Recreational Use Statutes - Statutory Construction


Ex parte City of Millbrook, [Ms. 1180050, Mar. 6, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020). In a plurality opinion, the Court (Mitchell, J.; Wise and Stewart, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Shaw, Bryan, Sellers, and Mendheim, JJ., concur in the result) denies the City of Millbrook’s petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Elmore Circuit Court to grant the City’s motion for a summary judgment based on the recreational use statutes, §§ 35-15-20 through -28, Ala. Code 1975. Ms. *2.

Plaintiff was injured when she fell in front of the Millbrook Civic Center. The plurality opinion concludes that the City failed to clearly establish that the Civic Center fits clearly within the definition of “outdoor recreational land” in Article 2 of the recreational use statutes. § 35-15-21(2), Ala. Code 1975. Ms. *5. The Plaintiff argued that the Civic Center is a stand-alone structure with no connection to outdoor recreation. Ms. *7. The plurality opinion concludes that “fundamental principles of statutory interpretation foreclose the City’s reading ....” Ms. *7.

In regard to statutory construction, the opinion notes that

“Textualism, in its purest form, begins and ends with what the text says and fairly implies.” Antonin Scalia & Bryan A. Garner, Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts 16 (Thomson West 2012). Textualism recognizes that “[a] text should not be construed strictly, and it should not be construed leniently; it should be construed reasonably, to contain all that it fairly means.” Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation 23 (Princeton University Press 1997). “Textualism ... tasks judges with discerning (only) what an ordinary English speaker familiar with the law’s usages would have understood the statutory text to mean at the time of its enactment.” Neil Gorsuch, The Case for Textualism, A Republic, If You Can Keep It 128, 131 (Crown Forum 2019).

Ms. *7-8.

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