The Courts Vindicate Grammar

The Courts Vindicate Grammar July 6, 2015

Sarah Larimer:

Here’s what happened, according to court documents. Back in February 2014, Andrea Cammelleri was cited for a violation when she left her pickup truck parked on a street in West Jefferson, Ohio.

That was because an ordinance in the village stated it was illegal to park “any motor vehicle camper, trailer, farm implement and/or non-motorized vehicle” on a street for more than 24 hours.

At a bench trial, Cammelleri argued that “the ordinance did not apply because the language prohibits a motor vehicle camper from being parked on the street for an extended period of time.”

That’s: Motor vehicle camper.

Not: Motor vehicle, camper. 

“The trial court held that when reading the ordinance in context, it unambiguously applied to motor vehicles and ‘anybody reading [the ordinance] would understand that it is just missing a comma,’” court documents state….

“By utilizing rules of grammar and employing the common meaning of terms, ‘motor vehicle camper’ has a clear definition that does not produce an absurd result,” Hendrickson wrote in his ruling. “If the village desires a different reading, it should amend the ordinance and insert a comma between the phrase ‘motor vehicle’ and the word ‘camper.’”

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