I want to thank a commenter very early in this blog’s history for pointing me to the “No Points” video. I was reminded of one bit of it when reading Mario Apuzzo’s Brief in the Pennsylvania ballot challenge by Kerchner and Laudenslager. It goes:
Everyone in this room is dumber for having listened to it.
It was apparent that the Brief was not intended for the court – it was intended for the public. A good example of this is the section titled “Rules of Interpretation and Construction.” No judge needs to have interpretation and construction explained to him. Indeed there are no hard and fast “rules” of interpretation and construction1. There are general principles and maxims, but not rules (a lawyer told me that). Leo Donofrio, and now Mario Apuzzo have undertook to “reeducate” the public in their own unconventional methods of how laws are interpreted and constructed so as to make other parts of their unconventional arguments sound better.
No one with a legal education is going to buy any of this for a moment, and so I conclude that the Brief is not for the Court but is rather a publicity stunt in the guise of a lawsuit (as are many birther lawsuits). After all, Kerchner is the same guy who takes out half-page advertisements in the Washington Times newspaper to sell his theories. This ballot challenge is just another marketing tool. Kerchner isn’t even eligible to file a real challenge in Pennsylvania according to Obama’s attorney.
Anyone who naively reads the Brief will be dumber for having listened to it.
However, no bait and switch with the article’s title this time. If you would like to learn about statutory interpretation, I can think of no better place to go than the Congressional Research Service’s report for use by the Congress that actually constructs those statutes. Here is the report: “Statutory Interpretation: General Principles and Recent Trends” (August 31, 2008) by Legislative Attorney Yule Kim of the American Law Division:
1The US Supreme Court said in Rice v. Rehner: “Canons of construction are no more than rules of thumb that help courts determine the meaning of legislation…”