Legislative power to act is very broad, excluding constitutional limits Legislatures have the power to pass broad statutes encompassing all aspects of a given subject, while courts can rule only on the issues before them Statutory Interpretation Interpretation: a Necessary Evil? All language can be subject to multiple reasonable interpretations, courts give life to rules Plain Meaning Rule If courts believe a statute aims to create one result and the result isn’t patently absurd, they can rule consideration of other factors is unnecessary and revert to a plain meaning Aids to Interpretation Some statutes contain an element of imprecision, giving courts latitude to apply the rule a) Done to avoid having to define certain abstract concepts or to avoid making a specific decision on a controversial issue b) The complex process of amendment and deletion as the bill goes through the legislature can change the language of a bill c) Language is imperfect, and sometimes hard to define concepts and abstractions There are several important sources judges look to for interpreting a statute a) A dictionary to understand how the word is commonly used, if a group wants to claim the government meant to use the word in an unusual sense they have the burden of proving it b) The court will examine the whole statute for contextual clues as to how the legislature intended for it to be interpreted
c) The legislative history such as floor debates and amendments can be examined to find the intent of the rule d) The circumstantial conditions of the bill can help determine the meaning of language. Ex: Social problems or conditions a bill aims to address e) Precedent plays a role in interpreting a statue as well King, et al. v. Burwell, Sec. of Health and Human Services 2015, US Supreme Court Facts – Obamacare adopts a series of interlocking reforms aimed to expand coverage in the individual health insurance market. First, insurers are no longer allowed to take into account a person’s health when choosing to accept them. Second, it requires each person to purchase coverage or be fined by the IRS. Third, it gives tax credits to certain people to make insurance more affordable. States could choose to establish their own exchanges, if they didn’t the federal government stepped in to establish one.
Chapter 5 – Constitutional Law The constitution’s provisions can be broken into 3 general categories a) It prescribes the authority of the federal government into legislative, executive, and judicial branches b) It delineates the authority of the federal government, in contrast with the states, by granting specific powers to the three branches of the federal government c) It protects certain basic rights of individuals and businesses by placing limitations on federal; and state governmental power Organization of the Federal Government Separation of Powers Each branch is only supposed to exercise the power given to it by the constitution Delegation of Powers
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- Spring '08