In this Essay, written in tribute to Dan Meltzer, I shall attempt to explicate his views regarding statutory interpretation in general, thematic terms. In doing so, I shall register my agreement with virtually all of Dan’s conclusions and frequently echo his practically minded arguments in support of them. But I shall also advance arguments—with which I cannot be entirely sure he would have agreed—that seek to show that his position reflected theoretical insights about how language works, not only in law, but also more generally in life. By seeking simultaneously to defend Dan’s views and to build on them, this Essay may sometimes blur the line between explication and original argumentation.

Its methodology is, accordingly, risky, but I do not believe it is misplaced. As I hope will become clear, my blending of descriptive and interpretive claims with normative argumentation in some ways parallels the approach that Dan thought courts should take in acting as Congress’s junior partners.



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