July 21, 2011 - Reading Statutes

How to Read Legal Statutes... 
written by Dr. Frederick D. Graves, JD of Jurisdictionary 

"Know What the Law Actually Says!
One of the biggest mistakesmade by people involved in court battles is mis-reading statutes.
If you don't know what the law actually says, you'll have a hard time getting the courts to agree with you.
Understanding "statutory interpretation" is essential.
Statutory language must be interpreted according to well-established "rules of statutory interpretation". The rules are vital to your case ... if you want to win!
You need to know how courts interpret what Congress or your state legislature really meant when they wrote the law!
Too many people "assume" they know what a statute says, when the only opinion that counts is what appellate courts have said the statute says. Appellate courts apply the rules of statutory interpretation. You must also!"

"Learn these rules ... if you want to win!
The primary rule for interpreting statutes is the "Plain Meaning Rule". Words should be given their "plain meaning" when interpreted by courts. By "plain meaning" we mean the meaning an ordinary reasonable person would assign to a word in the context where it's found. Judges should not play games with lawmakers' words. If a reasonable person would read "bicycle" to mean a two-wheeled engine-less vehicle powered only by legs and feet, no judge should allow a party to stretch the meaning to include mopeds or motorcycles. The law should say what it means and mean nothing more, but sometimes the appellate courts put a twist on things. Words used in statutes should be given a plain meaning, according to the plain meaning rule, but you must always rely on how the appellate courts read them. That means online legal research. (Taught in my 24-hour step-by-step Jurisdictionary course. Order now!)"

"What if the meaning is not plain?
By the rule of "ejusdem generis" (Latin: "of the same type") courts should interpret general terms at the end of specific lists as including only things of the same type as those specifically mentioned in the list. For example, if a statute lists "oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and other fruit", the doctrine of ejusdem generis limits the phrase "other fruit" to mean other citrus fruit. Apples and pears are not included. The courts may assume lawmakers intended by "other fruit" all the many types of citrus: kumquats, limes, tangelos, etc. When lawmakers list items of similar kind, then say "and other" (or similar words), the doctrine ofejusdem generis limits the word "other" to include only items of the same type."

"Forward this newsletter to ALL YOUR FRIENDS!
Another rule of statutory interpretation is inclusio unius, exclusio alterius (Latin: include one, exclude others). If a statute specifically refers to lemons (and does not mention limes or grapefruit or "other fruit"), courts must obey this rule and not expand the lawmakers' intent to include limes and grapefruit. It is not the domain of judges to expand on what lawmakers say beyond what lawmakers specifically say!"

Use what you read here as a part of your research to establish your understanding.
Your actions remain your responsibility.
All natural rights reserved. © 2012 steven, a man. <><