John M. Garvin
Is a fish a tangible object? The answer in most cases is obviously “yes.” But in Yates v. United States, the Supreme Court held that fish are outside the meaning of the phrase “tangible object” as it is used in the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002. This Note argues that the Yates decision provides a lens with which to examine the Court’s contemporary methods of statutory interpretation. In adopting the textualist vocabulary most famously associated with the late Justice Scalia, the Justices have committed to speaking the same language. Still, fundamental differences between the Justices remain. These differences expose the inherent flexibility of the textualist approach, and its capacity to accommodate ideological, normative choices in deciding cases. The Yates decision is a model of what we can expect from statutory interpretation decisions in the future: majority and dissenting opinions that engage fully with each other’s reasoning, close readings of statutory text, and narrow focus on the facts of the case.
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