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The Merciful Corpus: The Rule of Lenity, Ambiguity and Corpus Linguistics

51 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2015  

Daniel Ortner

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: December 1, 2014

Abstract

This article looks to application of the Rule of Lenity by the Supreme Court and lower courts. In particular, it considers four standards articulated by the Supreme Court to determine whether sufficient ambiguity exists to trigger the rule of lenity and looks to how these standards have been applied to either apply or reject application of the Rule of Lenity. Then, Corpus Linguistics is employed in the context of five cases where usage of the Rule of Lenity divided the Supreme Court. Ultimately, this analysis reveals the widely disparate standards employed by Justices and suggests that a large portion of the Court has turned the Rule of Lenity on its head by putting a heavy burden on a defendant seeking to invoke the Rule of Lenity.

Keywords: Criminal Law, Law, Linguistics, Statutory Interpretation, Corpus Linguistics, Scalia, Lenity, Canons of Construction

JEL Classification: K14,

Suggested Citation

Ortner, Daniel, The Merciful Corpus: The Rule of Lenity, Ambiguity and Corpus Linguistics (December 1, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2576475 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2576475

Daniel Ortner (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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