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that they are not to be so liberally construed as to injure other individuals."
"If the doubts or difficulties in regard to the interpretation of a law or a custom are solved by an old usage which has fixed the meanings, and which is supported by a uniform series of adjudications, we should adhere to the usage, which is the best interpreter of laws."
"In case any provinces or districts are without certain rules to decide difficulties in regard to matters which are there governed by usage; if these difficulties are not determined by natural justice, or by written law, but depend on custom and usage, we ought to adopt the principles which result from the customs and usages of the province or district."
"All laws necessarily bear with them all the powers or incidents necessary to fully carry out their intention. Thus, as the law permits boys to contract marriage at the age of fourteen, and girls at the age of twelve, it necessarily results from this law that those who marry, can, although infants, and not of full age, bind themselves in regard to the settlement, community of goods and the like."
"In laws which confer power, the greater authority implies the less. Thus those who possess their property have with still greater reason the right to sell it."
"In laws which prohibit acts, the lesser prohibition includes the greater. Those who are forbidden to manage or control their property, with stronger reason cannot alienate it."
"The implications arising from the two preceding sections, are to be restricted to subjects of the same nature as those to which the law applies according to those rules. Thus, the liberty that a minor adult enjoys, to make a donatio causa mortis, will not be extended so as to sustain a gift inter vivos."
"If a law grants an amnesty or pardon for past offences, it is to be understood as prohibiting similar acts in future."
"When a right comes to a person by reason of a law, this right is equally vested in him, whether he knows the fact or not; as a son is heir to his father, and owns the estate though he be ignorant of his father's death, and also ignorant of the law succession."
"Persons competent by law to act upon their rights, may waive the benefit or privilege created by law in their favor. But they cannot by renunciation or waiver effect the rights of third persons, nor can they waive or renounce in cases contrary to equity, good morals, or to any other law."
"No person by contract, testament, or otherwise, can hinder the effect of the law. Thus a testator cannot dispose of his estate to be controled or managed contrary to law."
"It is necessary to possess an ample knowledge of the rules of interpretation of laws in order to make the proper application of them."
The following few rules and maxims of interpretation, may be regarded as general rules in the American standards. They have been selected from approved American authority, and this includes such of the English rules as have been adopted by our courts. They also include the rules of interpreting State laws by the national courts.
1. The interpretation by the United States courts within the jurisdiction of a State, of a local law, becomes a part of that law; as much so, as if it was incorporated in the body of it, by the legislature. If different interpretations are given in different States to a similar law, that law, in effect, becomes by interpretation, so far as it is a rule for action by the federal courts, a different law in one State, from what it is in the other.a
2. It is not permitted to interpret what has no need of interpretation. When an act is expressed in clear and precise terms; when the sense is manifest and leads to nothing absurd, there can be no reason not to adopt the sense which it naturally presents. To go elsewhere in search of conjectures in order to restrain or extinguish it, is to elude it.b
3. The popular, or received import of words, furnishes the general rule for the interpretation of statutes.c
a Christy v. Pridgion, 4 Wall. 196.
b Jackson v. Lewis, 17 John. 475; People v. N. Y. Cent. R. R. Co. 13 N. Y. R 78; Waterford and Whitehall Turnpike Co. 9 Barb. 161; Vattel, B. 2 ch. 17, 263; United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch, 358.
c Maillard v. Lawrence, 16 How. U. S. R. 251.
4. It is the duty of courts so to construe statutes as to meet the mischief and to advance the remedy, and not to violate fundamental principles.a
5. Where there is a discrepancy or disagreement between two statutes, such interpretation should be given, that both may, if possible, stand together.b
6. Statutes must be interpreted according to the intent and meaning, and not always according to the letter.c
7. The intention of the legislature may be found from the act itself; from other acts in pari materia; and sometimes from the cause or necessity of the statute, and wherever the intent can be discovered, it should be followed with reason and discretion, though such construction seem contrary to the letter of the statute; this is the rule where the words of the statute are obscure.d
8. A thing within the intention, is within the statute, though not within the letter; and a thing within the letter, is not within the statute, unless within the intention.e
9. Statutes should be interpreted according to the most natural and obvious import of their language, without resorting to subtle or forced construction for the purpose either of limiting or extending their operation. Courts cannot correct supposed errors, omissions or excesses, of the legislature.f
10. The office of interpretation is to bring the sense out of the words used, and not to bring a sense into them. g
11. The spirit of a law may be referred to in order to interpret words admitting of two meanings; but not to extend a law to a case not within its fair meaning.h
12. In the construction of a statute, every part of it must be viewed in connection with the whole, so as to make all its parts
a Hart v. Cleis, 8 John. R. 44.
b McCartee v. Orphan Asylum Society, 9 Cow. R. 437.
c People v. N. Y. Cent. R. R. Co. 13 N. Y. R. 81; Leavitt v. Blatchford, 5 Barb. 13, Plowd. 205; Holmes v. Carley, 31 N. Y. R. 289, 290; Brown v. Barry, 3 Dall. 365, 1 Pet. 46, 2 id. 627.
d 1 Kent Com. 462, Bac. Abr. Lit. Statute J. 5, 10.
e People v. Utica Ins. Co. 15 John. 380-1; Jackson v. Collins, 3 Cow. 89, and authorities supra.
f Waller v. Harris, 20 Wend. 561, 562; McCluskey v. Cromwill, 11 N. Y. 601-2. g Lieber's Polit. Hermeneuties, 87; 11 N. Y. R. supra 601-2.
A Beebe v. Griffing, 14 N. Y. R. 244.
harmonize if practicable, and give a sensible and intelligent effect to each. It is not to be presumed that the legislature intended any part of a statute to be without meaning. a
13. Every legislative act must have reasonable construction. b 14. That which is implied in a statute, is as much a part of it as what is expressed. c
15. The presumption must always be in favor of the validity of laws, unless the contrary is clearly demonstrated. d
16. Statutes are to be construed to operate prospectively, unless a retrospective effect be clearly intended. e
17. All statutes in pari materia are to be read and construed together, as if they formed parts of the same statute, and were enacted at the same time.f
18. Statutes are to be interpreted with reference to the principles of the common law in force at the time of their passage, except when the statute itself, or the courts have otherwise determined, and this rule is the same in courts of equity as of law. g
19. Whether courts are interpreting an agreement between parties, a statute, or a constitution, the thing to seek, is, the thought which it expresses. To ascertain this, the first resort in all cases is to the natural signification of the words employed, in the order and grammatical arrangement in which they stand. If thus regarded, the words embody a definite meaning, which involves no absurdity, and no contradiction between different parts of the same writing; then that meaning apparent upon the face of the instrument, is the one which alone we are at liberty to say was intended to be conveyed. In such case there is no room for con
a Ogden v. Strong, 2 Paine R, 584; 1 Kent Com. 162; People v. Draper, 15 N. Y. 532.
b Famurn v- Black Comal. 1 Sum. 46.
c U. S. v. Babbitt, 1 Black. 61; Gelpecke v. City of Dubuque, 1 Wall. 221.
d Cooper v. Telfair, 4 Cranch. 167.
e Jackson v. Van Zandt, 12 Johns. 176; Hackley v. Sprague, 10 Wend. 116, People v. Supervisors of Columbia, id. 365; Snyder v. Snyder, 3 Barb. 621 ; Harvey v. Tyler, 2 Wall. 347; Blanchard v. Sprague, 3 Sum. 535.
f 1 Kent Com. 463; Smith's Com. § 639; 9 Barb. 161; Rogers v. Bradshaw, 20 John, 735; McCartee v. Orphan Asylum, 9 Cow. 437; Rexford v. Knight, 15 Barb. 627.
g Rice v. M. & N. W. Railroad Co. 1 Blatch 359; Talbot v. Simpson, Peters C C. R. 188; Van Horne v. Dorrance, 2 Dallas, 316; How v. Peckham, 6 How. Pr R. 229.
struction. That which the words declare, is the meaning of the instrument; and neither the courts nor the legislature have a right to add to, or take away from that meaning.a
20. In the enactment of statutes, the rule of interpretation is, in respect to the intention of the legislature, that where the language is explicit, the courts are bound to seek for the intention in the words of the act itself, and they are not at liberty to suppose or to hold, that the legislature intended anything different from what their language imports.b
21. Statutes, by the authority of which a citizen may be deprived of his estate, must have the strictest construction, and the power conferred must be executed precisely as it is given, and any departure from it will vitiate the proceeding, and this is so whether it be in the exercise of a public or private authority, whether it be ministerial or judicial.c
a Newell v. the People, 7 N. Y. 99; McCluchey v. Cromwell, 11 N. Y. 593.
b Supervisors of Niagara v. the People, 7 Hill, 513.
c Sherwood v. Reade, 7 Hill 431; Striker v. Kelly, 2 Denio 323; Sheup v. Spier,
4 Hill 76; Downing v. Ruger, 21 Wend. 178; Powell v. Tuttle, 3 N. Y. 396.