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9. One part of a statute is to be so construed in the light of another that the whole, if possible, may stand.

10. If, when all the rules of interpretation have been applied, no reasonable meaning can be derived from a particular statute, as if it is impossible to be performed, or if in other respects contrary to reason, the statute will be void.21

It must always be borne in mind, however, that the primary rule as to the construction of statutes is to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the legislature. "The object of all interpretation and construction of statutes is to ascertain the meaning and intention of the legislature, to the end that the same may be enforced. This meaning and intention must be sought first of all in the language of the statute itself. For it must be presumed that the means employed by the legislature to express its will are adequate to the purpose and do express that will correctly. If the language of the statute is plain and free from ambiguity, and expresses a single, definite, and sensible meaning, that meaning is conclusively presumed to be the meaning which the legislature intended to convey. In other words, the statute must be interpreted literally. Even though the court should be convinced that some other meaning was really intended by the law-making power, and even though the literal interpretation should defeat the very purposes of the enactment, still the explicit declaration of the

negative words, as, that the offence shall be indictable at the assizes, and not elsewhere." 1 Blackstone Comm. 89.


21. On this point Blackstone says: "Lastly, acts of parliament that are impossible to be performed are of no validity and if there arise out of them collaterally any absurd consequences, manifestly contradictory to common reason, they are, with regard to those collateral consequences, void. I lay down the rule with these restrictions; though I know it is generally laid down more largely, that acts of parliament contrary to reason void. But if the parliament will positively enact a thing to be done which is unreasonable, I know of no power in the ordinary forms of the constitution that is vested with authority to control it: and the examples usually alleged in support of this sense of the rule do none of them prove, that, where the main object of a statute is unreasonable, the judges are at liberty to reject it; for that were to set the judicial power above that of the legislature, which would


be subversive of all government. But where some collateral matter arises out of the general words, and happens to be unreasonable; there the judges are in decency to conclude that this consequence was not foreseen by the parliament, and therefore they are at liberty to expound the statute by equity, and only quoad hoc disregard it. Thus if an act of parliament gives a man power to try all causes, that arise within his manor of Dale; yet, if a cause should arise in which he himself is party, the act is construed not to extend to that, because it is unreasonable that any man should determine his own quarrel. But, if we could conceive it possible for the parliament to enact, that he should try as well his own causes as those of other persons, there is no court that has power to defeat the intent of the legislature, when couched in such evident and express words, as leave no doubt whether it was the intent of the legis lature or no." 1 Blackstone Comm. 91.

legislature is the law, and the courts must not depart from it. If the language of the statute is ambiguous, or lacks precision, or is fairly susceptible of two or more interpretations, the intended meaning of it must be sought by the aid of all pertinent and admissible considerations. But here, as before, the object of the search is the meaning and intention of the legislature, and the court is not at liberty, merely because it has a choice between two constructions, to substitute for the will of legislature its own. ideas as to the justice, expediency, or policy of the law." 22

The rules above stated, as well as those given in the preceding section, apply also in the construction of constitutions. Certain other rules relating specially to constitutions will be considered in a subsequent chapter."


§ 57. The Interpretation of Cases. Only those judicial decisions are regarded as authoritative which are handed down by courts of last resort. When a controversy arises, and is brought into a court for determination, the first object of the court is to determine what the facts in the case really are; and this duty is usually performed by what is known as a "trial court." The trial court has power to determine provisionally the law applicable to the case, and in many cases this provisional determination of the law is found satisfactory by the parties to the case, and is not appealed from. If, however, there is dissatisfaction with the decision of the trial judge on a point of law, the parties to the case are usually permitted to appeal to a higher court, whose principal business it is to determine such points by a final authoritative decision. When a court has power to determine finally the legal principles which are to be applied to particular cases, such a court is called a court of last resort." The decisions on points of law in all other courts, being merely provisional, and liable to reversal or modification if an appeal is taken, are not regarded as of binding authority as precedents, although they may have weight and are often cited and followed.


The decisions of the courts of last resort are reported and published in bound form for the use of courts and the legal profession. The report of a case usually contains a brief statement of facts involved, and a statement by one or more of the judges of their decision on the legal point, as well as the reasons upon which such decision is based. At the head of the report there is usually placed a condensed statement of the leading principles for which the case is authority, which statement is called a "syllabus." In a number of States this syllabus is written by the court itself, but in others it is prepared by the reporter.

22. Black Interpretation of Laws 23. See infra, § 82.

Judicial Decision.-"A judicial decision is an adjudication by a competent tribunal upon a legal question arising out of a controversy submitted to its judgment and necessary to the determination of the controversy. The judgment of an incompetent tribunal is not a judicial decision. The judgment of a competent tribunal upon a question which is not involved in controversy before it is not a judicial decision. The judgment of any tribunal upon a question involved in the controversy before it, but which it is not necessary to decide in order to decide the controversy, is not a judicial decision. But those propositions of law, whether one or many, whether principal or subordinate, which the court was compelled to pass upon in order to reach the conclusion by which the rights of the contending parties were eventually adjusted and established, taken collectively, constitute the decision,"24


Obiter Dicta.- As is stated above, a particular decision is authority for only those principles of law which are necessary to determine the case before the court. If any other principles are laid down than those necessary to the decision of the case, they are of no weight as authority, and are called “obiter dicta. This rule is a fundamental one. The court, in laying down the law for a particular case, has no authority to go outside of its duty, and determine principles which, however appropriate they may be in other cases, have no bearing upon the one in controversy. And, when the court does so exceed its authority, it is plain that such principles are obiter dicta, and cannot be regarded as of any more force than a mere opinion of the judge in his individual, rather than his official, capacity.26 Yet it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish obiter dicta from the true doctrines of the case. This can best be done by carefully examining the facts, and extracting from them, as nearly as possible, the exact point in issue. If the rule stated by the judge tends directly to decide this issue, it forms part of the doctrine of the case; if not, it is ordinarily obiter dictum.

Conflict of Authority. Whenever a court lays down a principle of law inconsistent with that which is laid down by another court of equal authority, there is said to be a conflict of authority. If, however, the same court at a later time lays down a doctrine

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24. Robinson Elem. Am. Jur. § 285. 25. "Obiter dicta" means literally "things incidentally said." Its force in this connection will be apparent.

26. "Nevertheless, some weight is very properly given to a dictum, a weight similar to that assigned to the sayings of learned text-writers;

and in this sense a dictum is authority, its weight varying with the learning of the court and with the amount of thought bestowed by the court upon the point covered by the dictum." Wambaugh Study of Cases, § 13.

which is inconsistent with its decision in a previous case, the former decision is said to have been overruled. Whenever a point arises on which there is a conflict of authority, the court is determined in its decision by its own views as to the correct principle or will decide in favor of that view which is supported by the preponderance of authority. There are in the United States a large number of courts of last resort. Each State has one of these courts, and the United States government has not only its supreme court, but its circuit courts of appeals, which exercise functions of this character. When we consider, too, that the decisions of the English courts are often taken as authority in this country, it will be readily realized that there is a great opportunity for conflict among those courts which administer common law. These conflicts are sometimes the result of failure on the part of the judges, and of those attorneys who argue the cases, to call attention to all the precedents which might be cited, and sometimes are due to a desire on the part of a certain court to introduce reforms into the legal system.

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§ 58. Legal Rights, Wrongs, and Remedies.
59. Rights in Rem and Rights in Personam.
60. Persons, Natural and Artificial — Status.
61. Domicile.

62. The Fundamental Rights in Rem.

a. In General.

b. The Right of Personal Security.

c. The Right of Personal Liberty.

d. The Right of Private Property.

63. Constitutional Guaranties of the Fundamental Rights.

a. In England.

b. In the United States.

§ 58. Legal Rights, Wrongs, and Remedies. The definitions of legal rights, wrongs, and remedies are as follows:

(1) A legal right is a power, interest, or privilege recog nized and protected by the municipal law.

(2) A legal wrong is the violation of a legal right.

(3) A legal remedy is the method employed by the law to enforce a legal right, or to redress a legal wrong.

All laws of human action recognize the existence of rights. While in the moral law they are often a mere background for principles which govern the conduct of life, yet in reality every violation of that or any other human law is an infringement of some right, however shadowy that right may be. The moral law deals with moral rights; the divine law has to do with those rights which are supposed to have received divine approval; the international law deals with the rights of nations in their sovereign capacity; the municipal law is concerned with those rights which government recognizes and protects. And so inseparably is the idea of rights interwoven with the conception of law itself that the latter cannot be fully understood without some reference to the former.

A distinction should be drawn between the noun "6 a right " and the adjective "right." Entirely different ideas are conveyed when we speak of " that which is right," and the "right of a person" to control his property. The former involves an abstract conception of conformity to some fixed standard, while the latter indicates a recognized power to do something, or to control something. Either of these terms may be applied to the law. It may be said that a legal rule is right or wrong, in that it does or does not conform to the ideal of justice, or the rule may be regarded from another point of view, as conferring upon certain persons certain powers. In the present chapter attention

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