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Refocusing the Debate over Statutory History

The Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog features an interesting take on the debate over the usability of statutory history.


The current debate centers on whether reliance on statutory history is consistent with a plain meaning analysis. Justice Roggensack has asserted, "statutory history is part of a plain meaning analysis because it is part of the context in which we interpret statutory terms." Chief Justice Abrahamson, on the other hand, asserts that statutory history is inconsistent with a plain meaning analysis because if the text is plain, there is no need to go beyond the text.

While the intellectual debate over statutory history is commendable, the arguments thus far have been misplaced, and as a result, we should refocus the debate. The debate should not center on whether statutory history is consistent with a plain meaning analysis because such a debate does not answer when and how statutory history can be utilized. As such, the current debate is meaningless. Rather, the debate should center on whether statutory history is an intrinsic or extrinsic aid to interpretation.


Read the full post for more.