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Textualism is an approach to the interpretation of statutes and the U.S. Constitution that focuses on the text itself and its plain meaning rather than inquiring into the purpose of those who wrote the text. Under this view the legislative history of a statute is insignificant and should not be allowed to trump the text itself.

In the words of the leading proponent of textualism, Justice Antonin Scalia, statutory text always trumps "unenacted legislative intent."[1]

Textualism is the opposite of purposivism.


  1. INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421, 453 (1987) (Scalia, J., concurring)