law-statutory-construction | interpretation | legislative intent | legislative intent |
STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION CASE LAW SNIPPETS
FROM RECENT SUPREME COURT OPINIONS
In construing a statute, the court’s purpose is to give effect to the Legislature’s expressed intent.
“Our role . . . is not to second-guess the policy choices that inform our statutes or to weigh the
effectiveness of their results; rather, our task is to interpret those statutes in a manner that
effectuates the Legislature’s intent.” McIntyre v. Ramirez, 109 S.W.3d 741, 748 (Tex. 2003).
Where statutory language is unambiguous and only yields one reasonable interpretation, “we will
interpret the statute according to its plain meaning.” Id; see also City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.
W.3d 621, 625–26 (Tex. 2008) (“[W]e construe the statute’s words according to their plain and
common meaning unless a contrary intention is apparent from the context or unless such a
construction leads to absurd results.” (internal citations omitted)).
Iliff v. Iliff, No. 09-0753 (Tex. Apr. 15, 2011)(Wainwright)
(child support based on earning potential rather than actual income; voluntary unemployment or underemployment, intent
Texas Lottery Comm'n v. First State Bank of DeQueen, No. 08-0523 (Tex. Oct. 1, 2010)(Johnson)
(assignability of lottery wins, statutory construction, reconciliation of alleged conflict)
TEXAS LOTTERY COMMISSION v. FIRST STATE BANK OF DEQUEEN, STONE STREET CAPITAL, INC.,
AND CLETIUS L. IRVAN; from Travis County; 3rd district (03-07-00249-CV, 254 SW3d 677, 05-16-08)
motion to substitute parties dismissed as moot
The Court affirms the court of appeals' judgment.
Justice Johnson delivered the opinion of the Court. [pdf]
View Electronic Briefs in 08-0523 TEXAS LOTTERY COMM'N v. FIRST STATE BANK OF DEQUEEN
Statutory construction is a question of law we review de novo. First Am. Title Ins. Co. v.
Combs, 258 S.W.3d 627, 631 (Tex. 2008). In construing statutes, our primary objective is to give
effect to the Legislature’s intent as expressed in the statute’s language. TEX. GOV’T CODE § 312.005;
First Am. Title, 258 S.W.3d at 631-32. If the words of a statute are clear and unambiguous, we apply
them according to their plain and common meaning. City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621,
625-26 (Tex. 2008). Galbraith Engineering Consultants, Inc. v. Pochucha, No. 07-1051 (Tex. Jun. 26,
2009)(Medina) (claim based on construction defect causing water damage barred by statute of repose)
(statute of repose vs. statute of limitations)
GALBRAITH ENGINEERING CONSULTANTS, INC. v. SAM POCHUCHA AND JEAN POCHUCHA; from Bexar
County; 4th district (04-07-00119-CV, 243 SW3d 138, 09-12-07)
motion for leave to file response to post submission brief granted
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and renders judgment.
Justice Medina delivered the opinion of the Court. [pdf 11pgs]
Statutory construction is a question of law we review de novo. Tex. Parks and Wildlife Dep’t v. Shumake,
199 S.W.3d 279, 284. (Tex. 2006). Because the court of appeals erred in construing the word “copy” in
section 14.005(a)(2) to mean photocopies only and in dismissing the inmate’s claim based upon that
erroneous construction, we grant the petition for review and, without hearing oral argument, reverse the
court of appeals’ judgment and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
Garrett v. Borden, No. 08-0506 (Tex. May 1, 2009)(per curiam)(statutory construction; what qualifies as a
copy required by the applicable prison inmate litigation statute?)
Spradlin v. Jim Walter Homes, Inc., 34 S.W.3d 578, 580 (Tex. 2000) (refusing to presume that the
Legislature intended a redundancy); Chevron Corp. v. Redmon, 745 S.W.2d 314, 316 (Tex. 1987) (noting
that we must give effect to all a statute’s words). As noted by the dissent in the court of appeals, “[t]
he savings clause cannot be reasonably read to bar the prosecution only of suits taxing authorities had
prosecuted to completion under prior law because these suits were already barred by the law of res
judicata.” 236 S.W.3d at 388 (Keyes, J. dissenting) (emphasis in original). Old Farms Owners Assn., Inc. v.
HISD, No. 07-0924 (Tex. 2009)(per curiam)(tax suit, tax bill mailed to incorrect address, penalties, statutory
Statutory construction is a legal question, which we review de novo. State ex rel. State Dep’t of
Highways & Pub. Transp. v. Gonzalez, 82 S.W.3d 322, 327 (Tex. 2002). In doing this, we “give effect to all
[a statute’s] words and, if possible, do not treat any statutory language as mere surplusage.” State v.
Shumake, 199 S.W.3d 279, 287 (Tex. 2006). In re Caballero, No. 07-0484 (Tex. Dec. 19, 2008)(Green)
(attorney discipline, disbarment)
Statutory construction is a legal question we review de novo. City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621
(Tex. 2008). In construing statutes, we ascertain and give effect to the Legislature's intent as expressed by
the language of the statute. Id. (citing State v. Shumake, 199 S.W.3d 279, 284 (Tex. 2006)). We use
definitions prescribed by the Legislature. Id. (citing Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 311.011(b)(Vernon 2005)).
Otherwise, we construe the statute's words according to their plain and common meaning. Id. (citing Texas
Dep't of Transp. v. City of Sunset Valley, 146 S.W.3d 637, 642 (Tex. 2004)). 08-0728
ELIZABETH W. BUFKIN v. EDWARD O. BUFKIN, JR.; from Dallas County; 5th district (05-06-01719-CV, 259 SW3d 343, 07-
01-08) 2 petitions, pet. denied Nov. 2008)(prejudgment interest, admissibility of expert testimony, harm analysis of
evidentiary ruling by trial court, divorce fault grounds, prenup, stipulation agreement)
In construing statutes we presume that each word in the statute was put there for a purpose and
that each word not in the statute was omitted for a purpose. See Mauzy v. Legislative Redistricting
Bd., 471 S.W.2d 570, 573 (Tex. 1971). The statute does not contain language placing the burden of proof
on a particular party in regard to the factors, as was the situation with the prior version. Nor does the
statute require that a party prove each factor of section 71.051(b). The statute simply requires the trial
court to consider the factors, and it must do so to the extent the factors apply. To the extent evidence is
necessary to support the positions of the parties, the trial court must base its findings and decision on the
weight of the evidence, and certainly is entitled to take into account the presence or absence of evidence
as to some issue or position of a party.
n Re G.E. Co., No. 07-0195 (Tex. Dec. 5, 2008) (Phil Johnson)
(forum non conveniens mandamus granted, asbestos suit)
Statutory construction is a legal question we review de novo. In construing statutes, we ascertain and give
effect to the Legislature’s intent as expressed by the language of the statute. See State v. Shumake, 199
S.W.3d 279, 284 (Tex. 2006). We use definitions prescribed by the Legislature and any technical or
particular meaning the words have acquired. Tex. Gov’t Code § 311.011(b). Otherwise, we construe the
statute’s words according to their plain and common meaning, Texas Department of Transportation v. City
of Sunset Valley, 146 S.W.3d 637, 642 (Tex. 2004), unless a contrary intention is apparent from the
context, Taylor v. Firemen’s and Policemen’s Civil Service Commission of City of Lubbock, 616 S.W.2d
187, 189 (Tex. 1981), or unless such a construction leads to absurd results. Univ. of Tex. S.W. Med. Ctr. v.
Loutzenhiser, 140 S.W.3d 351, 356 (Tex. 2004); see also Tex. Dep’t of Protective and Regulatory Servs.
v. Mega Child Care, Inc., 145 S.W.3d 170, 177 (Tex. 2004) (noting that when statutory text is
unambiguous, courts must adopt the interpretation supported by the statute’s plain language unless that
interpretation would lead to absurd results). We presume the Legislature intended a just and reasonable
result by enacting the statute. Tex. Gov’t Code § 311.021(3). When a statute’s language is clear and
unambiguous, it is inappropriate to resort to rules of construction or extrinsic aids to construe the
language. See St. Luke’s Episcopal Hosp. v. Agbor, 952 S.W.2d 503, 505 (Tex. 1997); Ex parte Roloff,
510 S.W.2d 913, 915 (Tex. 1974).
City of Rockwall, Texas v. Hughes, No. 05-0126 (Tex. Jan 25, 2008) (Johnson) (annexation, arbitration
construction of statutory provision governing arbitration of municipal annexation disputes)
THE CITY OF ROCKWALL, TEXAS v. VESTER T. HUGHES, AS SOLE INDEPENDENT EXECUTOR OF THE
ESTATE OF W. W. CARUTH, DECEASED; from Rockwall County; 5th district (05-04-01562-CV, 153 S.W.
3d 709, 01-20-2005)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and renders judgment.
Justice Johnson delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Jefferson, Justice Wainwright,
Justice Medina, and Justice Green joined.
Justice Willett filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Hecht, Justice O'Neill, and Justice Brister joined.
In construing statutes, this Court starts with the plain language of the statute. McIntyre v. Ramirez, 109 S.
W.3d 741, 745 (Tex. 2003). The language of section 85.321 clearly creates a private cause of action. A
party whose interest in property is damaged by another party violating provisions of a conservation law of
this state or a Railroad Commission rule or order “may sue for and recover damages” and other relief to
which the party may be entitled. Tex. Nat. Res. Code § 85.321. Section 85.321 also expressly provides a
defense to civil actions for lease owners and operators acting as a reasonably prudent operator would act
under the same or similar circumstances, adding more credence to the conclusion that section 85.321
creates a private cause of action. Id. Exxon Corp. v. Emerald Oil & Gas Co., L.C., No. 05-0729 (Tex. Mar.
27, 2009)(Wainright)(oil and gas law, statutory cause of action for improperly plugging well, standing of
Texas Causes of Action and Defenses | 2011 Texas Supreme Court Opinions | 2011 Tex Sup Ct Per Curiams | Texas
Caselaw Topics Pages | Texas Opinions Homepage |