‘Rethinking Uniformity in Statutory Interpretation’

Ryan Doerfler, Can a Statute Have More Than One Meaning?, 94 New York University Law Review 213 (2019). It is a persistent theme in statutory interpretation theory – one shared by textualists, purposivists, and intentionalists alike – that a statutory term must have the same meaning from case to case and from litigant to litigant. The word ‘knowingly’ in the same statute cannot mean one thing as applied to Sally and another as to Jim. To hold otherwise, courts and scholars have agreed, would violate fundamental principles of fairness and stability and upend the rule of law. Yet in a provocative and compelling new article, Can a Statute Have More Than One Meaning?, Ryan Doerfler makes a convincing case for rethinking this conventional view and contemplating just such variability of meaning … (more)

[Anita Krishnakumar, JOTWELL, 22 January]

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