Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

Law Commons

Open Access. Powered by Scholars. Published by Universities.®

Statutory interpretation

Jurisprudence

Institution
Publication Year
Publication
Publication Type

Articles 1 - 30 of 91

Full-Text Articles in Law

Are They All Textualists Now?, Austin Peters Mar 2024

Are They All Textualists Now?, Austin Peters

Northwestern University Law Review

Recent developments at the U.S. Supreme Court have rekindled debates over textualism. Missing from the conversation is a discussion of the courts that decide the vast majority of statutory interpretation cases in the United States—state courts. This Article uses supervised machine learning to conduct the first-ever empirical study of the statutory interpretation methods used by state supreme courts. In total, this study analyzes over 44,000 opinions from all fifty states from 1980 to 2019.

This Article establishes several key descriptive findings. First, since the 1980s, textualism has risen rapidly in state supreme court opinions. Second, this rise is primarily attributable …


Four Futures Of Chevron Deference, Daniel E. Walters Mar 2024

Four Futures Of Chevron Deference, Daniel E. Walters

Faculty Scholarship

In two upcoming cases, the Supreme Court will consider whether to overturn the Chevron doctrine, which, since 1984, has required courts to defer to reasonable agency interpretations of otherwise ambiguous statutes. In this short essay, I defend the proposition that, even on death’s door, Chevron deference is likely to be resurrected, and I offer a simple positive political theory model that helps explain why. The core insight of this model is that the prevailing approach to judicial review of agency interpretations of law is politically contingent—that is, it is likely to represent an equilibrium that efficiently maximizes the Supreme Court’s …


Fears, Faith, And Facts In Environmental Law, William W. Buzbee Jan 2024

Fears, Faith, And Facts In Environmental Law, William W. Buzbee

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Environmental law has long been shaped by both the particular nature of environmental harms and by the actors and institutions that cause such harms or can address them. This nation’s environmental statutes remain far from perfect, and a comprehensive law tailored to the challenges of climate change is still elusive. Nonetheless, America’s environmental laws provide lofty, express protective purposes and findings about reasons for their enactment. They also clearly state health and environmental goals, provide tailored criteria for action, and utilize procedures and diverse regulatory tools that reflect nuanced choices.

But the news is far from good. Despite the ambitious …


Brief Of Amici Curiae Administrative And Federal Regulatory Law Professors In Support Of Respondents, Andrew F. Popper Sep 2023

Brief Of Amici Curiae Administrative And Federal Regulatory Law Professors In Support Of Respondents, Andrew F. Popper

Amicus Briefs

Amici write to address the first question presented: whether Chevron should be overruled. Properly understood, it should not. Chevron has been much discussed but not always understood. On the one hand, courts have sometimes misapplied the doctrine or failed to understand its legal foundations. On the other, courts and commentators alike have criticized Chevron, often as a result of such aggressive applications. This case provides an opportunity for the Court to clarify what Chevron does and does not entail, while reaffirming the essential role that judicial recognition of constitutionally delegated policymaking authority plays in federal statutory programs. Many of …


Shadow Amendments, William J. Aceves Jan 2023

Shadow Amendments, William J. Aceves

Faculty Scholarship

The Supreme Court’s jurisprudence surrounding the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”) reflects the phenomenon of shadow amendments, an inevitable outcome of statutory construction. These judicial interpretations altered the ATS and narrowed its reach. Through repeated shadow amendments, the Court has moved the ATS far beyond its original thirty-three word configuration and understanding. These shadow amendments reflect an aggressive form of statutory construction, an ironic description for a Court that has long championed deference to Congress and fealty to legislative text. This dynamic is evident in Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe, the Court’s most recent ATS decision. But shadow amendments are …


Interpreting State Statutes In Federal Court, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl Nov 2022

Interpreting State Statutes In Federal Court, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl

Notre Dame Law Review

This Article addresses a problem that potentially arises whenever a federal court encounters a state statute. When interpreting the state statute, should the federal court use the state’s methods of statutory interpretation—the state’s canons of construction, its rules about the use of legislative history, and the like—or should the court instead use federal methods of statutory interpretation? The question is interesting as a matter of theory, and it is practically significant because different jurisdictions have somewhat different interpretive approaches. In addressing itself to this problem, the Article makes two contributions. First, it shows, as a normative matter, that federal courts …


Two Types Of Empirical Textualism, Kevin Tobia, John Mikhail Sep 2021

Two Types Of Empirical Textualism, Kevin Tobia, John Mikhail

Brooklyn Law Review

Modern textualist and originalist theories increasingly center interpretation around the “ordinary” or “public” meaning of legal texts. This approach is premised on the promotion of values like publicity, fair notice, and democratic legitimacy. As such, ordinary meaning is typically understood as a question about how members of the general public understand the text—an empirical question with an objective answer. This essay explores the role of empirical methods, particularly experimental survey methods, in these ordinary meaning inquiries. The essay expresses optimism about new insight that empirical methods can bring, but it also cautions against the view that these methods will deliver …


Finding Original Public Meaning, James Macleod Jan 2021

Finding Original Public Meaning, James Macleod

Georgia Law Review

Textualists seek to interpret statutes consistent with their “original public meaning” (OPM). To find it, they ask an avowedly empirical question: how would ordinary readers have understood the statute’s terms at the time of their enactment? But as the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County highlights, merely asking an empirical question doesn’t preclude interpretive controversy. In considering how Title VII applies to LGBT people, the Bostock majority and dissents vehemently disagreed over the statute’s bar on discrimination “because of sex”—each side claiming that OPM clearly supported its interpretation. So who, if anyone, was right? And how can textualists’ …


The Elastics Of Snap Removal: An Empirical Case Study Of Textualism, Thomas O. Main, Jeffrey W. Stempel, David Mcclure Jan 2021

The Elastics Of Snap Removal: An Empirical Case Study Of Textualism, Thomas O. Main, Jeffrey W. Stempel, David Mcclure

Scholarly Works

This article reports the findings of an empirical study of textualism as applied by federal judges interpreting the statute that permits removal of diversity cases from state to federal court. The “snap removal” provision in the statute is particularly interesting because its application forces judges into one of two interpretive camps—which are fairly extreme versions of textualism and purposivism, respectively. We studied characteristics of cases and judges to find predictors of textualist outcomes. In this article we offer a narrative discussion of key variables and we detail the results of our logistic regression analysis. The most salient predictive variable was …


Restoring The Historical Rule Of Lenity As A Canon, Shon Hopwood Oct 2020

Restoring The Historical Rule Of Lenity As A Canon, Shon Hopwood

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

In criminal law, the venerated rule of lenity has been frequently, if not consistently, invoked as a canon of interpretation. Where criminal statutes are ambiguous, the rule of lenity generally posits that courts should interpret them narrowly, in favor of the defendant. But the rule is not always reliably used, and questions remain about its application. In this article, I will try to determine how the rule of lenity should apply and whether it should be given the status of a canon.

First, I argue that federal courts should apply the historical rule of lenity (also known as the rule …


Rules, Tricks And Emancipation, Jessie Allen Jan 2020

Rules, Tricks And Emancipation, Jessie Allen

Book Chapters

Rules and tricks are generally seen as different things. Rules produce order and control; tricks produce chaos. Rules help us predict how things will work out. Tricks are deceptive and transgressive, built to surprise us and confound our expectations in ways that can be entertaining or devastating. But rules can be tricky. General prohibitions and prescriptions generate surprising results in particular contexts. In some situations, a rule produces results that seem far from what the rule makers expected and antagonistic to the interests the rule is understood to promote. This contradictory aspect of rules is usually framed as a downside …


Snap Removal: Concept; Cause; Cacophony; And Cure, Jeffrey W. Stempel, Thomas O. Main, David Mcclure Jan 2020

Snap Removal: Concept; Cause; Cacophony; And Cure, Jeffrey W. Stempel, Thomas O. Main, David Mcclure

Scholarly Works

So-called “snap removal” – removal of a case from state to federal court prior to service on a forum state defendant – has divided federal trial courts for 20 years. Recently, panels of the Second, Third and Fifth Circuits have sided with those supporting the tactic even though it conflicts with the general prohibition on removal when the case includes a forum state defendant, a situation historically viewed as eliminating the need to protect the outsider defendant from possible state court hostility.

Consistent with the public policy underlying diversity jurisdiction – availability of a federal forum to protect against defending …


Pepperdine University School Of Law Legal Summaries, Analise Nuxoll Nov 2019

Pepperdine University School Of Law Legal Summaries, Analise Nuxoll

Journal of the National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary

No abstract provided.


Statutory Realism: The Jurisprudential Ambivalence Of Interpretive Theory, Abigail R. Moncrieff Oct 2019

Statutory Realism: The Jurisprudential Ambivalence Of Interpretive Theory, Abigail R. Moncrieff

Law Faculty Articles and Essays

In the renaissance of statutory interpretation theory, a division has emerged between "new purposivists," who argue that statutes should be interpreted dynamically, and "new textualists," who argue that statutes should be interpreted according to their ordinary semantic meanings. Both camps, however, rest their theories on jurisprudentially ambivalent commitments. Purposivists are jurisprudential realists when they make arguments about statutory meaning, but they are jurisprudential formalists in their views of the judicial power to engage in dynamic interpretation. Textualists are the inverse; they are formalistic in their understandings of statutory meaning but realistic in their arguments about judicial power. The relative triumph …


Justice Gorsuch's Views On Precedent In The Context Of Statutory Interpretation, Hillel Y. Levin Jan 2019

Justice Gorsuch's Views On Precedent In The Context Of Statutory Interpretation, Hillel Y. Levin

Scholarly Works

The doctrine of precedent, in its stare decisis form, presents a challenge to any originalist. This doctrine provides that a court should (at least sometimes) be bound by its own precedent, even if that precedent was wrongly decided in the first place. Yet if the original meaning of the text at issue is a judge’s focus, why should an intervening decision of the court—and a mistaken one at that— matter at all? Despite this tension, every originalist also at least purports to care about precedent.

This Essay focuses on Justice Gorsuch’s apparent views on precedent in the context of statutory …


Mens Rea Reform And Its Discontents, Benjamin Levin Jan 2019

Mens Rea Reform And Its Discontents, Benjamin Levin

Publications

This Article examines the debates over recent proposals for “mens rea reform.” The substantive criminal law has expanded dramatically, and legislators have criminalized a great deal of common conduct. Often, new criminal laws do not require that defendants know they are acting unlawfully. Mens rea reform proposals seek to address the problems of overcriminalization and unintentional offending by increasing the burden on prosecutors to prove a defendant’s culpable mental state. These proposals have been a staple of conservative-backed bills on criminal justice reform. Many on the left remain skeptical of mens rea reform and view it as a deregulatory vehicle …


Democratizing Interpretation, Anya Bernstein Nov 2018

Democratizing Interpretation, Anya Bernstein

Journal Articles

Judges interpreting statutes sometimes seem eager to outsource the work. They quote ordinary speakers to define a statutory term, point to how an audience understands it, or pin it down with interpretive canons. But sometimes conduct that appears to diminish someone’s power instead sneakily enhances it. So it is, I argue, with these forms of interpretive outsourcing. Each seems to constrain judges’ authority by handing the reins to someone else, giving interpretation a democratized veneer. But in fact each funnels power right back to the judge.

The outsourcing approaches I describe show a disconnect between the questions judges pose and …


The Canon Wars, Anita S. Krishnakumar, Victoria Nourse Nov 2018

The Canon Wars, Anita S. Krishnakumar, Victoria Nourse

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

Canons are taking their turn down the academic runway in ways that no one would have foretold just a decade ago. Affection for canons of construction has taken center stage in recent Supreme Court cases and in constitutional theory. Harvard Dean John Manning and originalists Will Baude and Stephen Sachs have all suggested that principles of “ordinary interpretation” including canons should inform constitutional interpretation. Given this newfound enthusiasm for canons, and their convergence in both constitutional and statutory law, it is not surprising that we now have two competing book-length treatments of the canons—one by Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner, …


Language's Empire: A Counter-Telling Of Administrative Law In Canada, Nicholas Hooper Oct 2018

Language's Empire: A Counter-Telling Of Administrative Law In Canada, Nicholas Hooper

LLM Theses

This thesis renders the unstated assumptions that animate statutory interpretation in the administrative state. It argues that the current approach is a disingenuous rhetorical overlay that masks the politics of definitional meaning. After rejecting the possibility of structuring principles in our (post)modern oversaturation of signs, the thesis concludes with an aspirational account of interpretive pragmatism in the face of uncertainty.


The Rhetorical Canons Of Construction: New Textualism's Rhetoric Problem, Charlie D. Stewart Jun 2018

The Rhetorical Canons Of Construction: New Textualism's Rhetoric Problem, Charlie D. Stewart

Michigan Law Review

New Textualism is ascendant. Elevated to prominence by the late Justice Antonin Scalia and championed by others like Justice Neil Gorsuch, the method of interpretation occupies an increasingly dominant place in American jurisprudence. Yet, this Comment argues the proponents of New Textualism acted unfairly to reach this lofty perch. To reach this conclusion, this Comment develops and applies a framework to evaluate the rhetoric behind New Textualism: the rhetorical canons of construction. Through the rhetorical canons, this Comment demonstrates that proponents of New Textualism advance specious arguments, declare other methods illegitimate hypocritically, refuse to engage with the merits of their …


Legal Innocence And Federal Habeas, Leah Litman May 2018

Legal Innocence And Federal Habeas, Leah Litman

Articles

Although it has long been thought that innocence should matter in federal habeas corpus proceedings, innocence scholarship has focused almost exclusively on claims of factual innocence-the kind of innocence that occurs when new evidence reveals that the defendant did not commit the offense for which he was convicted. The literature has largely overlooked cases where a defendant was convicted or sentenced under a statute that is unconstitutional, or a statute that does not apply to the defendant. The Supreme Court, however, has recently begun to recognize these cases as kinds of innocence and it has grounded its concern for them …


"We Are All Textualists Now": The Legacy Of Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain Jan 2018

"We Are All Textualists Now": The Legacy Of Justice Antonin Scalia, Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain

St. John's Law Review

(Excerpt)

One of my favorite extra-judicial activities is meeting with law students, and it is a pleasure to be with you today. But it is a special privilege to come back to the Jamaica campus of St. John’s College from which I graduated 60 years ago, long before the Law School had moved here from Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn, and when there was only one building on this former golf course.

I was honored to call Justice Scalia a role model and friend. What I hope to convey to you today, however, is the effect Justice Scalia’s tenure on the …


Change, Creation, And Unpredictability In Statutory Interpretation: Interpretive Canon Use In The Roberts Court's First Decade, Nina A. Mendelson Jan 2018

Change, Creation, And Unpredictability In Statutory Interpretation: Interpretive Canon Use In The Roberts Court's First Decade, Nina A. Mendelson

Michigan Law Review

In resolving questions of statutory meaning, the lion’s share of Roberts Court opinions considers and applies at least one interpretive canon, whether the rule against surplusage or the presumption against state law preemption. This is part of a decades-long turn toward textualist statutory interpretation in the Supreme Court. Commentators have debated how to justify canons, since they are judicially created rules that reside outside the statutory text. Earlier studies have cast substantial doubt on whether these canons can be justified as capturing congressional practices or preferences; commentators have accordingly turned toward second-order justifications, arguing that canons usefully make interpretation constrained …


Text Over Intent And The Demise Of Legislative History, Thomas W. Merrill, Michael S. Paulsen, Saikrishna Prakash, Lawrence B. Solum, Sandra Segal Ikuta Jan 2018

Text Over Intent And The Demise Of Legislative History, Thomas W. Merrill, Michael S. Paulsen, Saikrishna Prakash, Lawrence B. Solum, Sandra Segal Ikuta

Faculty Scholarship

The following is the transcript of a 2016 Federalist Society panel entitled: Text Over Intent and the Demise of Legislative History. The panel originally occurred on November 17, 2016 during the National Lawyers Convention in Washington, D.C. The participants were: Prof. Thomas W. Merrill, Charles Evans Hughes Professor of Law, Columbia Law School; Prof. Michael S. Paulsen, Distinguished University Chair and Professor, University of St. Thomas School of Law; Prof. Saikrishna Prakash, James Monroe Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law; Prof. Lawrence B. Solum, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center. The moderator was …


A Means To An Element: The Supreme Court's Modified Categorical Approach After Mathis V. United States, Michael Mcgivney Jan 2017

A Means To An Element: The Supreme Court's Modified Categorical Approach After Mathis V. United States, Michael Mcgivney

Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology

No abstract provided.


Judges’ Varied Views On Textualism: The Roberts-Alito Schism And The Similar District Judge Divergence That Undercuts The Widely Assumed Textualism-Ideology Correlation, Scott A. Moss Jan 2017

Judges’ Varied Views On Textualism: The Roberts-Alito Schism And The Similar District Judge Divergence That Undercuts The Widely Assumed Textualism-Ideology Correlation, Scott A. Moss

Publications

No abstract provided.


Short-Circuiting The New Major Questions Doctrine, Kent H. Barnett, Christopher J. Walker Jan 2017

Short-Circuiting The New Major Questions Doctrine, Kent H. Barnett, Christopher J. Walker

Scholarly Works

In Minor Courts, Major Questions, Michael Coenen and Seth Davis advance perhaps the most provocative proposal to date to address the new major questions doctrine articulated in King v. Burwell. They argue that the Supreme Court alone should identify “major questions” that deprive agencies of interpretive primacy, prohibiting the doctrine’s use in the lower courts. Although we agree that the Court provided little guidance about the doctrine’s scope in King v. Burwell, we are unpersuaded that the solution to this lack of guidance is to limit its doctrinal development to one court that hears fewer than eighty cases per year. …


Chevron's Interstitial Steps, Cary Coglianese Jan 2017

Chevron's Interstitial Steps, Cary Coglianese

All Faculty Scholarship

The Chevron doctrine’s apparent simplicity has long captivated judges, lawyers, and scholars. According to the standard formulation, Chevron involves just two straightforward steps: (1) Is a statute clear? (2) If not, is the agency’s interpretation of the statute reasonable? Despite the influence of this two-step framework, Chevron has come under fire in recent years. Some critics bemoan what they perceive as the Supreme Court’s incoherent application of the Chevron framework over time. Others argue that Chevron’s second step, which calls for courts to defer to reasonable agency interpretations of ambiguous statutory provisions, amounts to an abdication of judicial responsibility. …


Defining Ambiguity In Broken Statutory Frameworks And Its Limits On Agency Action, Amanda Urban Oct 2016

Defining Ambiguity In Broken Statutory Frameworks And Its Limits On Agency Action, Amanda Urban

Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law

“The Problem” occurs when a statute’s provisions become contradictory or unworkable in the context of new or unforeseen phenomena, yet the statute mandates agency action. The application of an unambiguous statutory provision may become problematic or unclear. Similarly, unambiguous provisions may become inconsistent given a particular application of the statute. During the same term, in Scialabba and UARG, the Supreme Court performed a Chevron review of agency interpretations of statutes facing three variations of the Problem, which this Note characterizes as direct conflict, internal inconsistency, and unworkability. In each case, the Court defined ambiguity in various, nontraditional ways and …


Superfund Chaos Theory: What Happens When The Lower Federal Courts Don't Follow The Supreme Court, Steven Ferrey Oct 2016

Superfund Chaos Theory: What Happens When The Lower Federal Courts Don't Follow The Supreme Court, Steven Ferrey

Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law

There is legal chaos in the national Superfund. The Supreme Court reversed decisions of eleven federal circuit courts in United States v. Atlantic Research Corp. There is no instance in modern Supreme Court history where the Court reversed every federal circuit court in the country, as it did in Atlantic Research. The Supreme Court’s reversal was through a unanimous decision. This was extraordinary: It not only reversed the entire legal interpretation of one of America’s most critical statutes, but also re-allocated billions of dollars among private parties.

The Supreme Court, when it rendered its decision, seemed to be rectifying a …