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A clear split in the Supreme Court over a single letter word

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“Ordinary meaning and literal meaning are two different things,” Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a 22-page response to the 16-page majority opinion. “And judges who interpret laws should follow the ordinary meaning, not the literal meaning.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined in the dissenting opinion of Justice Kavanaugh, who took a different view on how to understand section “a” .

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“The word ‘a’ is not a universal word,” he wrote, acknowledging that “a car dealership that promises to ship ‘a car’ to a customer has failed to fulfill its obligation to it sends one to the client. car part at a time. “

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“In contrast, it is common practice to submit a ‘job application’ by sending a resume first and then referrals as they become available,” Judge Kavanaugh wrote. “When the final referral arrives, the candidate has submitted ‘a job application’. Likewise, an author can submit the chapters of a novel to an editor one by one, as they are ready. When submitting the last chapter, the author has undoubtedly submitted “a manuscript”. “

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Judge Gorsuch replied that the court’s job was to find out the meaning of the law before it.

“If, in the process of discerning this meaning, we consult the definitions of grammar and dictionary – as well as the statutory structure and history – we do so because the rules governing language often inform ordinary people to understand. the rules that govern them, ”he wrote.

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He added that it was only fair to force the government to live up to the standards it imposes on ordinary people. “If the government finds filling out forms a chore, it is in good company,” he wrote. “The world is inundated with forms and agencies rarely give individuals the same leeway to complete them as government wants today.”

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“On some level,” Judge Gorsuch wrote, “today’s dispute may seem semantic, centered on one word, a little extra. But words are how the law constrains power.

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