Yesterday, we were treated with one of Justice Scalia‘s classic dissents, only with the unexpected twist of being joined for part of it by Justice Souter.

The Man

In Zuni Public School District No. 89 v. Department of Education, No. 05–1508 (April 17, 2007), Justice Scalia began by benchslapping Justice Stevens, chiding:

For some, policy-driven interpretation is apparently just fine … [b]ut for everyone else, let us return to Statutory Interpretation 101.

Slip op. at 3.

And that’s the part of the dissent that Justice Souter joined! Who knows what bad blood has festered in the cloakroom betwixt Justices Stevens and Souter?

Justice Scalia’s woodshedding of Justice Stevens continues in Part II of the dissent, in which Justice Souter did not join. Justice Scalia points out that Justice Stevens’ contention that it is “a correct performance of the judicial function” to “override a strict interpretation of the text” so long as policy-driven interpretation “is faithful to the intent of Congress,” is, in fact, a “chancy thing …, once one departs from ‘strict interpretation of the text.’” Slip op. at 10.

Justice Scalia continues, reminding the majority that:

This case is not a scary math problem; it is a straightforward matter of statutory interpretation.

Slip op. at 5.

Justice Scalia concludes his jeremiad against the jurisprudence of Justice Stevens by summarizing the practical import of the Court and Justice Stevens’ reasoning:

Thus, what judges believe Congress ‘meant’ (apart from the text) has a disturbing but entirely unsurprising tendency to be whatever judges think Congress must have meant, i.e., should have meant.

Slip op. at 11. The dagger in the heart of the majority’s reasoning is Justice Scalia’s parting shot that:

Contrary to the Court and JUSTICE STEVENS, I do not believe that what we are sure the Legislature meant to say can trump what it did say.

Slip op. at 13.

In addition to calling the majority’s reasoning “simply irrational,” slip op. at 9, Justice Scalia adds:

The sheer applesauce of this statutory interpretation should be obvious.

Slip op. at 6.

Thx to Justice Scalia and SCOTUS Blog

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