Are there perils in statutory interpretation at trial or on appeal

Trial and appellate lawyers often need to interpret what a statute means and how it applies to their case.

“There are some great Supreme Court cases on statutory interpretation, including the famous discussion regarding whether a tomato is a fruit.”

Says Prof. Tessa Dysart on Appellate Advocacy Blog.  She is referring to Nix v. Hedden, 149 U.S. 304 (1893), which held that “under customs law tomatoes counted as vegetables — and the importer had to keep paying the tariff.”  Her post is referring to State v. Barnes, decided 12 October 2017, by the Washington Supreme Court.

The relatively short opinions provide excellent teaching tools on statutory interpretation.  They clearly set out the legal and policy concerns that are frequently invoked in these types of cases and can serve to remind us that in writing a brief on a statutory interpretation issue we must consider all three approaches, or at least be aware of what approaches the judges in [y]our jurisdiction take.