IN The Complexity of Jurisdictional Clarity, Professor Dodson argues that the traditional call for clear and simple rules über alles in subject matter jurisdiction is misplaced.1 With his typical aplomb, Dodson disentangles the concept of clarity from the analytically distinct, though often conflated, debates over rules versus standards and mandates versus discretion. He critically examines the many difficulties that render the creation of clear and simple jurisdictional rules utopian. And he tallies the traditionally uncounted costs of jurisdictional clarity. Dodson's piece is perceptive, challenging, and thought provoking.
In this response essay, I begin by arguing that Dodson, while offering many valuable insights, does not adequately distinguish between the separate notions of simplicity, clarity, and accessibility. Second, I note that crafting a clarity-enhancing rule, even if complex and inaccessible, may be a more promising endeavor than the search for a regime that is at once clear, simple, and accessible. In the third section, I contend that a focus on clarity in isolation, in lieu of simplicity or accessibility, both furthers Dodson's project of illustrating that the value of clarity is often a false idol and reveals the inherently empirical nature of the question. I close by noting that although Dodson's piece importantly demonstrates that jurisdictional clarity comes at a cost, his inability to resolve these underlying empirical questions makes it unlikely that he will quiet those advocating clarity-based jurisdictional reform.