Prof. Dr. Lawrence M. Solan

Brooklyn Law School

Curriculum Vitae

Prof. Dr. Lawrence M. Solan is a legal and linguistic scholar. He obtained his Ph.D. in Linguistics at the University of Massachusetts in 1978 as well as his J.D. at Harvard Law School in 1982. Since 1996 Lawrence Solan has been working in a university setting. He was previously a partner at the law firm Orans, Elsen, and Lupert as well as Assistant to Judge Stewart Pollock at the New Jersey Supreme Court. Since 2002 Professor Solan has served as Director of the Center for the Study of Law, Language and Cognition at the Brooklyn Law School. In 2004, he also became the Don Forchelli Professor of Law and was named the Director of Graduate Education in 2012. Lawrence Solan has been, among others, a guest scholar at Yale Law School, Princeton University, the University of Greifswald, as well as the University Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). In 2009, he was named Honorary Professor at the Wuhan Institute of Technology. 

Prof. Solan has been President of the International Association of Forensic Linguistics, has served as a member of the boad of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, and is on the editorial board of the International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law. His works are considered leading texts in the fields of theoretic linguistics and legal argumentation. His most renowned pieces include “The Language of Judges” (1993), “Speaking of Crime: The Language of Criminal Justice” (together with Peter Tiersma, 2005),“The Language of Statutes: Laws and their Interpretation” (University of Chicago Press, 2010), and the Oxford Handbook of Language and Law (together with Peter Tiersma, 2012).

From October to December 2017 Prof. Dr. Lawrence M. Solan was Fellow at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study in the Humanities “Law as Culture”.  

Research Project

Shadows and Satellites in Constitutional Interpretation

This project evaluates competing metaphors used in constitutional interpretation.  The U.S. Supreme Court has held that constitutional principles have “penumbras,” that is, shadowy areas at their outskirts.  Most famously, the Court used this metaphor to hold that privacy in the home should be deemed a penumbral extension of specifically enumerated constitutional protections, striking down a statute that prohibited the prescription of birth control in the state of Connecticut.  Compare this metaphor to the one used by Edward Levi in his important 1948 book, An Introduction to Legal Reasoning.  Levi argued that constitutional provisions are accompanied by “satellite concepts.”  Satellites, unlike shadows, are tethered to planets by gravitational force.  In essence, a penumbral relationship is horizontal, one concept fading into another, while a satellite relationship is vertical and hierarchical.  Constitutional argumentation contains both kinds of reasoning.  On the one hand, legal principles become vague at the margins, while on the other hand much constitutional analysis is structural.  This project will attempt to explain and  illustrate these competing frameworks, further offering criticism of their use in particular contexts.  

Publicationen (selected)

  • “Can Originalism be Made Scientific?” Yale Law Journal Forum (2016).
  • “Die Auslegung mehrsprachigen Rechts: Einige Vor – und Nachteile [The Interpretation of Multilingual Laws – Some Costs and Benefits], 21 GreifRecht 38 (2016).
  • “Precedent in Statutory Interpretation” North Carolina Law Review (2016).
  • Speaking of Language and Law: Conversations on the Work of Peter Tiersma (co-edited with Janet Ainsworth and Roger Shuy), Oxford University Press (2015).
  •  “Identifying Where People Come from by How They Speak: A Methodological Gap Worth Bridging, 21 International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law 383 (2014).
  • “Multilingualism and Morality in Statutory Interpretation,” 1 Language and Law/Linguagem e Direito 5 (2014).
  • “Is it Time for a Restatement of Statutory Interpretation?” 79 Brooklyn Law Review 733 (2014).
  • “Must Torts be Wrongs? An Empirical Perspective,” (with Joseph Sanders, Matthew Kugler and John Darley), 49 Wake Forest Law Review 1 (2014).
  • The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law (co-edited with Peter Tiersma) (2012).
  • The Language of Statutes: Laws and Their Interpretation, University of Chicago Press (2010).
  • “Private Language, Public Laws: The Central Role of Legislative Intent in Statutory Interpretation,” 93 Georgetown Law Journal 427 (2005).
  • Speaking of Crime: The Language of Criminal Justice (with Peter Tiersma), University of Chicago Press (2005).
  • The Language of Judges, University of Chicago Press (1993).