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Statutory interpretation

Supreme Court of the United States

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Full-Text Articles in Law

The Anti-Innovation Supreme Court: Major Questions, Delegation, Chevron, And More, Jack M. Beermann May 2024

The Anti-Innovation Supreme Court: Major Questions, Delegation, Chevron, And More, Jack M. Beermann

William & Mary Law Review

The Supreme Court of the United States has generally been a very aggressive enforcer of legal limitations on governmental power. In various periods in its history, the Court has gone far beyond enforcing clearly expressed and easily ascertainable constitutional and statutory provisions and has suppressed innovation by the other branches that do not necessarily transgress widely held social norms. Novel assertions of legislative power, novel interpretations of federal statutes, statutes that are in tension with well-established common law rules, and state laws adopted by only a few states are suspect simply because they are novel or rub up against tradition. …


Loper Bright And The Future Of Chevron Deference, Jack M. Beermann Jan 2024

Loper Bright And The Future Of Chevron Deference, Jack M. Beermann

William & Mary Law Review Online

This essay proposes that the Court overrule the Chevron two-step standard of review of agency statutory construction and replace it by reviving deference under the factors announced in the Skidmore case with a twist that preserves Chevron’s greatest virtue: agency freedom to alter its statutory interpretations so long as the agency remains within the zone of reasonable construction. This essay also proposes that the Court clarify the boundary between cases involving statutory construction and cases involving agency policy decisions that are reviewed under the arbitrary and capricious standard articulated in cases such as Motor Vehicles and Overton Park. …


Supreme Court Litigators In The Age Of Textualism, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl Jan 2024

Supreme Court Litigators In The Age Of Textualism, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl

Faculty Publications

The Supreme Court’s approach to statutory interpretation has moved in a textualist direction over the last several decades, but there is little systematic information on how litigators’ briefing practices have changed during this era of textualist ascendancy. This Article examines thirty-five years’ worth of party briefs (over 8,000 briefs total), explores the briefs’ use of interpretive tools (including differences across categories of attorneys), and compares the briefs to the Court’s opinions.

This examination yields several valuable findings. Although the briefs show a textualist shift, they differ from the Court’s opinions in a few ways. The magnitude of the textualist shift …


The Major Questions Doctrine At The Boundaries Of Interpretive Law, Daniel E. Walters Jan 2024

The Major Questions Doctrine At The Boundaries Of Interpretive Law, Daniel E. Walters

Faculty Scholarship

The Supreme Court’s apparent transformation of the major questions doctrine into a clear statement rule demanding clear congressional authorization for “major” agency actions has already had, and will continue to have, wide-ranging impacts on American public law. Not the least of these is the impact it will have on the enterprise of statutory interpretation. Indeed, while it is easy to focus on the policy repercussions of a newly constrained Congress and newly hamstrung administrative state, this Article argues that equally important is the novel precedent that is set in this particular formulation of a clear statement rule, which stands almost …


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 …


Historians Wear Robes Now? Applying The History And Tradition Standard: A Practical Guide For Lower Courts, Alexandra Michalak Dec 2023

Historians Wear Robes Now? Applying The History And Tradition Standard: A Practical Guide For Lower Courts, Alexandra Michalak

William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal

Never before has the Supreme Court relied on the history and tradition standard to such a magnitude as in the 2021 term to determine the scope of a range of constitutional rights. [...] In reaffirming this standard, the Supreme Court provided no guidance to lower courts on how to apply and analyze the history and tradition standard. Along with balancing the lack of resources in deciding cases with the history and tradition framework, lower courts must face the reality that this standard presents ample opportunity for one-sided historical analysis. To combat the temptation of conducting unbalanced and cursory reviews of …


What Would Happen To All Of The Prior Chevron Cases In A Non-Chevron World?, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl Oct 2023

What Would Happen To All Of The Prior Chevron Cases In A Non-Chevron World?, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl

Popular Media

No abstract provided.


The Nagging In Our Ears And Original Public Meaning, Perry Dane Jun 2023

The Nagging In Our Ears And Original Public Meaning, Perry Dane

Marquette Law Review

The debate over how to understand the meaning of legal texts once pitted intentionalism against a variety of other views united by the conviction that a legal enactment takes on a meaning not reducible to anybody’s mental state. Both these approaches are supported by powerful intuitions. This Article does not try to referee between them. Instead, it takes aim at a third set of views— theories of “original public meaning”—that in recent decades has upended the traditional debate and has now become gospel for the new majority on the United States Supreme Court.


The Supreme Court Review Act: Fast-Tracking The Interbranch Dialogue And Destabilizing The Filibuster, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl Apr 2023

The Supreme Court Review Act: Fast-Tracking The Interbranch Dialogue And Destabilizing The Filibuster, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl

Faculty Publications

This Essay presents an analysis of the Supreme Court Review Act, a bill that was recently introduced in Congress. The Act would create a streamlined legislative process for bills responding to new Supreme Court decisions that interpret federal statutes or restrict constitutional rights. By facilitating legislative responses to controversial cases, the Act would promote the “dialogue” that commentators and the courts themselves have used as a model for interbranch relations. The Essay describes how the proposed Supreme Court Review Act would work, discusses some of its benefits, addresses its constitutionality, and raises some questions about its implementation and effects.


Statutory Interpretation And Agency Disgorgement Power, Caprice Roberts Mar 2023

Statutory Interpretation And Agency Disgorgement Power, Caprice Roberts

St. John's Law Review

(Excerpt)

In recent decades, the Supreme Court has showed enhanced interest in equitable principles and remedies. What began as periodic cases featuring one jurist’s idiosyncratic and sometimes misguided interpretations has manifested a broader, significant trend. A consequential theme emerges across varied cases: a revival in the Court’s emphasis on the jurisprudence of equitable remedies. The Court’s recent and current docket continues this momentum. Scholars are tracking the developments and advocating for a system of equity; focusing on historical constraints and federal equity power; and generating a restitution revival.

What happens when obstacles foreclose claims and threaten to leave parties without …


The Causation Canon, Sandra F. Sperino Jan 2023

The Causation Canon, Sandra F. Sperino

Faculty Publications

It is rare to witness the birth of a canon of statutory interpretation. In the past decade, the Supreme Court created a new canon-the causation canon. When a statute uses any causal language, the Court will assume that Congress meant to require the plaintiff to establish "but-for" cause.

This Article is the first to name, recognize and discuss this new canon. The Article traces the birth of the canon, showing that the canon did not exist until 2013 and was not certain until 2020. Demonstrating how the Court constructed this new canon yields several new insights about statutory interpretation.

The …


Constitutional Losses And (Some) Statutory Wins For Criminal Defendants: Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The Supreme Court's 2022-2023 Term., Eve Brensike Primus, Mark Rucci Jan 2023

Constitutional Losses And (Some) Statutory Wins For Criminal Defendants: Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The Supreme Court's 2022-2023 Term., Eve Brensike Primus, Mark Rucci

Articles

The Supreme Court’s 2022–23 Term included a number of important statutory interpretation rulings, as well as significant cases concerning the scope of the Confrontation Clause; the Venue, Vicinage, and Double Jeopardy Clauses; the federal courts’ ability to entertain claims of legal innocence; and the contours of the adequate and independent state ground doctrine. It also was the first term for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson—the first former public defender and first Black woman to join the centuries-old institution. Although Justice Jackson joined a Court ruptured along ideological lines and confronting serious challenges to its legitimacy and ethical standards, she quickly proved …


The Antiregulatory Arsenal, Antidemocratic Can(N)Ons, And The Waters Wars, William W. Buzbee Dec 2022

The Antiregulatory Arsenal, Antidemocratic Can(N)Ons, And The Waters Wars, William W. Buzbee

Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works

The Clean Water Act has become a centerpiece in an enduring multifront battle against both environmental regulation and federal regulatory power in all of its settings. This Article focuses on the emergence, elements, and linked uses of an antiregulatory arsenal now central to battles over what are federally protected “waters of the United States.” This is the key jurisdictional hook for CWA jurisdiction, and hence, logically, has become the heart of CWA contestation. The multi-decade battle over Waters protections has both drawn on emergent antiregulatory moves and generated new weapons in this increasingly prevalent and powerful antiregulatory arsenal. This array …


Is A Locomotive In Use And Therefore Subject To Locomotive Inspection Act Liability When It Makes A Temporary Stop?, Anne Marie Lofaso Mar 2022

Is A Locomotive In Use And Therefore Subject To Locomotive Inspection Act Liability When It Makes A Temporary Stop?, Anne Marie Lofaso

Law Faculty Scholarship

Case at a Glance: LeDure v. Union Pacific Railroad Company. Bradley LeDure, a long-time locomotive engineer for Union Pacific, slipped on the slick surface of a locomotive while it was idle but powered on, seriously injuring himself. If Union Pacific violated safety regulations under the Locomotive Inspection Act, then it would be negligent per se. But that theory of liability is only available if the locomotive was in use at the time of the accident. The case presents a question of statutory interpretation of the term use.


Limiting Access To Remedies: Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The Supreme Court's 2021-22 Term, Eve Brensike Primus, Justin Hill Jan 2022

Limiting Access To Remedies: Select Criminal Law And Procedure Cases From The Supreme Court's 2021-22 Term, Eve Brensike Primus, Justin Hill

Articles

Although the most memorable cases from the Supreme Court’s 2021-22 Term were on the civil side of its docket, the Court addressed significant cases on the criminal side involving the Confrontation Clause, capital punishment, double jeopardy, criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country, and important statutory interpretation principles, such as the mens rea presumption and the scope of the rule of lenity. Looking back, the Court’s decisions limiting individuals’ access to remedies for violations of their constitutional criminal procedure rights stand out. Shinn v. Ramirez and Shoop v. Twyford drastically limit the ability of persons incarcerated in state facilities to challenge the …


Interpretation, Remedy, And The Rule Of Law: Why Courts Should Have The Courage Of Their Convictions, Jack M. Beermann, Ronald A. Cass Jan 2022

Interpretation, Remedy, And The Rule Of Law: Why Courts Should Have The Courage Of Their Convictions, Jack M. Beermann, Ronald A. Cass

Faculty Scholarship

The Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Arthrex opens a window on a set of issues debated in different contexts for decades. These issues—how to interpret statutes and constitutional provisions, what sources to look to, whether so far as possible to adopt interpretations that avoid declaring actions of coordinate branches unconstitutional, and where such actions are deemed to have been unconstitutional whether to provide remedies that cabin the most significant implications of such a declaration—go to the heart of the judicial role and the division of responsibilities among the branches of government.

Our principal focus, however, is on the …


Democracy And Disenchantment, Ashraf Ahmed Jan 2022

Democracy And Disenchantment, Ashraf Ahmed

Faculty Scholarship

During the latter half of the Trump presidency, as it became increasingly clear that the Supreme Court would remain solidly conservative for the foreseeable future, Samuel Moyn and Ryan Doerfler declared war. In popular and scholarly venues, they have steadily built a case for curtailing the power of the nation’s highest court. Their arguments have been both pragmatic and principled. They have underlined, for instance, the risks the Roberts Court poses to progressive goals such as addressing climate change1 and granting student debt relief. More broadly, they object to a “supra-democratic court exercising its current, expansive legislative veto.” For Doerfler …


The Meaning Of Sex: Dynamic Words, Novel Applications, And Original Public Meaning, William N. Eskridge Jr., Brian G. Slocum, Stefan Th. Gries May 2021

The Meaning Of Sex: Dynamic Words, Novel Applications, And Original Public Meaning, William N. Eskridge Jr., Brian G. Slocum, Stefan Th. Gries

Michigan Law Review

The meaning of sex matters. The interpretive methodology by which the meaning of sex is determined matters Both of these were at issue in the Supreme Court’s recent landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, where the Court held that Title VII protects lesbians, gay men, transgender persons, and other sexual and gender minorities against workplace discrimination. Despite unanimously agreeing that Title VII should be interpreted in accordance with its original public meaning in 1964, the opinions in Bostock failed to properly define sex or offer a coherent theory of how long-standing statutes like Title VII should be interpreted over …


The Doctrine Of Clarifications, Pat Mcdonell Feb 2021

The Doctrine Of Clarifications, Pat Mcdonell

Michigan Law Review

Clarifications are a longstanding but little-studied concept in statutory interpretation. Most courts have found that clarifying amendments to preexisting statutes bypass retroactivity limitations. Therein lies their power. Because clarifications simply restate the law, they do not implicate the presumption against retroactivity that Landgraf v. USI Film Products embedded in civil-statute interpretation. The problem that courts have yet to address is how exactly clarifying legislation can be distinguished from legislation that substantively changes the law. What exactly is a clarification? The courts’ answers implicate many of the entrenched debates in statutory interpretation. This Note offers three primary contributions. First, it summarizes …


Seamen, Railroad Employees, And Uber Drivers: Applying The Section 1 Exemption In The Federal Arbitration Ace To Rideshare Drivers, Conor Bradley Jan 2021

Seamen, Railroad Employees, And Uber Drivers: Applying The Section 1 Exemption In The Federal Arbitration Ace To Rideshare Drivers, Conor Bradley

University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform

Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA or the Act) exempts “seamen, railroad employees, [and] any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” from arbitration. In 2019, the Supreme Court held in New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira that this provision exempted independent contractors as well as employees. This decision expanded the reach of the section 1 exemption and may affect the relationship between ridesharing companies, such as Uber, and their drivers. Previously, ridesharing companies argued that courts must enforce the arbitration clauses in their employment contracts because their workers were independent contractors and, therefore, section 1 …


In Defense Of (Circuit) Court-Packing, Xiao Wang Oct 2020

In Defense Of (Circuit) Court-Packing, Xiao Wang

Michigan Law Review Online

Proposals to pack the Supreme Court have gained steam recently. Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg endorsed a court-packing plan at the start of his campaign, and several other candidates also indicated a willingness to consider such a plan, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Legal scholars have similarly called upon Congress to increase the size of the Supreme Court, particularly following the heated confirmations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. These suggestions for Court reform have only gotten more pronounced with the recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the subsequent nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, and the …


Textualism’S Gaze, Matthew L.M. Fletcher Sep 2020

Textualism’S Gaze, Matthew L.M. Fletcher

Michigan Journal of Race and Law

This Article attempts to address why textualism distorts the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence in Indian law. I start with describing textualism in federal public law. I focus on textualism as described by Justice Scalia, as well as Scalia’s justification for textualism and discussion about the role of the judiciary in interpreting texts. The Court is often subject to challenges to its legitimacy rooted in its role as legal interpreter that textualism is designed to combat.


Avoidance Creep, Charlotte Garden Jan 2020

Avoidance Creep, Charlotte Garden

Faculty Articles

At first glance, constitutional avoidance—the principle that courts construe statutes so as to avoid conflict with the Constitution whenever possible—appears both unremarkable and benign. But when courts engage in constitutional avoidance, they frequently construe statutory language in a manner contrary to both its plain meaning and to the underlying congressional intent. Then, successive decisions often magnify the problems of avoidance—a phenomenon I call “avoidance creep.” When a court distorts a statute in service of constitutional avoidance, a later court may amplify the distortion, incrementally changing both statutory and constitutional doctrine in ways that are unsupported by any existing rationale for …


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 …


Digital Realty, Legislative History, And Textualism After Scalia, Michael Francus Jun 2019

Digital Realty, Legislative History, And Textualism After Scalia, Michael Francus

Pepperdine Law Review

There is a shift afoot in textualism. The New Textualism of Justice Scalia is evolving in response to a new wave of criticism. That criticism presses on the tension between Justice Scalia’s commitment to faithful agency (effecting the legislature’s will) and his rejection of legislative history in the name of ordinary meaning (which ignores legislative will). And it has caused some textualists to shift away from faithful agency, even to the point of abandoning it as textualism’s grounding principle. But this shift has gone unnoticed. It has yet to be identified or described, let alone defended, even as academic and …


Statutory Interpretation, Administrative Deference, And The Law Of Stare Decisis, Randy J. Kozel May 2019

Statutory Interpretation, Administrative Deference, And The Law Of Stare Decisis, Randy J. Kozel

Journal Articles

This Article examines three facets of the relationship between statutory interpretation and the law of stare decisis: judicial interpretation, administrative interpretation, and interpretive methodology. In analyzing these issues, I emphasize the role of stare decisis in pursuing balance between past and present. That role admits of no distinction between statutory and constitutional decisions, calling into question the practice of giving superstrong deference to judicial interpretations of statutes. The pursuit of balance also suggests that one Supreme Court cannot bind future Justices to a wide-ranging interpretive methodology. As for rules requiring deference to administrative interpretations of statutes and regulations, they are …


Neglecting Nationalism, Gil Seinfeld May 2019

Neglecting Nationalism, Gil Seinfeld

Articles

Federalism is a system of government that calls for the division of power between a central authority and member states. It is designed to secure benefits that flow from centralization and from devolution, as well as benefits that accrue from a simultaneous commitment to both. A student of modern American federalism, however, might have a very different impression, for significant swaths of the case law and scholarly commentary on the subject neglect the centralizing, nationalist side of the federal balance. This claim may come as a surprise, since it is obviously the case that our national government has become immensely …


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 …


The Enacted Purposes Canon, Kevin M. Stack Jan 2019

The Enacted Purposes Canon, Kevin M. Stack

Vanderbilt Law School Faculty Publications

This Article argues that the principle relied upon in King v. Burwell that courts "cannot interpret statutes to negate their stated purposes"-the enacted purposes canon-is and should be viewed as a bedrock element of statutory interpretation. The Supreme Court has relied upon this principle for decades, but it has done so in ways that do not call attention to this interpretive choice. As a result, the scope and patterns of the Court's reliance are easy to miss. After reconstructing the Court's practice, this Article defends this principle of interpretation on analytic, normative, and pragmatic grounds. Building on jurisprudence showing that …


Securities Law In The Sixties: The Supreme Court, The Second Circuit, And The Triumph Of Purpose Over Text, Adam C. Pritchard, Robert B. Thompson Nov 2018

Securities Law In The Sixties: The Supreme Court, The Second Circuit, And The Triumph Of Purpose Over Text, Adam C. Pritchard, Robert B. Thompson

Articles

This Article analyzes the Supreme Court’s leading securities cases from 1962 to 1972—SEC v. Capital Gains Research Bureau, Inc.; J.I. Case Co. v. Borak; Mills v. Electric Auto-Lite Co.; Superintendent of Insurance v. Bankers Life & Casualty Co.; and Affiliated Ute of Utah v. United States—relying not just on the published opinions, but also the Justices’ internal letters, memos, and conference notes. The Sixties Court did not simply apply the text as enacted by Congress, but instead invoked the securities laws’ purposes as a guide to interpretation. The Court became a partner of Congress in shaping the securities laws, rather …