February 25, 2009
Supreme Court Issues Two Statutory Interpretation Opinions
The first, Carcieri v. Salazar, is a plain meaning case that resulted in splintered concurring and one dissenting opinion. The dispute arose out of the Narragansett Indian Tribe's attempt to exercise o the ability to petition the Secretary to take land into trust for the Tribe’s benefit. The Secretary’s trust authority is in 25 U. S. C. §465, which grants the Secretary power to take “in trust for [an] Indian tribe or individual Indian” “any interest in lands . . . for the purpose of providing land for Indians.” The key terms, though, limited his ability to take lands in trust to those Indian tribes "now under federal jurisdiction." That statute had been enacted in 1934, when the Narragansett tribe had not been in that group. The appellate court had relied on Chevron Deference to defer to the Secretary's interpretation that it had power; the Supreme Court reversed -- because the statute was unambiguous, Chevron deference did not apply.
The second, U.S. v. Hayes, resulted in a dissent by Scalia and Roberts. The case essentially involved whether a state battery conviction could qualify as “a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” in terms of 18 U. S. C. §922(g)(9). Because it was a generic battery conviction and did not, as such, require proof that it was domestic violence (which in fact it was), the defendant argued the generic battery claim did not count.
Both are interesting. As to Salazar: how can you say language is plain in a decision that reverses an appellate court decision, contradicts an agency's decision, and has a dissent?
February 25, 2009 | Permalink
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