Washington Examiner: Rao on Rule by Talking Points

In a Washington Examiner opinion piece, Professor Neomi Rao argues that Supreme Court rulings decided by talking points rarely make for good law.


Many important Supreme Court decisions now relate to the arcana of statutory interpretation. As such, their reasoning rests in the lawyers' domain, relatively inaccessible to most citizens. Yet methods of interpretation have important consequences for our democracy, the political process, and the role of courts.

Enacting laws is difficult business, especially with complex and contentious issues like healthcare or racial discrimination. Laws rarely promote their purposes to the fullest extent. Even some members who vote for a law are likely to have reluctance about its goals and methods. What eventually gets passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president is often an amalgam of compromises, concessions and competing values. Talking points fail to capture this reality.

The judiciary has a duty to “say what the law is,” not what some lawmakers hoped it would be.

The Supreme Court’s rule by talking points, Washington Examiner, July 7, 2015. By Neomi Rao.

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