Statutory Construction Canons with SC Citations – III

This post continues annotating with South Carolina law the semantic canons of construction that Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner identified in Reading the Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts.The canons are quoted from page xii of the book, followed by the annotations –

Mandatory/Permissive — mandatory words impose a duty; permissive words grant discretion.”

Collins v. Doe, 352 S.C. 462, 470, 574 S.E.2d 739, 743 (2002)(“under the rules of statutory interpretation, use of the words ‘shall’ or ‘must’ indicates the legislature’s intent to enact a mandatory requirement.”); T.W. Morgan Builders, Inc. v. Buedingen, 316 S.C. 388, 402, 450 S.E.2d 87, 95 (Ct.App. 1994)(“Ordinarily, the use of the word ‘may’ in a statute signifies permission and generally means the action spoken of is optional or discretionary . . . [but] the use of the word ‘may’ in a statute can be interpreted to mean ‘shall.’”).

Conjunctive/DisjunctiveAnd joins a conjunctive list, or a disjunctive list — but with negatives, plurals, and various specific wordings there are nuances.”

Michau v. Georgetown County, 396 S.C. 589, 595, 723 S.E.2d 805, 808 (2012)(“As this Court has recognized, the use of the word ‘or’ in a statute is a disjunctive that marks an alternative.”); but see Fulghum v. Bleakley, 177 S.C. 286, 181 S.E. 30, 32 (1935)(“This Court has held, in order to effectuate legislative intention, that ‘and’ should be read ‘or’; that ‘may’ is often construed ‘must’ or ‘shall’; that ‘hereinafter’ should be read ‘hereinbefore’; and that the word ‘of’ should be construed to mean ‘or’”.).

Subordinating/Superordinating — Subordinating language (signaled by subject to) or superordinating language (signaled by notwithstanding or despite) merely shows which provision prevails in the event of a clash — but does not necessarily denote a clash of provisions.”

Gasque, Inc. v. Nates, 191 S.C. 271, 2 S.E.2d 36, 44 (1939)(“The office of a proviso is either to except something from the enacting clause or to qualify or restrain its generality, or to exclude some ground of misinterpretation of it. . . .. The main provision of a statute and the proviso are to be read together with a view to carry into effect the whole purpose of the law.”).

Gender/Number — In the absence of a contrary indication, the masculine includes the feminine (and vice versa) and the singular includes the plural (and vice versa).”

S.C. Code Ann.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *