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Plain Meaning, Precedent, and Metaphysics: Lessons in Statutory Interpretation From Analyzing the Elements of the Clean Water Act Offense

April 2016

Citation: ELR 10297

Author: Jeffrey G. Miller

This Article, the fifth in a series of five, completes the author’s detailed analysis of how federal courts have interpreted each element of the Clean Water Act (CWA) offense. Compiling statistics across the four prior articles, it draws conclusions about statutory interpretation in general, finding that the depth of legal analysis increases with the level of court; that environmentally positive results decrease with the level of court; that courts use only a small number of canons and other interpretive devices; that their uses of interpretive devices change over time; and that interpretive devices are not all outcome-neutral. The author also draws other lessons about statutory interpretation that are specific to each element, and to the language and history of the CWA.

Jeffrey Miller is Professor of Law Emeritus, Pace Law School.

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