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Legal Memorandum: Interpretation of Constitutional Provisions

Issue: What rules govern the interpretation of competing provisions of the local government constitution of Bikini Atoll?

Area of Law: Constitutional Law, Municipal, County and Local Law
Keywords: Interpretation of competing provisions; Constitutional provision; Principles of construction
Jurisdiction: Bikini Atoll
Cited Cases: 729 P.2d 202; 10 Cal. 4th 554; 43 Cal. 3d 46
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 05/01/2009

A constitutional (or statutory) provision must, in the first instance, "be construed according to the natural and ordinary meaning of its words."  City & County of San Francisco v. County of San Mateo, 10 Cal. 4th 554, 562, 896 P.2d 181 (1995).  In the instant case, neither section 16(3) nor section 17(3) is arguably facially ambiguous‑the language used in both instances is clear and uncomplicated.  

It is axiomatic that "one constitutional provision ‘should not be construed to effect the implied repeal of another constitutional provision.’  Accordingly, if the two provisions can be construed to apply concurrently, [the court] must do so.  Only if they are in irreconcilable conflict must [the court] decide which constitutional provision prevails."  Id., 10 Cal. 4th at 567 (citations omitted).  See also County of Los Angeles v. State, 43 Cal. 3d 46, 58, 729 P.2d 202 (1987) (controlling principles of construction "’require that in the absence of irreconcilable conflict among their various parts, [constitutional provisions] must be harmonized and construed to give effect to all parts’").

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