Before hearing argument in the closely watched Stoneridge securities fraud case Tuesday, the justices considered Watson v. U.S., a case centered on an issue of statutory interpretation that has split the circuits: whether the receipt of a firearm in exchange for drugs constitutes “use” of the firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense.

An intriguing portion of the argument and the justices’ questioning circled around the normal or natural meaning of the word “use.” Several of the justices wrestled with what Justice Stephen Breyer and others termed the case’s “linguistic” issues — but they seemed to differ on how dispositive those matters were.

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