Liptak on Cutely Named Laws

December 30th, 2013

Adam Liptak writes in Sidebar about an essay I blogged about back in February, focusing on how federal laws are named. Adam hones in on a key aspect of why politicians name federal laws the way they do–to make opposing the law impossible because of those its name benefits.

For example, I’ve asked, who can possibly oppose the Violence Against Women Act? Certainly only those who want women to suffer from violence, right? This is an extension of the general Ted Frank’s Rule, which states that it is generally a terrible idea to name laws after victims.

Adam hones in on this important point.

The day before, the court issued another 5-to-4 decision, Shelby County v. Holder, this one striking down part of the Voting Rights Act. That name might seem more straightforward, but it did not satisfy Justice Antonin Scalia when the case was argued in February.

“This is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress,” he said, explaining that lawmakers “are going to lose votes if they do not re-enact the Voting Rights Act.”

“Even the name of it is wonderful,” he said. “The Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that?”

We would be much better off if laws were given neutral titles, or perhaps numbers.