Jun 28, 2015 0
from Petterico’s Pontifications, King v. Burwell: Intentionalism Trumps Textualism, and the Rule of Law Dies:
This reminds me of a hypothetical I offered in 2010:
Assume you make $50,000 a year. The legislature passes a law imposing a hefty tax on “people making over $100,000 per year.” Since the law does not apply to you, by its plain terms, you do not pay the tax. However, you are convicted after a judge finds irrefutable contemporaneous evidence showing that all legislators who voted for the tax intended to impose it on people making over $10,000 a year. The judge, an “intentionalist,” finds that the intent of the legislature controls, regardless of the plain meaning of the law.
Under the plain language of the law, the tax does not apply to you. Applying the intent of the legislators, it does. Which is the better interpretation?
My view was that the law would not apply to you, because “$100,000″ means “$100,000.” Legislators can say all day long that they meant to say $10,000 — but if they didn’t include that extra zero in the law that was duly passed and signed, the text simply means what it means.
To me, $100,000 means $100,000 — not $10,000. To me, this is as simple as saying “established by the state” means “established by the state” and not “established by the state or the Secretary of Health and Human Services.” You don’t need to get into the legislators’ heads — and it is foolish and indeed dangerous to even try to do so.
But then, I am not an elite lawyer who went to Harvard or Yale and then went on to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. And I am certainly not an “intentionalist.” I do not ascribe to statutory language mysterious secret meanings that signify the opposite of the common understanding of the public.
When talking about high court decisions there is much more to be concerned with than the outcome, or its desirability. That too easily becomes a mere partisan fight.
One’s ire should not be raised at the decision to uphold a shitty law. That anger is best reserved for Congress and one should vote accordingly. It can be changed the same way it was enacted.
A legitimate case can be made to the degree that their tortured rationale intrudes into the legislative function, Its implication goes far beyond the issue at hand in King vs Burwell.