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August 2, 2006

ABA Examining Signing Statements

CNN reports that the ABA is taking the position that President Bush's "signing statements" -- statements made when a bill is enacted into law that express his "interpretation" or view of the enactment -- violate separation of powers.  Signing statements of course are relatively new, but Bush was not the first President to execute them.  However, I've read that Bush has signed bills accompanied by such signing statements more than all the other presidents -- combined.

Their impact on statutory interpretation is, to say the least, unclear.  Although I haven't exhaustively looked, I only found one student note on the topic.  Kristy L. Carroll, Comment, Whose Is It Anyway?: Why and How Courts Should Use Presidential Signing Statements When Interpreting Federal Statutes, 46 CATH. U. L. REV. 475, 476-77 (1997) (tracing history of signing statements from 1830 to 1997).

That lack of attention may be changing.  In the Hamdan case, Justice Scalia refered to the President's signing statement in castigating the majority for relying upon statements made during the legislative debates over the bill at issue in that case.  For a textualist like Scalia, this seems quite an odd move:  to Scalia, what the text says -- and not what a legislator thought it says -- is what counts.  Why, therefore, does the signing statement matter?  It raises the interesting question noted by the student -- whose statute is it?  An intentionalist would likely say: it's Congress's, and reject the signing statement.  A purposivist might be more willing to look at it, but a textualist like Scalia should, I would think, ignore it.


August 2, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 1, 2006


Just a hundred years ago, statutes were few, and those that did exist were broad.  Courts did not confront statutes very often, and when they did, courts approached the application of statutes much like they did with the common law.  And, the nature of statutes at that time -- they were generally short (e.g., the Sherman Act), lent themselves to that approach.

"The times, they are a'changing."  Statutes have become central to the United States legal system.  They have proliferated in number, size, and scope.  Gone, for the most part, are the days of one sentence statutes.  Today, statutes run often dozens or hundreds of pages. Both their increased length and specificity, as well as their overall proliferation, has led to an entire body of law devoted to statutory interpretation.

This blog is about that body of law.  It will cover developments in the law of statutory interpretation, as well as key interpretations of important statutes, or similar developments.

August 1, 2006 in Current Affairs | Permalink | TrackBack