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76 Miss. L.J. 55 (2006-2007)
A Prolegomena to Federal Statutory Interpretation: Identifying the Sources of Interpretive Problems

handle is hein.journals/mislj76 and id is 65 raw text is: A PROLEGOMENA TO FEDERAL
J. Gordon Christy*
The Constitution allocates sole legislative authority to
Congress and ultimate interpretive powers to the federal
courts.' How to harmonize these powers has remained un-
clear for almost 220 years.2 If Congress, the legislature, has
the sole authority to legislate, and if the results of legislating
are evidenced in statutes, written texts, approved by the legis-
lature, may the courts, in the interpretive process, constitu-
tionally add to or subtract from the substantive or remedial
effect of the written provisions of those statutes, including
* J.D. University of Texas at Austin. Associate Professor of Law and Director
of Legal Analysis and Reasoning, Mississippi College School of Law. Professor
Christy was previously Special Counsel to the Deputy General Counsel of Ford
Motor Company, a partner in the Dallas, Texas, law firms of Johnson & Gibbs
and Strasburger & Price, and Associate Professor of Law in the University of
Oklahoma College of Law.
' U.S. CONST. art. I, § 1; U.S. CONST. art. III, §§ 1 , 2. Both the executive
and the various administrative agencies must interpret laws in the process of
administering them. They, therefore, of necessity have interpretive power. That
power is simply not the ultimate power. The final say resides with the federal
' If one traces the doctrine of legislative supremacy in the Anglo-American
tradition back to circa 1215, which is not entirely unreasonable, then harmonizing
these powers has eluded jurists in the Anglo-American tradition for nearly 800
years. To put matters in an even longer-term perspective, the first known code of
laws, the Sumerian Code of Lipit-Ishtar, was promulgated circa 2500 B.C. Francis
Rue Steele, The Code of Lipit-Ishtar, 52 AM. J. ARCHAEOLOGY 425 (1948). The
need to distinguish the powers of the legislator from those of the interpreter of
statutes apparently extends back over 4,500 years.

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