June 26, 2012
Johnson: The Clear Legislative Evidence Canon in Tax Cases
Steve R. Johnson (Florida State), Elephants, Mouse Holes, Non-Barking Dogs, and Statutory Interpretations, 64 State Tax Notes 911 (June 25, 2012):
This installment of Interpretation Matters examines a canon of statutory construction that has been applied in state and federal cases, both tax and nontax. Under the canon, a court will require clear legislative evidence before it holds that a statute was intended to effect a major substantive change. Inferences from wisps of textual or other evidence will not suffice. As the title of this installment suggests, and as will become clear below, the jurisprudence regarding this canon has been particularly rich in metaphors.
Part I below describes the U.S. Supreme Court cases that are the foundation of the canon, including a recent tax case. Part II surveys the canon's use in state and local cases, including tax cases. Part III analyzes the justification for the canon and its relations to other canons. Part IV sets out practical suggestions on how to use, and how to oppose the use of, the canon in actual cases.
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