The New Holy Trinity
18 Green Bag 2d 407 (2015)
15 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2015 Last revised: 1 Oct 2015
Date Written: August 24, 2015
There’s a familiar story about statutory interpretation in the Supreme Court. Once upon a time, the Court cared primarily about legislative purpose, even if it defied clear statutory text. But then Antonin Scalia came to town, became a justice, and laid down a new law: textualism. Central to Scalia’s success was his association of purposivism with a century-old precedent called Holy Trinity. Recently, however, purposivism seems to have evolved and, as a result, to have gotten the upper hand. Instead of adhering to Scalia's New Textualism, the Roberts Court has repeatedly and visibly embraced what might be called “The New Holy Trinity.” This approach calls for consideration of non-textual factors when determining how much clarity is required for a text to be clear. This apparent methodological shift merits attention -- and may have implications for constitutional law.
Keywords: statutory interpretation, textualism, purposivism
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