March 4, 2008
Debra Lyn Bassett: Statutory Interpretation in the Context of Federal Jurisdiction
As noted below, Debra Lyn Bassett of the University of Alabama Law School has published in the George Washington Law Review Statutory Interpretation in the Context of Federal Jurisdiction, available on SSRN. I finally had the chance to read it, and, frankly, was a bit disappointed in two respects.
First, it's (mostly) about the "deemer" clase in 28 USC 1332, which "deems" foreign nationals who are permenent residents of the US to be a citizen of their state of domicile. A lot of the paper is focused on the split in interpretations of that clause, which is probably ambiguous at best, for reasons I won't bore you with.
Second, I did not find the discussion that jurisdictional statutes should be interpreted "differently" than other statutes very compelling. Many statutes have their origin in the Constitution (the Patent Act, the Copyright Act, and no doubt many others), and yet we construe them, for the most part, like other statutes. I think, no doubt, that any statute that mimics constitutional language ought to be construed with that fact in mind, but I don't see that this necessarily requires "different" rules of interpretation, just, perhaps, a contextual application of those rules. But all she seemed to say, when I strip away a lot of rhetoric, is that statutes have to be interpreted to be constitutional... which seems to be a basic principle, not something unusual about jurisdictional statutes.
Anyhow, I'm probably not giving her thoughts enough consideration, but I was disappointed by what seemed mostly argument that jurisdictional statutes should be different without much considered proof that they, in fact, are.
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