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The Legacy of Justice Scalia and His Textualist Ideal

Jonathan R. Siegel
85 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 857

The late Justice Antonin Scalia reshaped statutory interpretation. Thanks
to him, the Supreme Court has become far more textualist. Nonetheless, Justice
Scalia never persuaded the Court to adopt his textualist ideal that “the text
is the law.” In some cases, the Court still gives greater weight to other indicators
of statutory meaning, such as perceived statutory purpose. Fundamental
institutional features of courts and legislatures—particularly the fact that legislatures
act generally and in advance, whereas courts resolve particular questions
at the moment a statute is applied—justify this rejection of the textualist
ideal.

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