The Modern Parol Evidence Rule and its Implications for New Textualist Statutory Interpretation

01 Jan 1995

Part I of this article focuses on the history of parol evidence in contract interpretation, describing both Williston's and Corbin's definition and application of the parol evidence rule. With the adoption of the UCC and the Second Restatement, we suggest that Corbin's position-that expansion of admissibility of parol evidence will more accurately reflect the drafters' manifest intentions and minimize the judge's personal biases-has been accepted by experts and legislators alike. In Part II, we summarize the use of legislative history in statutory interpretation, focusing on the rise of the New Textualism and its critique of the use of legislative history in statutory interpretation. Our analysis reveals that interpretation based on a judge's view of a text's "ordinary meaning" combined with the use of interpretive canons does not seriously constrain judicial discretion. Part III compares and contrasts the use of parol evidence in contract interpretation with the use of legislative history in statutory interpretation. We identify differences that actually strengthen the argument for extrinsic aids as a means of limiting the effects of judicial bias in statutory interpretation, and differences that do not affect the strong analogy between contract and statutory interpretation; we then conclude with a response to formalist objections to the use of legislative history.