Monday, May 04, 2009

Amusing SCOTUS typo

From this morning's opinion of the Court in Flores-Figueroa v. United States, No. 08-108:

As a matter of ordinary English grammar, it seems natural to read the statute's word "knowingly" as applying to all the subsequently listed elements of the crime. The Government cannot easily claim that the word "knowingly" applies only to the statutes [sic] first four words, or even its first seven.
Slip op. at 4.


Cloudesley Shovell said...

There is far more delightful language further on, in Justice Scalia's concurrence (which also contains a typo of omission):

"I likewise cannot join the Court’s discussion of the (as usual, inconclusive) legislative history. Ante, at 9. Relying on the statement of a single Member of Congress or an unvoted-upon (and for all we know unread) Committee Report to expand a statute beyond the limits its [sic] text suggests is always a dubious enterprise. And consulting those incunabula with an eye to making criminal what the text would otherwise permit is even more suspect. See United States v. R. L. C., 503 U. S. 291, 307–309 (1992) (SCALIA, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). Indeed, it is not unlike the practice of Caligula, who reportedly “wrote his laws in a very small character, and hung them up upon high pillars, the more effectually to ensnare the people,” 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 46 (1765)."

First off, always good to see a fellow Englishman cited by your good Court.

Secondly, I had to dust off my OED to look up "incunabula." I suppose Justice Scalia used it in its modern sense of "the beginnings or first stages of something." However, because it derives from the Latin for swaddling clothes, I think he was (in his delightful back-handed way) comparing legislative history to dirty diapers, and about as useful.

Also, comparing the lead opinion to the ways of Caligula can hardly be considered a compliment.

Anonymous said...

Did you see the movie? It reminded me of Code 45 in 2000-2001.

Dwight Sullivan said...

Sir Cloudesley, why the "[sic]" after "its"?

John O'Connor said...

I don't see the typo either.

Cloudesley Shovell said...

Because I mis-read it. I thought there should have been an "of" in there. ("limits of its")

It's not my fault--the dust from my OED got in my eyes . . .yes, that's what happened. Besides, I've been at the pub for a couple hours (it's evening over here, you know), and several delicious pints have clouded my thinking (no pun intended).

Five pounds sterling to the first one to call legislative history worth nothing more than dirty diapers, citing Scalia's concurrence as authority.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:59: Not among the Marines. That was a navy problem.

Anonymous said...

It is really amazing what us geeks can find amusing, no?

Anonymous said...

LOL!!! Cloudesley the ignorant fool putting [sic] in for the "typo" he found in a SCOTUS opinion. Oh, how excited you must have been to critique the elite. But, alas, they're as smart as advertised, and,'re not.

dreadnaught said...

Non-Cloudy One - Anon 08:39 may be one of the Barbary pirates you thwarted. Will they never learn?