The purpose of legislative interpretation is to discern the intent of the legislature, first considering the language of the statute. If the statute clearly and unambiguously sets forth the legislative intent, the court does not look beyond the statute to find the statute's meaning. In construing a statute, all words and phrases should be construed according to common and approved usage unless a different definition is designated by statute. Resort to a dictionary may be made to ascertain the common and ordinary usage of an undefined term. Resort to a dictionary does not render a term ambiguous. State v. Curiel, 227 Wis. 2d 389
, 597 N.W.2d 697
If the potential for conflict between 2 statutes exists, they will be read to avoid the conflict if a reasonable construction so permits. Providence Catholic School v. Bristol School District No. 1, 231 Wis. 2d 159
, 605 N.W.2d 238
(Ct. App. 1999), 98-3390
The rule of strict construction of penal statutes does not apply unless a statute is ambiguous, and the rule cannot be used to circumvent the purpose of the statute. The rule is not a rule of general or universal application. Sometimes a strict and sometimes a liberal construction is required, even in respect to a penal law because the purpose of all construction is to carry out the legislative purpose. State v. Kittilstad, 231 Wis. 2d 245
, 603 N.W.2d 732
(Ct. App. 1999), 98-1456
If a statute contains a given provision, the omission of that provision from a similar statute concerning a related subject is significant in showing that a different intention existed. Outagamie County v. Town of Greenville, 2000 WI App 65
, 233 Wis. 2d 566
, 608 N.W.2d 414
Although courts may not look to legislative history to show that an unambiguous statute is ambiguous, there is no rule that the history cannot be used to reinforce that a statute, plain on its face, is unambiguous. Seider v. O'Connell, 2000 WI 76
, 236 Wis. 2d 211
, 612 N.W.2d 659
Although a court will not look beyond a statute's plain meaning, it does consider its parts in relation to the whole statute and related sections. Dubis v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. 2000 WI App 209
, 238 Wis. 2d 608
, 618 N.W.2d 266
Statutes and rules that assist in implementing a chapter's goals must be read in pari materia
, which requires a court to read, apply, and construe together statutes relating to the same subject matter. Perra v. Menomonee Mutual Insurance Co. 2000 WI App 215
, 239 Wis. 2d 26
, 619 N.W.2d 123
The principal of expressio unius est exclusio alterius
provides that the express mention of one matter excludes other similar matters not mentioned. The enumeration of specific alternatives in a statute is evidence of legislative intent that any alternative not enumerated is to be excluded. Perry v. Menomonee Mutual Insurance Co. 2000 WI App 215
, 239 Wis. 2d 26
, 619 N.W.2d 123
When related statutes were not created at the same time, the fact that the older statute specifically lists certain powers does not necessarily mean that the legislature intended a broadly worded, later enacted statute to be thus limited. To be limited by the earlier statute, there must be some evidence that the legislature intended its application. Pritchard v. Madison Metropolitan School District, 2001 WI App 62
, 242 Wis. 2d 301
, 625 N.W.2d 613
By expressing a time requirement in terms of hours rather than days, the legislature manifests its intent that the clock start running immediately rather than the next day, and the “exclude-the-first-day" rule of sub. (4) (a) and (d) does not apply. Matter of the Mental Commitment of Ryan E.M. 2002 WI App 71
, 252 Wis. 2d 490
, 642 N.W.2d 592
Words appearing multiple times in the same statute are given the same meaning unless the context clearly requires a different meaning. Donaldson v. Board of Commissioners of Rock-Koshkonong Lake District, 2003 WI App 26
, 260 Wis. 2d 238
, 659 N.W.2d 66
Generally, legislative enactments are entitled to a presumption of constitutionality. The purpose of the presumption of constitutionality does not appear to have any relation to whether the statute predates or postdates the constitutional provision. State v. Cole, 2003 WI 112
, 264 Wis. 2d 520
, 665 N.W.2d 328
Chapter 35 codifies the rules of publishing and interpreting public documents, including the statutes. Section 35.18 (3) explains how the numbers and sections of statutory provisions are designated. Storm v. Legion Insurance Company, 2003 WI 120
, 265 Wis. 2d 169
, 665 N.W.2d 353
Scope, context, and purpose are perfectly relevant to a plain-meaning interpretation of an unambiguous statute as long as the scope, context, and purpose are ascertainable from the text and structure of the statute itself, rather than extrinsic sources, such as legislative history. Many words have multiple dictionary definitions; the applicable definition depends upon the context in which the word is used. Kalal v. Dane County, 004 WI 58
, 271 Wis. 2d 633
, 681 N.W.2d 633
It is a basic rule of construction to attribute the same definition to a word each time it is used in the same statute or administrative rule. DaimlerChrysler v. LIRC, 2007 WI 15
, 299 Wis. 2d 1
, 727 N.W.2d 311
Previous cases construing a statute become a part of the understanding of a statute's plain meaning. Once a construction has been given to a statute, the construction becomes a part of the statute. Meyers v. Bayer AG, 2007 WI 99
, 303 Wis. 2d 295
, 735 N.W.2d 448
The statutes contain thousands upon thousands of nouns, very few of which are preceded by the word “real" because “real" is implied in the general understanding of most nouns. State v. Van Buren, 2008 WI App 26
, 307 Wis. 2d 447
, 746 N.W.2d 545
While terms of a statute are to be interpreted to avoid superfluousness if possible, the rule is not absolute. If the legislature has created redundancies, it is not up to the court to create functions for such parts. The legislature sometimes uses more words than necessary without intending to add meaning. Wisconsin Realtors Association v. Town of West Point, 2008 WI App 40
, 309 Wis. 2d 199
, 747 N.W.2d 681
The legislature has a history of using “and" when the context shows it means “or." “And" in statutes is not always interpreted as a conjunctive term. It is a familiar rule of construction that the words “or" and “and" are often used incorrectly, and that when a strict reading would render the sense dubious one may be read in place of the other, in deference to the meaning of the context. State v. Freer, 2010 WI App 9
, 323 Wis. 2d 29
, 779 N.W.2d 12
The Legislative Reference Bureau's analysis of a bill is printed with and displayed on the bill when it is introduced in the legislature; as such, it is indicative of legislative intent. State v. Freer, 2010 WI App 9
, 323 Wis. 2d 29
, 779 N.W.2d 12
Whenever the application of a common law doctrine or rule would undermine the manifest purposes of a statutory cause of action, the conflict between the statute's manifest purpose and the common law defense “leaves no doubt of the legislature's intent." In a case of such apparent incompatibility, the legislature necessarily intended that the common law defense would not be applied to bar claims under the statute. MBS-Certified Public Accountants, LLC v. Wisconsin Bell Inc. 2012 WI 15
, 338 Wis. 2d 647
, 809 N.W.2d 857
The Saturday extension rule in sub. (4) (c) applies to the listed acts, including service on a government entity, regardless whether the act is accomplished in person, by mail, or by some other means. The statutory language does condition the Saturday extension rule on whether service can be accomplished on a Saturday. Madison Metropolitan School District v. Evers, 2014 WI App 109
, 357 Wis. 2d 550
, 855 N.W.2d 458
A required tax payment may be made on the next secular day when July 31 is on Saturday and office hours are unofficial. 60 Atty. Gen. 411.
Computing time in tort statutes of limitation. Ghiardi, 64 MLR 575 (1981).
Researching legislative intent in Wisconsin: A suggested procedure. Nispel. WBB April 1983.
Computing Time. Ghiardi. Wis. Law. March 1993.
Legislative History: The Philosophies of Justices Scalia and Breyer and the Use of Legislative History by the Wisconsin State Courts. Dortzbach. 80 MLR 161 (1997).
Construction of laws; words and phrases.
In the construction of Wisconsin laws the words and phrases which follow shall be construed as indicated unless such construction would produce a result inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature:
(1) General rule.
All words and phrases shall be construed according to common and approved usage; but technical words and phrases and others that have a peculiar meaning in the law shall be construed according to such meaning.
“Acquire," when used in connection with a grant of power to any person, includes the acquisition by purchase, grant, gift or bequest. It includes the power to condemn in the cases specified in s. 32.02
“Adult" means a person who has attained the age of 18 years, except that for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a person who is alleged to have violated any state or federal criminal law or any civil law or municipal ordinance, “adult" means a person who has attained the age of 17 years.
(4) Bequest and bequeath.
“Bequest" includes a devise; “bequeath" includes devise.
“Chiropractor" means a person holding a license issued by the chiropractic examining board.
(5g) Communicable disease.
“Communicable disease" means any disease that the department of health services determines, by rule, to be communicable in fact.
(5r) Controlled access highway.
“Controlled access highway" means a highway on which abutting property owners have no right or only a limited right of direct access and on which the type and location of all access connections are determined and controlled by the highway authorities.
(6) County board.
“County board" means the county board of supervisors.
(7a) Express highway or expressway.
An express highway or expressway is a divided arterial highway for through traffic with “full" or “partial" control of access and generally with grade separations at intersections. “Full" control of access means that the authority to control access is exercised to give preference to through traffic by providing access connections with selected public roads only and by prohibiting crossings at grade or direct private driveway connections. “Partial" control of access means that the authority to control access is exercised to give preference to through traffic to a degree that, in addition to access connections with selected public roads, there may be some crossings at grade and some private driveway connections.
“Folio" means 100 words or figures. Any fraction of a folio shall be paid for as a full folio.
“Following," when used by way of reference to any statute section, means the section next following that in which the reference is made.
“Freeway" means a highway with full control of access and with all crossroads separated in grade from the pavements for through traffic.
(10) Grantor and grantee.
“Grantor" includes every person from or by whom any freehold estate or interest passes in or by any deed; and “grantee" includes every person to whom any such estate or interest passes in like manner.
(11) Heretofore and hereafter.
“Heretofore" means any time previous to the day on which the statute containing it takes effect; “hereafter" means the time after the statute containing such word takes effect.
“Highway" includes all public ways and thoroughfares and all bridges upon the same.
The word “homestead" means the dwelling and so much of the land surrounding it as is reasonably necessary for use of the dwelling as a home, but not less than one-fourth acre, if available, and not exceeding 40 acres.
Any amendment of a homestead statute shall not affect liens of creditors attaching nor rights of devisees or heirs of persons dying prior to the effective date of the amendment.
(14) Homestead exemption.
“Exempt homestead" means the dwelling, including a building, condominium, mobile home, manufactured home, house trailer or cooperative or an unincorporated cooperative association, and so much of the land surrounding it as is reasonably necessary for its use as a home, but not less than 0.25 acre, if available, and not exceeding 40 acres, within the limitation as to value under s. 815.20
, except as to liens attaching or rights of devisees or heirs of persons dying before the effective date of any increase of that limitation as to value.
“Inhabitant" means a resident.
(16) Insane persons.
“Insane persons" include every idiot, non compos, lunatic and distracted person.
“Issue," as applied to descent of estate, includes all the lawful descendants of the ancestor.
“Judge" does not include a municipal judge, except as provided in ch. 755
“Land" includes lands, tenements and hereditaments and all rights thereto and interests therein.
(19) Legacy, legatee.
“Legacy" includes a devise; “legatee" includes a devisee.
(19g) Licensed practical nurse.
“Licensed practical nurse" includes a licensed practical/vocational nurse who is licensed in a party state, as defined in s. 441.50 (2) (j)
In this subsection, “breathes" means draws air into and expels it out of the lungs one or more times.
“Live birth" means the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother, of a human being, at any stage of development, who, after the expulsion or extraction, breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, a cesarean section, or an abortion, as defined in s. 253.10 (2) (a)
(19m) Marital child.
“Marital child" means either of the following:
A child who is conceived or born while his or her parents are lawfully intermarried.
A nonmarital child who is adopted or whose parents subsequently intermarry under s. 767.803
“Minor" means a person who has not attained the age of 18 years, except that for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a person who is alleged to have violated a state or federal criminal law or any civil law or municipal ordinance, “minor" does not include a person who has attained the age of 17 years.
“Month" means a calendar month unless otherwise expressed.
“Municipality" includes cities and villages; it may be construed to include towns.
“Nighttime," used in any statute, ordinance, indictment or information, means the time between one hour after sunset on one day and one hour before sunrise on the following day; and the time of sunset and sunrise shall be ascertained according to the mean solar time of the ninetieth meridian west from Greenwich, commonly known as central time, as given in any almanac.
(23m) Nonmarital child.
“Nonmarital child" means a child who is neither conceived nor born while his or her parents are lawfully intermarried, who is not adopted and whose parents do not subsequently intermarry under s. 767.803
“Nurse", “nurse licensed under ch. 441
" and any reference to an individual who is registered or licensed under ch. 441
include a registered nurse or licensed practical/vocational nurse who is licensed in a party state, as defined in s. 441.50 (2) (j)
“Oath" includes affirmation in all cases where by law an affirmation may be substituted for an oath. If any oath or affirmation is required to be taken such oath or affirmation shall be taken before and administered by some officer authorized by the laws of this state to administer oaths, at the place where the same is required to be taken or administered, unless otherwise expressly directed, and, when necessary, duly certified by such officer. If an oath is administered it shall end with the words “so help me God". In actions and proceedings in the courts, a person may take an oath or affirmation in communication with the administering officer by telephone or audiovisual means.
“Officers" when applied to corporations include directors and trustees.
(25g) Optical disc.
“Optical disc" means a rotating circular plate on which information or images are placed in storage, and which is recorded and read by laser beams focused on the plate.
(25r) Optical imaging.
“Optical imaging" means transferring to a format employing an optical disc.
“Person" includes all partnerships, associations and bodies politic or corporate.
(27) Personal property.
“Personal property" includes money, goods, chattels, things in action, evidences of debt and energy.
(27m) Personal representative.
“Personal representative" means a person, however denominated, who is authorized to administer a decedent's estate.
(28) Physician, surgeon or osteopath.
“Physician," “surgeon" or “osteopath" means a person holding a license or certificate of registration from the medical examining board.
“Population" means that shown by the most recent regular or special federal census.
“Preceding," when used by way of reference to any statute section, means the section next preceding that in which the reference is made.
“Promulgate," when used in connection with a rule, as defined under s. 227.01 (13)
, means to repeal; renumber; consolidate, renumber and amend; renumber and amend; amend; repeal and recreate; or create.
“Property" includes real and personal property.
“Publication" in a newspaper of any notice or other matter indicated to be for a stated number of weeks means one insertion each week, unless specifically stated to be for more than one day in each week.
“Qualified", when applied to any person elected or appointed to office, means that such person has done those things which the person was by law required to do before entering upon the duties of the person's office.
(34) Railroad corporation.
“Railroad corporation" and “railroad company" include any person managing, maintaining, operating or in possession of a railroad, whether as owner, contractor, lessee, mortgagee, trustee, assignee or receiver.