The Secret Meaning of Intent


At the Supreme Court (and elsewhere) there has long been a wide range of views about the proper way to go about interpreting statutes. From time to time, some of those views are blessed with knowledgeable, articulate, and outgoing proponents. These days the debate is perhaps most vigorous, and certainly most entertaining, between Justice Antonin “Plain Meaning” Scalia and Justice Stephen “Legislative Intent” Breyer. Almost a century ago, the debaters were Justices William R. Day and Joseph McKenna, but with a twist: in one important case they were joined in the debate (in secret) by Congressman James R. Mann, who had some secret legislative history of his own to share.