The Secret Meaning of Intent

6 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2011

See all articles by Ross E. Davies

Ross E. Davies

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty; The Green Bag

Date Written: February 17, 2011


At the Supreme Court (and elsewhere) there has long been a wide range of views about the proper way to go about interpreting statutes. From time to time, some of those views are blessed with knowledgeable, articulate, and outgoing proponents. These days the debate is perhaps most vigorous, and certainly most entertaining, between Justice Antonin "Plain Meaning" Scalia and Justice Stephen "Legislative Intent" Breyer. Almost a century ago, the debaters were Justices William R. Day and Joseph McKenna, but with a twist: in one important case they were joined in the debate (in secret) by Congressman James R. Mann, who had some secret legislative history of his own to share.

Keywords: ambiguous, Caminetti, committee, Congress, Conroy v. Aniskoff, Brown v. Allen, Copyright Act, Costco v. Omega, democracy, House of Representatives, immoral purpose, legislative history, ordinary meaning, Robert Jackson, Senate, White Slave Traffic, William Brennan

JEL Classification: K2, K21, K23, K40

Suggested Citation

Davies, Ross E., The Secret Meaning of Intent (February 17, 2011). George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 11-10, Available at SSRN: or

Ross E. Davies (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

The Green Bag ( email )

6600 Barnaby St., NW
Washington, DC 20015
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