The Belt-and-Suspenders Canon

36 Pages Posted: 1 May 2019

See all articles by Ethan J. Leib

Ethan J. Leib

Fordham University School of Law

James J. Brudney

Fordham University School of Law

Date Written: April 30, 2019

Abstract

This Essay christens a new canon into the doctrines of statutory interpretation, one that can counter the too-powerful canon that has courts imposing norms against redundancy in their readings of statutes. Judges engaging in statutory interpretation must do a better job of recognizing how and why legislatures choose not to draft with perfect parsimony. Our Essay highlights the multifarious ways legislatures in federal and state governments self-consciously and thoughtfully – rather than regrettably and lazily – think about employing “belt-and-suspenders” efforts in their drafting practices. We then analyze in depth courts’ disparate efforts to integrate a belt-and-suspenders canon into their thinking about anti-surplusage rules and other textual canons. By sketching a promising future for this new canon, we hope to draw judicial practice closer to legislative practice and to enhance the enterprise of statutory interpretation for textualists and intentionalists alike.

Keywords: statutory interpretation, redundancy, legislative process, canons

Suggested Citation

Leib, Ethan J. and Brudney, James Jules, The Belt-and-Suspenders Canon (April 30, 2019). Iowa Law Review, Vol. 105, 2020 Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3380626 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3380626

Ethan J. Leib (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

150 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

James Jules Brudney

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
212-636-7387 (Phone)

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