A House Divided: Statutory Interpretation Problems Exemplified in Whitman I, Montgomery, and Whitman II

At least in theory, courts share the same set of guiding principles when it comes to statutory and rule interpretation. These principles exist to help courts adhere to the rule-makers’ original intent, but the rules themselves often provide little guidance as to that intent in practice. In State v. Whitman (2013), State v. Montgomery (2013), and State v. Whitman (2014), the two divisions of Arizona’s Court of Appeals and its Supreme Court each tackled nearly identical fact patterns. Four written opinions ultimately yielded three different approaches–and two opposite results. This Note examines how the general rules of statutory interpretation both permitted and encouraged these different results (despite the judges’ shared goal of deference to the rule-makers), and contemplates the need for a more consistently applicable set of instructions.