ARTICLE: The Legacy of Griggs v. Duke Power Co.: A Case Study in the Impact of a Modernist Statutory Precedent Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1994 Utah Law Review Society
Utah Law Review

ARTICLE: The Legacy of Griggs v. Duke Power Co.: A Case Study in the Impact of a Modernist Statutory Precedent


1994 Utah L. Rev. 1353


Earl M. Maltz *


In recent years, the once-placid field of statutory interpretation has become the focus of intense scholarly debate. The traditional view that courts should attempt to effectuate the intentions of the
drafters of a statute 1 has been sharply criticized by two groups. Textualists contend that the plain meaning of statutes should control judicial decisions. 2 Modernists, by contrast, argue that judges should take into account policy considerations that may not have actually influenced the legislative process. 3

In this revitalized debate, the literature has generally focused on two specific points in the evolution of statutory law. The bulk of the scholarship has focused on the initial interpretation of statutes. 4 A smaller but still significant body of literature has focused on the question of when statutory precedents should be overruled. 5 Little attention has been paid, however, to the factors that deter mine the impact of a judicial decision interpreting a statute.

This Article will analyze those factors, using the 1971 decision
in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. 6 as a case study. The Article begins with an overview of the problem of determining the scope of statutory precedents. The Article then situates Griggs itself in the contemporary debate over statutory interpretation, contending that the case is best understood as an example of modernist statutory inter pretation. Next, the Article describes the value judgments underly ing Griggs. Finally, the Article traces the impact of Griggs over a twenty-year period, arguing that the doctrine of the case has ...
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