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In its most recent Halliburton II decision, the Supreme Court rejected an effort to overrule its prior decision in Basic Inc. v. Levinson. The Court reasoned that adherence to Basic was warranted by principles of stare decisis that operate with “special force” in the context of statutory interpretation. This Article offers an alternative justification for adhering to Basic—the collaboration between the Court and Congress that has led to the development of the private class action for federal securities fraud. The Article characterizes this collaboration as a lawmaking partnership and argues that such a partnership offers distinctive lawmaking advantages.

Halliburton II offered a compelling illustration of the lawmaking partnership, as Congress and the Court together used the Basic decision as a building block to enable and then refine private securities fraud class actions. Notably, Congress took affirmative steps through legislation—the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act and the Securities Litigation Uniform Standards Act—to balance the competing policy objectives of allowing effective enforcement while limiting the potential for abusive litigation. The process illustrates the three critical components of a lawmaking partnership: an open-textured statute, sequential adjustments to the statutory scheme by both the Court and Congress, and a set of common objectives to guide the lawmaking enterprise.

This Article argues that the existence of a lawmaking partnership offers the Court the freedom to engage in explicit policy analysis of a type that is inconsistent with a traditional textualist approach. Put differently, the partnership operates as a type of rule of construction allowing the Court to engage in its own analysis of the interpretation that will best further congressional objectives. The lawmaking partnership also offers distinctive lawmaking advantages, including efficiency, political insulation, and comparative institutional competence. An exploration of these advantages can be used to identify the potential value of the lawmaking partnership beyond federal securities fraud.


Securities regulation, law and economics, legislation, statutory construction, textualism, Supreme Court of the United States, SCOTUS, fiduciary duty, Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, insider trading, private enforcement

Publication Title

Washington University Law Review

Publication Citation

93 Wash. U. L. Rev. 453 (2015).