Exhibit A for Textualism

On October 20, 2006, in General, by Neil Stevens

Here’s a clear cut case of legislative interpretation where the original intent doesn’t cut it, and the modern meaning of the words has started to shift out from under us:

A Corona woman accused of exposing herself to a 14-year-old boy will not be tried for indecent exposure because the law against such behavior applies only to men, a visiting judge in Riverside County has ruled.

…on Monday, Superior Court Judge Robert W. Armstrong dismissed the charge just before a jury was to be picked, saying the law under which she was charged uses only the male pronoun.

“Every person who willfully and lewdly, either one, exposes his person … in any public place,” he read into the hearing’s transcript.

“It’s gender specific,” Armstrong said.

My guess is that while the original intent only envisioned men being a problem here, as men are traditionally seen as more of a threat for sexual misconduct of all sorts, the language as it existed when the law was written clearly saw the male third person pronoun able to refer back to ‘every person’ in a gender-neutral manner.

Before radical feminists mimicked Orwell’s villains and started rewriting the English language, this wouldn’t have been an issue. And it’s only under the language as it exists today, that there would be any doubt of whether the law as quoted by Judge Armstrong would apply to women.

So here’s exhibit A for textualism over other kinds of legal interpretation: shifts of popular language use should not change the meaning of a law so radically, that it excludes half the human race from its reach.


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