Statutory Construction Canons with SC Citations – V

This post continues a series that annotates the canons of construction that Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner identified in Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts. This post quotes some of contextual canons identified in pages vxiii and xiv of the book and follows with the corresponding South Carolina law.

“Whole text — The text must be construed as a whole.”

16 Jade Street, LLC v. R. Design Const. Co., LLC., 398 S.C. 338, 343, 728 S.E.2d 448, 450 (2012)(“[T]he statute must also be read as a whole and in harmony with its purpose.”).

Presumption of Consistent Usage — A word or phrase is presumed to bear the same meaning throughout a text; a material variation in terms suggests a variation in meaning.”

Travelscape, LLC v. South Carolina Dep’t. of Revenue, 391 S.C. 89, 100, 705 S.E.2d 28, 34 (2011)(“AS a general rule, ‘identical words and phrases within the same statute should normally be given the same meaning.'”).

Surplusage — If possible, every word and every provision is to be given effect (verba cum effectu sunt accipienda). None should be ignored. None should needlessly be given an interpretation that causes it to duplicate another provision or to have no consequence.”

16 Jade Street, LLC v. R. Design Const. Co., LLC., 398 S.C. 338, 343, 728 S.E.2d 448, 450 (2012)(“Similarly, we are to construe a statute so ‘that no word, clause, sentence, provision or part shall be rendered surplusage, or superfluous.”).

Harmonious Reading — The provisions of a text should be interpreted in a way that renders them compatible, not contradictory.”

Davis v. School District of Greenville County, 374 S.C. 39, 45, 647 S.E.2d 219, 222 (2007)(“Furthermore, the ‘goal of statutory construction is to harmonize conflicting statutes whenever possible and to prevent an interpretation that would lead to a result that is plainly absurd.'”).

General/Specific — If there is a conflict between a general provision and a specific provision, the specific provision prevails (generalia specialibus non derogant).”

Denman v. City of Columbia, 387 S.C. 131, 138, 691 S.E.2d 465, 468 (2010)(“Furthermore, ‘[w]here there is one statute addressing an issue in general terms and another statute dealing with the identical issue in a more specific and definite manner, the more specific statute will be considered an exception to, or a qualifier of, the general statute and given such effect.'”).

Irreconcilability — If a text contains truly irreconcilable provisions at the same level of generality, and they have been simultaneously adopted, neither provision should be given effect.”

In construing inconsistent statutes that are simultaneously adopted, South Carolina strains to find one more specific than the other and apply it. See State ex. rel. South Carolina Tax Comm’n, 154 S.C. 55, 151 S.E. 218, 220 (1930)(“[S]tatutes adopted at the same session of the Legislature are to be construed together, with the purpose of harmonizing them, and, if they are necessarily inconsistent, the statute dealing with common subject matter in a minute and particular way will prevail over one of a more general nature.”).  

Predicate Act — Authorization of an act also authorizes a necessary predicate.”

Gaffney v. Mallory, 186 S.C. 337, 195 S.E. 840, 846 (1938)(supplying a necessary predicate and holding, “The matter in parenthesis is supplied as necessarily implied.”).

Has anyone made effective use of any of these canons? Please let us know. You may reach me through the comment box or here.





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