The Belt-and-Suspenders Canon
36 Pages Posted: 1 May 2019
Date Written: April 30, 2019
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
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