Scalia bets “a dollar to a donut,” Breyer ups the ante on Legislative Intent

December 6th, 2010

Funny exchange from oral arguments in Henderson v. Shinseki:

JUSTICE SCALIA: I bet you a dollar to a donut that — that nobody thought about this narrow -narrow issue. So it — it ought to be a question of -of what this language ought to be taken to mean. What’s its fairest reading?

Now, I’m not sure that means you win, but -but surely that’s the issue, not — not what, whether -whether Congress could have been so mean. They didn’t think of this.

MR. MILLER: Right. And — and in looking at -JUSTICE

BREYER: What do you mean, “right”? I thought within — first of all, a donut costs a dollar, so I don’t see much appeal there.

(Laughter.)

This exchange highlighted the never-ending debate between Breyer and Scalia on legislative intent, and whether Congress actually though about the issue before the Court when crafting the statue.

Said Scalia:

JUSTICE┬áSCALIA: Mr. Miller, do you really think Congress thought about this? Do you think the members of Congress who voted for this bill thought about this — this rather narrow point, about whether if you file too late it’s jurisdictional?
Said Breyer:

JUSTICE BREYER: But — but don’t we, throughout the statute books, try to work out from context, language, and objective purpose what a reasonable member of Congress would have intended, whether they thought about it or whether they did think about it, which would require X-rays into the brain that have not yet been invented?