Statutory Reversal

Statutory Reversal in the United States

Legislative action to overturn a judicial ruling. Statutory reversal can occur most simply when the decision of a court rests on an interpretation of legislation as to meaning or intent. Congress often cannot simply reverse a decision where a court finds a constitutional defect by re-enacting a “clarified” version of the statute. In most cases, however, appellate courts are engaged in statutory construction as opposed to judicial review. Thus, reversal through the normal legislative process is possible. In situations where Congress disagrees with a judicial interpretation of a statute, it may simply enact a new statute that clarifies its objectives and reverses those sections that produced a court interpretation that is incompatible. Statutory reversal is a means by which the legislative branch cannot only “correct” decisions of courts, but also limit the impact of judicial authority more generally. Frequent statutory reversal can be regarded as a method of court “curbing.” See also Court “Curbing” (Judicial Effects and Policies) Judicial Review (Judicial Effects and Policies) Statutory Construction (Judicial Effects and Policies).

Analysis and Relevance

The legislative branch can generally reverse court decisions based on statutory construction. If courts and legislatures disagree as to what a law is intended to do, statutory reversal allows the legislature to essentially have the last word and determine the proper course for its own enactments. Disagreements of this kind are not frequent, but they are more common than those situations where enactments are nullified in their entirety through the process of judicial review. Reflected in this legislative-judicial tension is the dynamic of checks and balances. A recent example of statutory reversal involved the case of Grove City College v. Bell (465 U.S. 555: 1984). This case grew out of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which covers gender discrimination in educational programs. The question focused on sanctions: whether federal funds were to be withheld only from the specific program where violations occurred or from the institution entirely. The Supreme Court ruled that only the offending program could be sanctioned. The violations were confined to stu-dent financial aid; thus, only federal funds going through that program could be withheld. Any other federal support going to other programs at Grove City were to continue. Congress disagreed with this interpretation of Title IX and eventually enacted legislation that called for the institution-wide sanctions. The effect of the new legislation was to reverse the Court’s Grove City decision.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Statutory Reversal from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Statutory Reversal: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Statutory Reversal. This part provides references, in relation to Statutory Reversal, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Statutory Reversal by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Statutory Reversal and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Statutory Reversal or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Statutory Reversal and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Statutory Reversal. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Statutory Reversal should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Statutory Reversal when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

Leave a Comment