Story Archive

The Court as Copy Editor

Andrea Cammelleri parked a pickup truck, not a “motor vehicle camper”. That’s important, said Judge Robert A. Hendrickson of Ohio’s 12th District Court of Appeals, because of a comma — a comma that doesn’t exist. The Village of West Jefferson ordinance under which Cammelleri’s vehicle was impounded banned parking “any motor vehicle camper, trailer, farm implement and/or non-motorized vehicle for a continued period of twenty-four hours” on the village streets. The village said the lack of a comma was a typo, and the trial court agreed to read the comma in, making the ordinance cover motor vehicles and campers as two separate items on the list. But Hendrickson and his colleagues said that since “motor vehicle camper” is a meaningful phrase and doesn’t have “an absurd result,” the law must be read as written, without the comma — and Cammelleri’s pickup, which isn’t equipped for camping, isn’t a “motor vehicle camper” or anything else on the list. “If the village desires a different reading,” said the judge, “it should amend the ordinance and insert a comma.” (AC/Washington Post, Columbus Dispatch) ...And meanwhile, it can “insert” the charges against Cammelleri.
Original Publication Date: 05 July 2015
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 22.

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