Saturday, September 20, 2014

legislative intent matters

I've never understood why Justice Scalia and some of his acolytes believes that the Court should ignore what Congress intended by its laws and rely solely on the dictionary definitions of words used. As a Senate staffer, I worked hard to be sure our intent was spelled out in speeches, hearings, and committee reports.

Norm Ornstein draws on a new book by a sitting appeals court judge to make the case for attention to legislative intent in judicial proceedings.
The underlying point of Judging Statutes is that the American constitutional system requires a deep respect among the institutions of governance—which includes a respect by Congress and the courts for the key role that executive branch officials play in their front-line role of interpreting the meaning and intent of the laws Congress passes in order to implement them; a respect by Congress for the difficulty of that executive role and for the role of the judiciary as independent arbiter; and very importantly, the respect of judges for the inherently political nature of Congress, and the difficulty and messiness involved in building coalitions and passing statutes. The latter may be distasteful and often worthy of ridicule, but it is baked into the constitutional order.
I agree. 

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