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June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson's Impact on Statutory Interpretation

There isn't any.  But, from watching the news shows,  you would think his death is the end of society as we know it.  Do we really need this, at a time when we're fighting two wars, in an economic crisis... etc.


June 27, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 26, 2009

Statutory Interpretation "rules" as Substantive Law Under Erie

It is interesting to me that federal courts, when interpreting state statutes in diversity cases, apply the statutory interpretation rules of the state whose statute is being interpreted.  A recent decision (not online) illustrates this where the court without analysis stated, "the court must determine how Illinois courts address a statutory interpretation issue of first impression."  Carlson v. Bukovic, 2009 WL 1575548 (N.D. Ill. June 4, 2009).  (I wrote about this a long time ago, too).

My instincts tell me that is right:  it would contravene the basic principle of Erie for a statute to be interpreted differently simply because the parties are citizens of different states and the minimum amount in controversy is present.

But what does it tell us about the "rules" of interpretation?  In Carlson, the court applied the Illinois state courts approach to interpretation (to give effect to intent, but if the text is unambiguous, to end there, but taking a contextual approach to textualism).  Again, no doubt that's right under Erie.  But does that also tell us that, at least in terms of Erie, this is substantive law, not procedural law.  What impact does that have for separation of powers at the state level?  It would seem that the legislature should be able to craft directives to interpretation (as many do) without violating separation of powers principles.  That is, a state legislature could adopt a statute saying "when you interpret our statutes, use a purposive approach."

Anyhow, it continues to be an issue I'm pondering, even though I am not sure I can fully articulate all the possible ramifications, yet.

June 26, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 23, 2009

Colorado Supreme Court Utilizes Rule of Lenity in Case involving Retroactivity of Effective Date

The court's summary captures it, but it's an interesting analytical read:

In this original proceeding, the Supreme Court was asked to determine what statute of limitations applied to the crimes with which defendant was charged. The statute contains two contradictory limitations provisions, each compelling a different result in this case. Because of the conflicting statutory language, and because the Court was unable to discern the legislative intent behind the statute, the Court could not determine which limitations period applied. As a result, the Court applied the rule of lenity and held that the charges against defendant were barred by the ten-year statute of limitations in effect when the crimes allegedly were committed. The Court overruled the Court of Appeals’ recent decision in People v. Boston, ___ P.3d ___, No. 07CR2186, 2009 WL 400073 (Colo.App. Feb. 19, 2009), in which the Court of Appeals reached the opposite result the Supreme Court reached in this case. The rule to show cause was made absolute and the case was remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

People v. Summers, __ P.3d __ (Colo. May 26, 2009).

June 23, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2009

Can X predominate something that contains only X?

In Value Vinyls, Inc. v. U.S., __ F.3d __ (Fed. Cir. June 2009) the court had to face the question of w"hether the Court of International Trade correctly concluded that the imported product, whose textile component is made entirely of man-made fibers, is a 'product with textile components in which man-made fibers predominate by weight over any other single textile fiber' and hence is classified under subheading 3921.90.11 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), or whether, as the government argues, this category does not include product made entirely of man-made fibers." The court concluded, 2-1, that "the Court of International Trade correctly classified the subject goods." It is an interesting case where the majority relied heavily on extra-textual sources, and the minority took it to task for doing so. It would be an interesting case for the Supremes since it seems to me that the text leads one way, the extra-textual evidence, the other. It was on approach to interpretation that the court split, as well as ultimate resolution. It directly relates to the post below since the majority clearly took a more purposive approach to the tariff regulation than the dissent.

June 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on "Statutory Interpretation of Tax Statutes"

Someone else has now written about the special nature of tax statutes. Shannon Weeks McCormack, Tax Shelters and Statutory Interpretation: A Much Needed Purposive Approach, 2009 U. Ill. L. Rev. 697 (2009.  Here is the abstract:

Few are unaware that the federal Tax Code and the accompanying Treasury Regulations provide a detailed, complex (and lengthy) set of rules. It is hardly surprising (or new) that taxpayers attempt to avoid these rules to lower their taxes. Courts and lawmakers have long grappled to identify abusive transactions and strip taxpayers of the associated tax savings. The transactions have, however, changed dramatically over the last decade, making the task much more challenging. The rapid proliferation of aggressive and diverse tax shelters has created what many refer to as a “tax shelter war.” In general, tax shelters refer to transactions carefully designed to fit within the letter of the law to derive benefits unintended by those sections. Courts, however, do not inquire directly into purpose when analyzing tax shelters. They instead rely on traditional anti-abuse tests. These tests are outdated and insufficient to curb current tax shelters. Even those that defend these tests admit that they supply neither a necessary nor sufficient basis for denying tax benefits. Scholars defend the usage of these tests believing a viable alternative to be lacking. This Article attempts to fill this gap and develops an alternative test, which inquires directly into the purposes of the tax laws to address abuse directly. After developing this test along with an extensive set of guidelines for analyzing tax provisions, the test is applied to three recent tax shelters to illustrate its advantages. Such a test is an essential weapon to compete in current and future tax shelter wars.

June 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack