Legislative History Must Be Used

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Legislative History Must be used

When the wording of a statute is not clear and explicit, then it is difficult to know how a particular statute should be applied. Supreme Court Justice Scalia wrongly clams that legislative history should not be used when interpreting an ambiguous statute’s meaning. He is wrong to state that it is undemocratic to use legislative history because legislators, staffers, and lobbyists are all a part of the process of the creation of statutes. Legislators often intentionally write a statute ambiguously, so that a compromise can be reached. Therefore, judges should use the floor reports, presidential messages and committee reports when trying to interpret ambiguous statues. Additionally, Scalia states that those who are in favor of legislative history are trying to make legislative history the law. Legislative history is merely a tool to be used when interpreting ambiguous statutes. Scalia himself utilizes legislative history when dealing with ambiguous statutes as seen in Pierce V. Underwood and Green V. Bock. Ultimately, legislative history adds a great deal of value to judicial interpretation, so not using it, as Scalia suggests, would be a mistake. There are inherent ambiguities in statutes due to competing legislative interests that require courts to find ways to understand the meaning of statutes. We must use legislative history to find this meaning. In addition, legislators, when creating statutes, interact with other institutions and groups like lobbyists who contribute their own interests, as a result, we see further ambiguity in statutes. When text is ambiguous, judges should use legislative history to find the core meaning. An example of a successful use of legislative history can be found when the Northern Pipeline Construction Co. V Marathon Pipe Line Co. case was used as an example in Congress’ 1984 revision of the Federal Bankruptcy law. The statute contained a phrase “core proceeding.” The statute went on to enumerate fifteen examples of core proceedings and ended with “included, but not limited to these core proceedings.” Here, floor reports, presidential messages and committee reports from the Northern Pipeline Construction Co. V Marathon Pipe Line Co provided the answer, they elaborated in detail that the “core proceedings” in this instance meant any proceeding allowed by the Constitution. In the end, it was only certain what “core proceedings” meant when legislative history was used. Another example of a successful use of legislative history was in the Senate Committee hearings on the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964. In this Act, Congress gave money to states to build Mass Transportation systems, but told the states that they had to engage in “fair and equitable arrangements.” As a result of this particular requirement, Massachusetts’ Labor Department and the Transit Workers’ Union faced a discrepancy between the Act of 1964 drafted by the Labor Department and the Union’s existing contractual “arrangements.” However, it wasn’t until legislative history was used to resolve the dispute that Massachusetts could enact the Act of 1964 with no problem. So, without using legislative history, it would have been impossible to determine the statutory meaning or legislative intent of these ambiguous statutes. Therefore, when a statute is inherently ambiguous, floor reports, presidential messages and committee reports can be used to successfully determine the meaning. Scalia is wrong when he states that the use of legislative history is undemocratic because the individuals who create legislative history are also involved in creating the statute itself. Congress is an organization that is made up of thousands of full time employees who interact with labor unions, executive branch departments, organizations, public interest groups, and lobbyists when drafting legislation. Legislators are informed by these institutions and interest groups when they draft statutes. So, when trying...
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