Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Friday, June 26, 2015

"Plain Meaning Arguments"

Allow me to present a thought argument. Imagine if you will that you have a child in school and they had a test. A math test. Say that little junior said that two plus two equals three. imagine that the teacher marked the answer correct. Imagine that for every question that junior answered incorrectly, the teacher actually marked it correct. You'd be very concerned right? Concerned enough to go to the school (or at least call) to find out what's going on right? Because since we all know that two plus two equals four, why would any teacher mark any other answer as correct??!! How would you feel if upon asking about the clear discrepancy the teacher told you:

"Although in plain meaning, your argument that two plus two is four are quite strong the context and structure of the problem as well as a desire to not have a calamity lead me to just mark the answer correct."

If you are a sane person your next move would be to the principals office to have the teacher removed.

Lets try another one. imagine you are on trial for murder. And you're in a death penalty state. Say we have an expert witness who is supposed to testify as to the time of death of the person you are accused of murdering. Your alibi is that you couldn't have done the crime because you were too far away to have possibly made it to the crime scene, committed the crime and then arrive back at the location where you said you were. Say that the expert witness had data that showed that the body's drop in temp showed the murder took place 2 hours [ago] but on the stand said it was something like 7. That time difference puts you in the execution chamber. Upon cross examination your attorney challenges the clearly wrong interpretation of the data and the prosecution objects saying that though the plain meaning of the argument is strong, the context and structure of the testimony as well as a desire to not have to go find another witness or are more likely suspect which would be calamitous means we should just let that testimony stand.

Yeah. me too.

Now imagine that there is no appealing this objection, which of course was granted. Well you're dead.

This my friends is what the Supreme Court of the United States did yesterday. In their ruling in favor of the Obama administration we find the following in the summary:

(e) Petitioners’ plain-meaning arguments are strong, but the Act’s context and structure compel the conclusion that Section 36B allows tax credits for insurance purchased on any Exchange created under the Act. Those credits are necessary for the Federal Exchanges to function like their State Exchange counterparts, and to avoid the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid. Pp. 20–21.
I haven't read past that. It is unlikely I will because the statement here is so powerful that it will undoubtedly have a profound effect on future courts and the nation as a whole. How is it that "plain meaning arguments" in a court of law be less important than congresses duty to write law properly and for the courts to enforce the laws as written? Consider the recent case in Mass. where a man was caught filming up women's skirts in a store. He was arrested and prosecuted based on what the state thought was the law. They thought that surely the statute meant to include that kind of behavior. The judge in that case read the law and saw that whether the intention was there or not, the law as written did not criminalize the actions of that person. The Mass. legislature did what they are constitutionally bound to do: legislated and created a law that added upskirting as a crime.

This is exactly what the courts are supposed to do. If the legislature wrote a law in a manner that excluded something they may have wanted to included, the legislature must amend that law. It is not for the courts to change the "plain meaning" of the laws to fit whatever views that the justices may have. This is what is meant to be governed under LAW and not men. Consider their very brief explanation for dismissing the "plain meaning" argument:

Petitioners’ arguments about the plain meaning of Section 36B are strong. But while the meaning of the phrase “an Exchange established by the State under [42 U. S. C. §18031]” may seem plain “when viewed in isolation,” such a reading turns out to be “untenable in light of [the statute] as a whole.” Department of Revenue of Ore. v. ACF Industries, Inc., 510 U. S. 332, 343 (1994). In this instance, the context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.

Reliance on context and structure in statutory interpretation is a “subtle business, calling for great wariness lest what professes to be mere rendering becomes creation and attempted interpretation of legislation becomes legislation itself.” Palmer v. Massachusetts, 308 U. S. 79, 83 (1939). For the reasons we have given, however, such reliance is appropriate in this case, and leads us to conclude that Section 36B allows tax credits for insurance purchased on any Exchange created under the Act. Those credits are necessary for the Federal Exchanges to function like their State Exchange counterparts, and to avoid the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid.

I would agree with this IF the "context" was that there was only that one statement. However I wrote extensively on the subject and showed that the term "state" was used a number of times in relation to Fed and that the paragraph in question, not just the quote in contention clearly never mentions the federal government even though in the context of the legislation, when they wanted to put the federal government on the hook, they were not shy about doing so. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that these justices, like many of the congresspeople who voted for the ACA didn't actually read the document.

But here's another thing with the statement by the court. If the "context of the entire document" is going to be the standard then it's probably time to let the gun control people have a go at the second amendment. It has been pointed out by many that the second amendment's right to bear arms is in the context of a well maintained militia.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
So it is veryeasy with the context argument to say that individuals not connected with a militia have no right to keep and bear arms. It's an easy argument to make on both "plain meaning" and "context" grounds. But perhaps they don't want to in order to avoid "calamity".