Taylor v. United States (495 U.S. 575)/Concurrence Scalia

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Taylor v. United States
Concurrence Scalia by Antonin Scalia
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United States Supreme Court

495 U.S. 575

Arthur Lajuane Taylor  v.  The United States

No. 88-7194  Argued: February 28, 1990. --- Decided: May 29, 1990.

Justice SCALIA, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

I join in the Court's opinion except for Part II, which examines in great detail the statute's legislative history. The examination does not uncover anything useful (i.e., anything that tempts us to alter the meaning we deduce from the text anyway), but that is the usual consequence of these inquiries (and a good thing, too). What is noteworthy, however, is that in this case it is hard to understand what we would have done if we had found anything useful. The Court says, correctly, that the statutory term "burglary" has a "generally accepted contemporary meaning" which must be given effect and which may not be modified by the rule of lenity. Ante, at 596, 598. But if the meaning is so clear that it cannot be constricted by that venerable canon of construction, surely it is not so ambiguous that it can be constricted by the sundry floor statements, witness testimony, and other legislative incunabula that the Court discusses. Is it conceivable that we look to the legislative history only to determine whether it displays, not a less extensive punitive intent than the plain meaning (the domain of the rule of lenity), but a more extensive one? If we found a more extensive one, I assume we would then have to apply the rule of lenity, bringing us back once again to the ordinary meaning of the statute. It seems like a lot of trouble.

I can discern no reason for devoting 10 pages of today's opinion to legislative history, except to show that we have given this case close and careful consideration. We must find some better way of demonstrating our conscientiousness.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).