Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Did You Wake Up This Morning Pleading, "My Kingdom for a Guide to the Canons of Statutory Interpretation!"

Then you should buy a lottery ticket, because today is your lucky day. A little birdie hipped us to a Congressional Research Service report providing that which you seek. Behold: "Statutory Interpretation: General Principles and Recent Trends (updated Aug. 31, 2008)". From the report's summary:
The Supreme Court has expressed an interest “that Congress be able to legislate against a background of clear interpretive rules, so that it may know the effect of the language it adopts.” This report identifies and describes some of the more important rules and conventions of interpretation that the Court applies. Although this report focuses primarily on the Court’s methodology in construing statutory text, the Court’s approach to reliance on legislative history are also briefly described.

The report is primarily geared towards those drafting legislation. (And if there were any doubt of where the author's allegiance lies, consider this snarky commentary from elsewhere in the summary: "Not infrequently the Court stacks the deck, and subordinates the general, linguistic canons of statutory construction, as well as other interpretive principles, to overriding presumptions that favor particular substantive results.") Nonetheless, the report looks like it can also serve as a helpful overview for those of you tangling with thory statutory interpretation issues.

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