Czarnezki on Legislative Interpretation

My colleague Jason Czarnezki has written a paper entitled Shifting Science, Considered Costs, and Static Statues: The Interpretation of Expansive Legislation where he argues that federal statutory language should be broadly interpreted. This struck me as a wacky argument as applied to the IP and Internet contexts, where broad statutory language can look pretty silly in light of technological evolutions. However, he makes some good points, especially as applied to the environmental contexts where (a) there is an administrative agency backing up Congress, and (b) there can be significant irreparable harm accruing between the time of judicial interpretation and any legislative or administrative agency correction.

The abstract:

“Congress often passes expansive legislation, frequently regulatory statutes, where both the definition of those items being regulated and the mandate have significant breadth. How should these provisions be construed? While it is difficult to establish a model which determines whether to broadly or narrowly construe an expansive statutory provision, factors that impact this choice include the existence of express limitations on the mandate, understandings of congressional intent, avoiding regulation that might do more harm than good, the nature of the regulated item, and intervening circumstances such as new understandings in law, policy or science. This Article sets out to establish how, why, and when courts should broadly interpret expansive legislation. Absent express limitations requiring cost-benefit analysis or technological feasibility, courts should broadly construe expansive legislation because courts are equipped to interpret the mandate, and it should be assumed that Congress, in recognition of changed circumstances, was aware of the breadth of the textual language; whereas courts should allow administrative agencies to narrowly or broadly construe statutory provisions with such limitations subject to Chevron deference.”

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