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Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle University Law Review
Seattle University Law Review

ARTICLE: No Vehicles in the Park

Fall, 1999

23 Seattle U. L. Rev. 381


Pierre Schlag *


In 1958 H.L.A. Hart posed a hypothetical. Here it is:
A legal rule forbids you to take a vehicle into the public park. Plainly this forbids an automobile, but what about bicycles, roller skates, toy automobiles? What about airplanes? Are these, as we say, to be called "vehicles" for the purpose of the rule or not? 1
Over the years, this has become a nearly irresistible hypothetical. Generations of Anglo-American legal thinkers have cut their interpretive teeth on this hypothetical - striving to advance or defend all sorts of insights about law, interpretation, and adjudication.

You can easily imagine how this might happen. It builds on itself. There are the myriad factual variations on the hypothetical. Hart thought that an automobile was plainly covered. 2 In a reply to Hart, Lon Fuller asked him about a World War II military truck set on a pedestal as a memorial. 3 Is that a vehicle? 4 O.K., then what about an ambulance? 5 A stroller? 6 A wheel chair? A... and so on and so forth.

These hypothetical vehicles were all sent out on various missions - namely, to support or wreck some preferred interpretive strategy (of which there was no shortage):

The Plain Meaning of the Text: A vehicle is a vehicle is a vehicle. 7

Policy Analysis: The meaning of the term "vehicle" depends upon the plausible purposes of the ordinance. 8

Framers' Intent: The meaning of the term depends upon what the framers of ...
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