Machinists v. Street: Statutory Interpretation and the Avoidance of Constitutional Issues, 1961 Supreme Court Review 49 (1961)
On the last day of the October Term, 1960, the Supreme Court's two senior Justices took a majority of their brethren to task for reading the union shop provision of the Railway Labor Act in a sharply restrictive and, consequently, plainly constitutional manner. Said Mr. Justice Black:
I think the Court is once more "carrying the doctrine of avoiding constitutional questions to a wholly unjustifiable extreme." In fact, I think the Court is actually rewriting [the statute] to make it mean exactly what Congress refused to make it mean. The very legislative history relied on by the Court appears to me to prove that its interpretation . . . is without justification. . . . I think Congress has a right to a determination of the constitutionality of the statute it passed, rather than to have the Court rewrite the statute in the name of avoiding decision of constitutional questions.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Wellington, Harry H., "Machinists v. Street: Statutory Interpretation and the Avoidance of Constitutional Issues" (1961). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 1971.