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Interpreting Federal Statutes: The Dysfunctional Dialogue between the Courts and Congress

March 28, 2012
All events are in Room 122

1:30 Introduction and Welcome

1:45-3:15 – Framing the Judicial Debate

What do courts mean by congressional intent? Are courts any closer to resolving ongoing debate about interpretive methodology? Would the legitimacy of judicial decisionmaking be threatened by admitting that courts exercise a degree of discretion in determining statutory meaning? Does textualism curb judicial discretion or simply disguise its exercise?

Prof. James J. Brudney, Fordham Law School
Hon. Pierre N. Leval, U.S.  Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Prof. Thomas W. Merrill, Columbia Law School

Linda Greenhouse, Yale Law School

3:30-4:45 – Legislative Responses to Judicial Construction

How do legislators view judges’ role in statutory interpretation – faithful agents to the legislature or policymaking partners? How well do legislators think the courts do in fulfilling their responsibility? How often do legislators learn of and respond to judicial opinions? Should judges consider contemporary legislative preferences in deciding how to rule?

Prof. Kevin M. Barry, Quinnipiac University School of Law
Hon. Thomas B. Griffith, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
Andrew McDonald, General Counsel to the Governor of Connecticut
Prof. Victoria F. Nourse, University of Wisconsin Law School

Prof. Nicholas R. Parrillo, Yale Law School

5:00-6:15 – Resolving the Statutory Interpretation Stalemate
Are courts doing an accurate and efficient job of statutory interpretation? Is the relationship between courts and Congress in need of improvement? Is more cooperation between the courts and Congress valuable or possible?

Hon. Shirley S. Abrahamson, Chief Justice, Wisconsin Supreme Court
Prof. Abbe R. Gluck, Columbia Law School
Hon. Diana G. Motz, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Prof. Kate Stith, Yale Law School

Charles A. Rothfeld, Yale Law School


The conference is sponsored by the generous support of the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund.