No one theory or school of thought consistently dominates judicial application of statutes, but the basic methodology employed by courts seems well-established if not always well-defined. Most mainstream judges and lawyers faced with a statutory construction task will look at (although with varying emphasis) the text of the statute, the legislative history of the provision, the context of the enactment, evident congressional purpose, and applicable agency interpretations, often employing the canons of construction for assistance. Although orthodox judicial thought suggests that the judge's role is confined to discerning textual meaning or directives of the enacting legislature, courts also often examine subsequent legal developments and the overall legal terrain in rendering an interpretation.
Despite general similarities, lawyers, judges, and scholars continue to debate the supreme construct for statutory interpretation, although the parameters of the various schools are often blurred. Adherence to particular approaches seems to vary with the results desired. Amid the debated and shifting positions, several distinct approaches emerge: textualism, intentionalism, purposivism, dynamism, and eclectic pragmatism. The most established schools of interpretative thought are textualism, intentionalism, and purposivism. In addition, although it has yet to result in a particular “method” of statutory construction, interest group/public choice analysis often illuminates statutory inquiry.
22 U. Toledo L. Rev. 583 (1991).
Stempel, Jeffrey W., "The Rehnquist Court, Statutory Interpretation, Inertial Burdens, and a Misleading Version of Democracy" (1991). Scholarly Works. Paper 194.