority is challenged and undermined. When it comes to matters of legal interpretation, jurists and judges still crave some method that will ground or trace back an interpretation to a foundational or ultimate source that can confer authority on one particular interpretation over another. However, recent jurisprudential debate has done fatal damage to the notion that meaning can ever be uncontroversially located in the text itself or its author's intentions: the "death of the author" is part of the larger critical claim that there is no one to challenge or to speak in the name of because "to refuse to arrest meaning is finally to refuse God and his hypostases, reason, science, the law."' Nonetheless, in casting interpretation as an open practice of creative re-construction, a non-foundational approach is not to be taken as claiming that the identity of legal operatives in law's language game is somehow unimportant or irrelevant. To ignore entirely the fact that someone is speaking is as much a mistake as depending exclusively on who is speaking to determine meaning.