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Legislation
University of Dayton School of Law
Hallinan, Charles G.

LEGISLATION

Hallinan – Spring 2010

3 SOURCES FOR STATUTORY INTERPRETATION

INTRINSIC

TEXT, GRAMMAR, PUNCTUATION

i. Plain/ Ordinary Meaning
1. words should be given their plain/ ordinary meaning
2. the meaning that words would convey to the ordinary or reasonable reader
ii. Technical Meaning
1. words should be given their technical meaning if they are words of art
2. popular words may bear a technical meaning and technical words may bear a popular significance and they should be construed to agree with exigent intention
iii. Grammar/ Punctuation
1. Grammar and Punctuation should be given its plain and ordinary meaning to the extent possible unless it would lead to absurdity or ambiguity
2. Since legislators write the bills there is an assumption they mean what they write- they are assumed to know what they are doing

TEXTUAL CANONS

i. The Golden Rule/Plain Meaning Rule
1. One must give effect to the plain and ordinary meaning of the words, grammar and punctuation involved in the statute
2. parry: unless it would lead to an absurd/ ambiguous result then it must be interpreted to further the purpose of the statute which may be found in extrinsic sources
a. Absurd (Green v. Bock Laundry Machine Company)
i. Unjust result that Congress could not have intended
ii. Other maintain that it must lead to a result that is so gross as to shock the general moral of common sense
iii. Used to save face
iv. Requires more than a showing that the statutory language does not mean what Congress intended; it requires a showing that it would have been absurd for Congress to have intended what the statute says…
v. Limits attorneys fees brought by any action for attorneys fees
1. The effect in terms of litigation—less litigation by prisoners
2. Reduces the likelihood attorney will take the case
b. Ambiguous
i. When 2 reasonable people may interpret the same text 2 different ways
ii. Expressio Unis est Exclusio Alterius
1. the inclusion of one thing is to the exclusion of another (b/c the statute said A it could not have meant Y)
2. parry: Congress could not possibly have included every scenario thus the purpose may include many different things yet the language only expresses some (Holy Trinity)
iii. Ejusdem Generis
1. of the same class, kind or natureà when specific words are followed by more general words then the latter are given meaning through the former
2. (eh-youse-dem generous) v adj. Latin for “of the same kind,” used to interpret loosely written statutes. Where a law lists specific classes of persons or things and then refers to them in general, the general statements only apply to the same kind of persons or things specifically listed. Example: if a law refers to automobiles, trucks, tractors, motorcycles and other motor-powered ve

y be read interchangeably when it would make sense to do so and give effect to the statute
x. Singular/ Plural
1. singular words may be given a plural reading
2. parry: unless it would be against the purpose, absurd or ambiguous
xi. Feminine/ Masculine
1. masculine words may be read as feminine and vise versa
2. parry: unless it would be against the purpose, absurd or ambiguous
xii. The Rule of the Last Antecedent
1. If there is no comma separating a list of words or phrases from a modifier then the modifier will only apply to the last word or phrase
a. Ex: People may drive cars , motorcycles, and bikes, but only on Thursdays- driving, cars, motorcycles and bikes is only acceptable on Thursdays
b. People may drive cars, motorcycles, and bikes but only on Thursday- only driving bikes is not acceptable on Thursdays
2. parry: unless it would be absurd or against common sense to do so.
xiii. Provisos
1. “Provided that…” shall be strictly construed
2. parry: unless it is explicitly stated otherwise or is implicit in that it effectuates the purpose
xiv. One Subject Rule
1. A bill may only contain one subject