Statutory Construction Canons with SC Citations – II

This post continues to annotate with South Carolina law the canons of construction identified in Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner‘s book, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. This post quotes the first five semantic canons and then annotates them with South Carolina law.

Ordinary Meaning — Words are to be understood in their ordinary, everyday meaning — unless the context indicates that they bear a technical sense.”

Anderson v. South Carolina Election Comm’n, 397 S.C. 551, 556, 725 S.E.2d 704, 707 (2012)(“Unless there is something in the statute requiring a different interpretation, the words used in a statute must be given their ordinary meaning.”).

Fixed Meaning — Words must be given the meaning they had when the text was adopted.”

Stardancer Casino, Inc. v. Stewart, 347 S.C. 377, 385, 556 S.E.2d 357, 361 (2001)(“The intent of the legislature is determined in light of the overall climate in which the legislation was amended.”).

Omitted Case — Nothing is to be added to what the text states or reasonably implies (casus omissus pro omisso habendus est). That is, a matter not covered is to be treated as not covered.”

Grier v. AMISUB of South Carolina, Inc., 397 S.C. 532, 540, 725 S.E.2d 693, 698 (2012)(“[W]hen a statute is clear on its face, it is improvident to judicially engraft extra requirements to legislation just because doing so may further the intent behind the statute.”); Consumer Advocate v. South Carolina Dept. of Ins., 397 S.C. 599, 602, 725 S.E.2d 708, 710 (Ct.App. 2012)(“The court has no right to add words [the legislature] omitted, nor to interpolate them on conceits of symmetry and policy.”)

General Terms — General terms are to be given their general meaning (generalia verba sunt generalister intelligenda).”

Government Employees Ins. Co. v. Draina, 389 S.C. 586, 595, 698 S.E.2d 866, 871 (Ct.App. 2010)(“[A] basic rule of statutory construction is that general words — and it makes no difference how general — will be confined to the subject treated.”).

Negative Implication — The expression of one thing implies the exclusion of others (expressio unius est exclusio alterius).”

City of Rock Hill v. Harris, 391 S.C. 149, 154, 705 S.E.2d 53, 55 (2011)(“At the same time, when determining the effect of statutory language, the canon of construction expressio unius est exclusio alterius or inclusio unius exclusio alterius holds that to express or include one thing implies the exclusion of another, or the alternative.”)

The next several posts will continue to annotate the canons described in Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. Has anyone been able to use these canons effectively? Please let us know. You may reach me through the comment box or here.





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