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02/13/2022

Joseph Kimble: Dictionary Diving in the Courts
Michael Ramsey

Joseph Kimble (WMU–Cooley Law School) has posted Dictionary Diving in the Courts: A Shaky Grab for Ordinary Meaning (22 Journal of Appellate Practice and Process (2022 forthcoming)) (54 pages) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This article examines courts’ use and misuse of general (lay) dictionaries. It is unique in several respects: (1) I believe it is the first to collect data on the use of dictionaries from a court’s beginning—in this instance the Michigan Supreme Court from 1845 until 2020. The numbers are startling. And they correspond with the rise in textualist methods of interpretation. (2) It catalogues 15 ways in which this court has has misused dictionaries. Those same kinds of misuses would surely appear in cases from other jurisdictions. (3) It collects comments from lexicographers themselves on courts’ use of dictionaries. (4) It explains in some detail why resorting to dictionaries is linguistically misguided. (5) It collects and distills, at the end, the (scathing) scholarly commentary.