Judges, Dictionaries, And The Meaning Of Statutes

Arrgggghhhh.   If I read one more judicial opinion in which a judge or panel of appellate judges resolves a dispute over the interpretation of a statute by resort to a dictionary. . . .  As Justice Robert Jackson wrote, dictionaries “are the last resort of the baffled judge.”  Jordon v. DeGeorge, 341 U.S. 223, 234 (Jackson, J. dissenting).

It is unfortunate that judges turns to dictionaries for comfort in hard cases.  An interesting article, “The Dictionary Is Not A Fortress: Definitional Fallacies and a Corpus-Based Approach to Plain Meaning,” explains why such comfort is poorly placed.



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