The Canon Wars
30 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2018
Date Written: November 1, 2018
Canons are taking their turn down the academic runway in ways that no one would have foretold just a decade ago. Affection for canons of construction has taken center stage in recent Supreme Court cases and in constitutional theory. Harvard Dean John Manning and originalists Will Baude and Stephen Sachs have all suggested that principles of “ordinary interpretation” including canons should inform constitutional interpretation. Given this newfound enthusiasm for canons, and their convergence in both constitutional and statutory law, it is not surprising that we now have two competing book-length treatments of the canons—one by Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner, Reading Law, and the other by Yale Law Professor William N. Eskridge, Interpreting Law. Both volumes purport to provide ways to use canons to read statutes and the Constitution. In this Review of Interpreting Law, we argue that this contemporary convergence on canons raises some significant interpretive questions about judicial power and the very idea of a canon.
Keywords: canons, interpretation, statutory interpretation, legislative history
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