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Friday, June 25, 2010

Statute-Provisions not to be interpreted in Isolation

It is basic rule of construction that the provision, clause, sentence, phrase and the words of statute should be read as a whole and reading of any provision in isolation is against all cannon of construction.
First, as the Supreme Court has observed, statutory terms must not be interpreted in isolation but, rather, must be interpreted in the context of the whole statute in the manner "most harmonious with its scheme and with the general purposes that Congress manifested." Commissioner v. Engle, [1984] USSC 4; 464 U.S. 206, 217 (1984); see also Textron Lycoming Reciprocating Engine Div., AVCO Corp. v. United Auto., Aerospace & Agric. Implement Workers of Am., [1998] USSC 50;523 U.S. 653, 657 (1998); Crandon v. United States[1990] USSC 25; , 494 U.S. 152, 158 (1990); United States v. Morton,[1984] USSC 140; 467 U.S. 822, 828 (1984).[2001] USCA9 284 Note This ruling contains many principles of interpretation and can be referred to.

"..., even if our duty were to determine the meaning of "title" in isolation, we interpret such undefined terms not as technical terms of art but rather in accordance with their ordinary or natural meaning in the context in which they arise. See Asgrow Seed Co. v. Winterboer, [1995] USSC 5; 513 U.S. 179, 187 (1995) (holding that an undefined statutory term should be given its natural, ordinary meaning); United States v. Sanchez, 511 U.S. 350, 357-58 (1994) (same); FDIC v. Meyer , 510 U.S. 471, 476 (1994) (same); FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., [2000] USSC 24; 529 U.S. 120, 132 (2000) ("The meaning--or ambiguity--of certain words may only become evident when placed in context."); Deal v. United States , [1993] USSC 56;508 U.S. 129, 132 (1993) ("[T]he meaning of a word cannot be determined in isolation, but must be drawn from the context in which it is used.") observing further in this case that; 'The most natural meaning of "title " in this context is "exclusive possession and control." See Black's Law Dictionary 1493 (7th ed. 1999) (defining "title"); The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 1881 (3d ed. 1992) (same). The United States has exclusive possession and control of two interests in navigable waters in Alaska, its navigational servitude and its reserved water rights. All navigable waters are therefore "public lands" upon which the rural subsistence priority applies.
Fourth, we must interpret congressional enactments "to avoid untenable distinctions and unreasonable results whenever possible." American Tobacco Co. v. Patterson, [1982] USSC 70; 456 U.S. 63, 71 (1982).[2001] USCA9 284 Observing further that:"The Supreme Court has cautioned repeatedly against interpreting undefined statutory terms in isolation for a reason-- doing so may lead to absurd results. Such is the case with the dissent's interpretation. The dissent insists upon a strict, technical interpretation of the term "title," ignoring the context in which it is used. It then notes, citing Federal Power Commission v. Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, 347 U.S. 239, 247 n.10 (1954), that the reserved rights doctrine vests in the United States only a usufructuary interest in water, not an ownership interest. But that is not all Niagara Mohawk says. It also says that the United States cannot hold title to a body of water: "Neither sovereign nor subject can acquire anything more than a mere usufructuary right" in a body of water; a sovereign can "never" acquire "the ownership" of a body of water. Id.

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