Is Textualism Doomed?

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In Is Textualism Doomed?, Professor Ilya Somin counters Professor Siegel's argument that textualism is ultimately doomed to irrelevance because its “inexorable radicalization . . . will cause it to lose the interpretation wars.” Somin contends that Siegel's normative critique of textualism and positive prediction about its future are overdrawn. In Part I, Professor Somin shows that adherence to text does not inevitably lead to absurd and extreme results. In Part II, Somin claims that Siegel has understated the importance of textual ambiguity. He argues that when faced with an ambiguous text, resorting to extrinsic evidence of meaning is entirely consistent with textualist premises and may sometimes even be required by them. In Part III, Somin finds that textualism is here to stay, and will not “work itself pure” as Siegel has argued. Somin concludes by reasoning that because federal judges are not as interested in “grand theories of interpretation” and methodological consistency as academics are, they will not take textualism to its logical extreme.

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