Rodearmel v. Clinton: Memorandum of Professors of Linguistics as Amici Curiae in Support of the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the Complaint
15 Pages Posted: 10 May 2018
Date Written: June 22, 2009
This memorandum is submitted on behalf of seven professors of linguistics—Hana Filip, PhD.; Georgia M. Green, PhD.; Jeffrey P. Kaplan, PhD., J.D.; Jason Merchant, PhD.; Barbara Partee, PhD.; Roger Shuy, PhD.; and Thomas Wasow, Ph.D.—for the purpose of challenging the plaintiff’s argument that Secretary Clinton’s appointment violated the plain meaning of the Ineligibility Clause.
More particularly, we will show that on the point at issue here, the meaning of the Ineligibility Clause is not plain. The plaintiff’s interpretation represents only one of several possible readings. The clause can also be reasonably read in a way that permits a Senator or Representative’s eligibility for appointment to be restored by reducing the salary of the position in question to what it was when the Senator or Representative’s term began.
The ambiguity in the Ineligibility Clause relates to the phrase "shall have been encreased." Plaintiff’s argument assumes that a position’s salary has been increased during a Senator or Representative’s term if at any point in that term the salary went up, even if it later went back down by the same amount. This interpretation corresponds to what linguists would refer to as an "experiential" reading. But the language can also be under-stood to have a "resultative" reading. On the latter interpretation, the salary can be said to “have been increased” only if it went up and stayed up through the time of the appointment. This reading of "have been encreased" is comparable to the interpretation of "I have caught a cold" as meaning that the speaker had gotten sick and was still sick.
The resultative reading of the Ineligibility Clause is the same in substance as the government’s “on net” interpretation; the difference is merely a matter of how the interpretation is described. What we hope to do here—or at least one of the things—is to explain why this interpretation is a plausible one and therefore why the Ineligibility Clause is ambiguous.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation