Monday, January 22, 2007

No "scrivener's error" for the General Assembly

The Virginia Supreme Court reversed a York County Circuit Court case in which the judge determined that Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-229(b)(2) contained a "scrivener's error" and dismissed a personal injury lawsuit. Counsel had argued that the language of the relevant statute, if applied, was contradictory and created an "absurdity." The Supreme Court disagreed, stating that there was "no basis" for the trial court's finding, and remanding the matter for trial. I have to admit I never heard an argument that a statute was invalid because of a scrivener's error. However, a quick "Google" search uncovered a United States Supreme Court opinion in which Justice Scalia educated me: "For the sine qua non of any "scrivener's error" doctrine, it seems to me, is that the meaning genuinely intended but inadequately expressed must be absolutely clear; otherwise we might be rewriting the statute rather than correcting a technical mistake."