Friday, February 20, 2009

Solum on Possibility and Necessity in Law

Prof. Solum suggests that arguments about legal possibility and necessity can be sharpened by using the possible worlds approach to modality. Quite possibly so. The possible worlds approach is fascinating (to me, at least) and it's useful philosophical knowledge in any case. In my note, I argued that it was Justice Scalia's failure to attend to the difference between universal and existential modality (the feature that distinguishes possibility from necessity) that led him to reason wrongly about the meaning of the Second Amendment in D.C. v. Heller.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Linguists' Brief

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Flores-Figueroa v. United States. Oral argument is set for next Wednesday, Feb. 25th. As in Hayes, there is a linguists' amicus brief on behalf of neither party (authored by the same attorney). Amici this time are Tom Ernst, Georgia Green, Jeffrey Kaplan and Sally McConnell-Ginet, and the subject matter is adverbs. In particular, the interpretation of the phrase knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person, and whether a means of identification of another person is in the scope of knowing. The conclusion: unambiguously yes, unless the reader adopts the not very natural de re reading.

By the way, oral argument in Hayes was full of linguistic discussion. Also, Chief Justice Roberts learned a new word, "romanette."