JUDGE MERRICK GARLAND DOES NOT ADHERE TO THE METHODOLOGY THAT JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA EMPLOYED WHEN DECIDING CASES.
JUDGE MERRICK GARLAND DOES NOT ADHERE TO THE METHODOLOGY THAT JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA EMPLOYED WHEN DECIDING CASES.
AN ANALYSIS OF THE CASE NRA VERSUS JANET RENO
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia always adhered to the principle that, when interpreting a Statute, a Judge should look first and foremost to the language of the Statute itself and not attempt to go beyond the language of a Statute in order to decipher its meaning or to force a particular meaning onto a Statute. This is the principle referred to as ‘textualism,’and Justice Scalia was a fervent proponent of it. He was, as well, instrumental in its development during his own tenure as Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He further developed and refined its use when he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court and confirmed by the United States Senate in 1986. He served brilliantly on the Court until his death on February 13, 2016. Other Justices began to employ the methodology of ‘textualism’ in their own reasoning.
Justice Scalia saw, in the utilization of ‘textualism,’ a tool that guards against a Judge inadvertently, or, for that matter, deliberately thrusting that Judge’s personal judicial predilections on a case in order to force through a conclusion and a decision that a Judge wants, rather than a conclusion and decision that is founded on good law and upon sound logic.
The judicial theory of ‘textualism’ means that, when a Judge seeks to discern the meaning of a Statute, the Judge looks to what the Statute actually says. That is to say, one looks to the “plain meaning” of a Statute. Textualism also requires a Judge to look only to the plain meaning of a Statute as enacted. One should not and need not go to extraneous sources for information on what a Statute might mean. To do so leads to embellishment and is an anathema to sound legal reasoning.
During his tenure as a United States Supreme Court Justice, Justice Scalia had a tremendous impact, not only on the decisions handed down in numerous U.S. Supreme Court cases, but on suggesting how Justices ought to look at cases – that is to say — the manner in which Justices ought to tackle a case — applying sound legal and logical reasoning to a case so as to come to a sound legal and logical decision and, just as importantly, what a Justice should avoid doing when deciding a case. The methodology of textualism became incorporated in the legal reasoning of many of the Justices.
The Reno case is a textbook example of poor legal and logical reasoning by the Court’s majority and aptly illustrates the dangers a Jurist runs into when that Jurist goes beyond the plain meaning of a Statute as enacted. The Reno case would have been decided much differently had Justice Scalia, sitting as Judge Scalia on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, actually heard the case. Justice Scalia would have undoubtedly taken Judges Tatel and Garland to task for looking beyond the plain meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C). For having done so, Judges Tatel and Garland came to the wrong decision in the case. And, they did, so because they looked deep into and took into account the Legislative history of the Statute in question, in order, as they argue, to decipher the meaning of the Statute. They did this when it was unnecessary to do so. They did so because they wished to come to the decision they did. This amounts to intellectual dishonesty, and, indeed, to legal and logical heresy.
Judges Tatel and Garland did so, clearly enough, not to derive the correct decision, but, rather, to justify an erroneous decision that might come across as a plausibly correct one. In so doing, they relinquished judicial honesty in order to promote their own brand of legal philosophy and ideology – one that is detrimental to the sanctity of the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights.
THE CHEVRON CASE
The decision of the Court’s majority – Judges Tatel and Garland – in the Reno case, is also grounded on a misapplication of the U.S. Supreme Court case, Chevron U.S.A. Inc. vs. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 81 L. Ed. 2d 694, 104 S. Ct. 2778 (1984). Judges Tatel and Garland pointed out that, because NRA had challenged the legality of a federal Statute, administered by a government agency, the Court must employ the two-part Chevron test. That is true enough, and the first part of the test requires a Court to determine whether Congress has directly spoken to the precise issue. In this case, the precise issue is whether the meaning of the phrase, “destroy all records,” of a gun transaction, as the phrase “destroy all records,” appears in the Statute subsection, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C), is clear and unambiguous. If so, that ends the matter. If not, then a Court must go to the second part of the Chevron test and ask whether the agency’s answer — as exemplified in the rules that an agency promulgates to effectuate the intent of Congress as expressed in a Congressional enactment — is based on a permissible construction of the statute. In the instant case the Justice Department has promulgated a rule creating an “audit log,” allowing for retention of information concerning a gun transaction within a six-month period.
Judges Tatel and Garland decided, erroneously, that Congress did not intend that gun transaction records must be destroyed immediately because, as the Court said, Congress would have drafted the Brady Act legislation to include the word, ‘immediately.’ But, this really begs the question at issue: whether the Statute in question, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c), and, specifically, subsection, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C), is inherently, intrinsically ambiguous because the word, ‘immediately,’ does not happen to follow the word, ‘records,’ in the phrase, ‘destroy all records.’ But, the Court’s majority inferred that 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C) is inherently ambiguous because the Court’s majority, Judges Tatel and Garland, decided that it must look to Legislative history to resolve the presumed ambiguity – when there was no sound legal or logical reason to do so. Having found, in Legislative history, that the House version of 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C) contained the word, ‘immediately,’ but that the Statutory subsection, as redrafted in the Senate version, and as ultimately enacted, did not include the word, ‘immediately,’ the Court’s majority inferred that the omission of the word, ‘immediately,’ in the final version of the Brady Act, as enacted, was ambiguous as to retention of NICS records.
Is this to say that the Statutory subsection as enacted is inherently ambiguous? That is unlikely. For, if that were true, one would have to surmise that Congress had decided, for some bizarre reason, to craft a Statute that Congress knew would be ambiguous. What kind of guidance would that have provided for the Second Branch of Government — the Executive Branch — the Branch of Government charged with executing the laws of Congress, under Article 2, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. Article 2, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the Executive “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
More likely, Congress realized that inclusion of a qualifier, in the phrase, “destroy all records,” is unnecessary because inclusion of the adverb, ‘immediately,’ to the phrase, ‘destroy all records,’ simply creates redundancy. Moreover, had Judges Tatel and Garland not bothered to look at the Legislative history of the Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c), they would not have come across the House version of the Statute in the first place. The Judges simply used a House version of a bill — that was never enacted — to argue, after the fact, that the version of the Statute as enacted must be ambiguous, when it never was ambiguous.
In looking improperly to Legislative history, Judges Tatel and Garland provided, to their minds at least, a plausible argument to buttress the result they wanted, namely that the Justice Department “audit log” and “retention rule” were consistent with the intent of Congress when Congress enacted the Brady Act, notwithstanding that law and logic dictate another result entirely: that the “audit log” and “retention rule” — for individuals who are under no disability and, therefore, are lawfully permitted to possess firearms and ammunition — is not authorized and is patently illegal.
Had Judges Tatel and Garland employed the sound jurisprudential methodology developed by Justice Scalia, textualism, they would have avoided the tortuous path that led them to the wrong decision. The Judges would have been compelled to find in favor of NRA, reversing the decision of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In that event the decision in favor of NRA would have been unanimous. All three Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Judges, Tatel, Sentelle, and Garland would be in full agreement. Judges Tatel and Garland might not have liked the result deriving from sound legal and logical reasoning, but they would have been intellectually honest about it and their judicial integrity would have be intact. The Separation of Powers Doctrine would have been adhered to, and the American People would not be faced with the prospect of an illegal Government intrusion into the exercise of the fundamental right of the people to keep and bear arms. It is not the Government’s business to keep records on law-abiding citizens lawful firearms and ammunition transactions, and it was never the intent of Congress to give the federal Government authorization under the Brady Act, or under any other federal Act, for that matter, to keep tabs on firearms and ammunition that law-abiding American citizens own and possess; nor does the Brady Act, or any other Act of Congress authorize Government to keep records on the mere fact that a firearms’ or ammunition transaction has taken place.
That Judges Tatel and Garland allowed personal sentiment to override judicial integrity and intellectual honesty – even going so far as to canvass Congressional history to buttress a horribly wrong decision – now allows the Justice Department to maintain an illegal “audit log,” of gun transaction records, that lends itself to the creation of an illicit federal gun registry if such does not already exist. Having found 18 U.S.C. § 922(t)(2)(c)(C) to be inherently ambiguous, the Judges compounded their error by proceeding to Step 2 of the Chevron test which, “affords substantial deference to the agency’s interpretation of statutory language.” That may be, but it need not be, and would not be had Judges Tatel and Garland refrained from proceeding to Step 2 of the Chevron case in the first instance.
The decision of Judges Tatel and Garland tells us that the Janet Reno’s rules for implementing the NICS criminal background check system is all perfectly consistent with Congressional intent in having enacted the Brady Act when the Justice Department’s actions amount to illegal usurpation of the power and authority of Congress, the First Branch of Government. The duties of the Second Branch of Government, the Executive, of which the Justice Department is a part, is limited to executing the laws that Congress creates – not creating law of its own accord. The Justice Department has done so, converting the Brady Act’s NICS instant criminal background check system into an illegal federal gun registry or, at least – in the rules that the Justice Department has promulgated – certainly paving the way for creation of an illicit federal gun registry. And, the Court’s erroneous ruling in Reno gives the Justice Department’s illicit actions legitimacy.
In finding ambiguity in a Statute when no ambiguity exists Judges Tatel and Garland open up a door to grandiose interpretation of Congressional enactments on the part of the Executive Branch. So, if the President — which includes the entirety of the Executive Branch departments, agencies, and bureaus under the President’s control — takes exception to restrictions in Congressional enactments, the Executive can simply ignore the restrictions and go its own way. This is what happened with the instant criminal background check as applied to individuals who seek to acquire firearms or ammunition. Judges Tatel and Garland have allowed for the creation of a hidden federal gun and ammunition registry, irrespective of and, in fact, in clear defiance of Congressional intent. The decision of the majority in the Reno case is an example, as well, of heinous Judicial activism and is an omen of things to come if Judge Garland succeeds to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court — giving the liberal wing of the high Court a critical fifth vote, a clear majority, and an unparalleled opportunity to pursue a Socialist agenda, inconsistent with our core values as exemplified by and preserved in our Nation’s Bill of Rights. The liberal wing the high Court will, hereafter, be able to operate unimpeded by the conservative wing of the high Court.
Judge Tatel has not been nominated by President Obama to replace Justice Scalia; and, so, the damage that he might inflict on the Bill of Rights, although certainly harmful to the preservation of the Second Amendment is probably not catastrophic. But, Judge Garland has been nominated by Obama to serve as Justice Scalia’s replacement.
Judge Garland, sitting on the high Court, as Justice Garland, will be in the strongest possible position not merely to subvert Justice Scalia’s decisional history; Judge Garland will be in a position to subvert Justice Scalia’s jurisprudential philosophy that also includes Justice Scalia’s legisprudential approach to statutory construction – all of which lend to the ultimate demise of the Second Amendment and much of the rest of the Bill of Rights along with it. Understandably, President Barack Obama would like to keep these facts well hidden.[separator type=”medium” style=”normal” align=”left”margin-bottom=”25″ margin_top=”5″] Copyright © 2015 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour), Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.