California Principles of Statutory Construction and Landmark Cases

Principles of Statutory Construction 1. Statutes "In statutory construction cases, our fundamental task is to ascertain the intent of the lawmakers so as to effectuate the purpose of the statute." (Estate of Griswold (2001) 25 Cal.4th 904, 910.) "'We begin by examining the statutory language, giving the words their usual and ordinary meaning.' " (Id. at p. 911.) As a general rule of statutory construction, "where possible, significance should be given to every word, phrase, sentence and part of an act in pursuance of the legislative purpose." (People v. McCart (1982) 32 Cal.3d 338, 342.) "If the terms of the statute are unambiguous, we presume the lawmakers meant what they said, and the plain meaning of the language governs." (Estate of Griswold, at p. 911; see also, e.g., Donabedian v. Mercury Ins. Co. (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 968, 976-977.) 2. Regulations "Generally, the same rules of construction and interpretation which apply to statutes govern the interpretation of rules and regulations of administrative agencies." (California State Restaurant Assn. v. Whitlow (1976) 58 Cal.App.3d 340, 344.) "The fundamental rule of interpretation is to ascertain the intent of the agency issuing the regulation so as to effectuate the purpose of the law." (Brewer v. Patel (1993) 20 Cal.App.4th 1017, 1021.) "In order that legislative intent be given effect," a regulation, like a statute, "should be construed with due regard for the ordinary meaning of the language used and in harmony with the whole system of law of which it is a part." (California State Restaurant Assn. v. Whitlow, at p. 347.)