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Separation of powers

Constitutional Law

2009

Articles by Maurer Faculty

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Shadow Precedents And The Separation Of Powers: Statutory Interpretation Of Congressional Overrides, Deborah Widiss Jan 2009

Shadow Precedents And The Separation Of Powers: Statutory Interpretation Of Congressional Overrides, Deborah Widiss

Articles by Maurer Faculty

In both judicial decisions and critical commentary on statutory interpretation, the possibility of congressional override is generally considered a significant balance to the countermajoritarian reality that courts, through statutory interpretation, make policy. This Article demonstrates that the "check" on judicial power provided by overrides is not as robust as is typically assumed. One might assume that overridden precedents are functionally erased or reversed. But because Congress technically cannot overrule a prior decision, courts must determine whether the enactment of an override fully supersedes the prior judicial interpretation. Overrides thus raise unique, and previously largely ignored, questions of statutory interpretation. Using …