- Report Published -
|The Revision of Title 1 and Title 7.1 of the Code of Virginia|
|Virginia Code Commission|
|In May 2003, the Virginia Code Commission commenced its revision of Title 1 of the Code of Virginia. Title 1 (General Provisions) contains the original provisions related to the enactment of the 1950 Code of Virginia and the statutory rules of construction that apply to the Code of Virginia and the uncodified acts of the General Assembly. At the May meeting, the Commission decided to expand the scope of the revision to include the incorporation of Title 7.1 (Boundaries, Jurisdiction and Emblems of the Commonwealth) into Title 1. The Commission believed that a combined title would serve several useful purposes. First, Title 1 is set out in Volume 1 of the Code, which also contains the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth and Title 2.2 on the Administration of Government. Because the body of law contained in Volume 1 is of great historical significance and serves as an introduction to the Commonwealth, the Commission believed that the inclusion of the Commonwealth's boundaries and emblems would enhance and complement the volume. Second, a longer title would give Title 1 greater recognition -- an important quality because of the far-reaching application of the rules of construction currently contained in the title. Finally, a majority of other states have similarly arranged their introductory titles, which makes for easier state by state comparisons. |
The Code Commission has prepared the proposed revisions to Titles 1 (General Provisions) and 7.1 (Boundaries, Jurisdiction and Emblems of the Commonwealth) for introduction at the 2005 Regular Session of the General Assembly. Titles 1 and 7.1 were last revised, together with Title 5, by the Virginia Code Commission in 1966. However, the Code Commission in 1966 concluded that there was no necessity for a wholesale revision and recommended only minor changes. In the last 40 years, there have been significant changes to the laws of the Commonwealth requiring a more extensive revision of Title 1. However, many of the statutory construction provisions remain as viable as they were on the day of their adoption several hundred years ago. For these sections only stylistic changes and the incorporation of consistent and modern terminology were needed. The Commission examined the provisions of the two titles in great detail, and consulted interested individuals, groups, and state agencies with a wide-range of expertise in many subject matters of the law.
II. ORGANIZATION OF THE NEW TITLE 1
The proposed title is divided into five chapters. The title number has not been changed because of the need to leave intact the provisions of Chapter 1. The Code Commission involved in the 1966 revision determined that the provisions of Chapter 1 "spoke as of April 6, 1948, as part and parcel of the Act which brought the Code into being the Code of Virginia and not merely as provisions of the Code itself....[A]ny amendment of any provision of Chapter 1, whether substantive or procedural, would invite interpretation as of the date of amendment or re-enactment rather than the date of the original enactment." The current Code Commission acknowledged this analysis and conclusion and determined that it could revise Title 1 at the chapter level and leave chapter 1 in pristine order. Other existing chapter numbers in Title 1 were renumbered with a .1 designation to indicate that they had been recodified and new chapters were added in chronological order. Chapter 2.1 contains the definitions and rules of construction that govern the interpretation of certain provisions in the Code of Virginia and the uncodified acts of the General Assembly. Chapters 3.1, 4, and 5 contain relocated provisions from Title 7.1. Chapter 3.1 covers the boundaries of the Commonwealth as they have evolved from the early colonial charters through the various compacts entered into between the Commonwealth and its neighboring states. Chapter 4 deals with jurisdictional issues of property that has been ceded to the United States. Chapter 5 completes the title with a compilation of the Commonwealth's official emblems and designations.
III. REVIEW OF CHAPTERS AND SIGNIFICANT AND SUBSTANTIVE CHANGES
Chapter 1 - Code of Virginia
This chapter is retained without any change to the text or the section numbers.
Chapter 2.1 - Common Law and Rules of Construction
This chapter incorporates the statutory construction rules contained in chapter 2. The following definitions were eliminated as obsolete:
• Court of Appeals - the meaning is clear without the definition.
• Effect of omission of certain language ("as amended in the title") of Acts of Assembly - the section is no longer needed because the phrase has not been used in titles for over 35 years and the construction rule on the term "enacted" covers the purpose of this section.
• Effect of references to former Codes in Acts of 1950 - this was a transitional section to address the status of legislation adopted at the 1950 session and is no longer needed.
• Following (when used for cross-referencing sections) - the use of specific cross-references has replaced the use of this term.
• Governor - the meaning is clear in the Constitution of Virginia.
• Horse - the meaning is clear with the new definition of gender.
• Percent - the meaning is clear without the definition.
• Preceding (as used for cross-referencing sections) - the use of specific cross-references has replaced the use of this term.
• Railroad; railway - a statutory distinction between railroad and railway is no longer helpful because of the plethora of transportation companies that do not include these words in their name.
• Supreme Court of Appeals - the meaning is clear without the definition.
• Trial Justice - all references to trial justice have been replaced with modern terminology in the title revision.
The Commission added the following four definitions to Chapter 2.1 to address certain issues:
• Ex officio - resolves the issue that these members have voting privileges unless otherwise provided.
• Includes - resolves the issue that the term means "includes, but not limited to."
• Locality - addresses the term's multiple references in the Code with the current definition used in Title 15.2.
• Municipality; incorporated communities; and municipal corporation - addresses the multiple references of these terms in the Code with the current definition used in Title 15.2.
The Commission made significant revisions to the following definitions:
• Person - adopts the broadest possible definition of person using commonly recognized classes of entities based on the definition of person in the Uniform Commercial Code.
• Computation of Time - three sections in Title 1 that deal with timing issues for filing legal pleadings and holding court and other proceedings have been combined into one section for convenience. The prohibition in Title 1 on holding court or other proceedings on Sundays and legal holidays is removed. The provision conflicted with other sections of the Code that often extended the exclusion to include Saturdays. The Code Commission also believed that in some circumstances a judge or judicial officer should have the option to extend a proceeding to one of these restricted dates.
• United States and State - the term "so called territories" for the United States in these definitions is replaced with the specific names of territories in which the citizens currently enjoy United States citizenship.
Chapter 3 - Citizenship
This chapter is repealed as obsolete. The chapter deals with the early issues of allegiance and expatriation during the time following the Revolutionary War. Its core provision dates back to a 1779 Act of the General Assembly that determined who would be considered British subjects. The determination of citizenship was particularly important at that time because all lands and personal property of British subjects escheated or were forfeited to the state. In addition, aliens could not inherit land in Virginia during that time. However, many of the reasons for this chapter do not exist today. The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution has since resolved the issue of citizenship and states that: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." In addition, all rights and privileges bestowed upon citizens of the Commonwealth are defined in terms of residency or domicile, e.g. voting privileges, taxes, and in-state tuition. The law prohibiting aliens from inheriting land has been reversed. Section 55-1 provides that "any alien, not an enemy, may acquire by purchase or descent and hold real estate in this Commonwealth."
Chapter 3.1 - Boundaries of the Commonwealth
The Commission adopted a different approach in its revision to the sections governing the boundaries of the Commonwealth. Many of the current boundary provisions in Title 7.1 are descriptions of the legislative history leading to the appointment of commissioners to determine the boundary. The original act constituting the agreement on the boundary is the binding compact between the Commonwealth and the other state. Compacts are contracts between states and are treated differently than other legislation enacted. Both states must agree to the terms of the compact and the United States Congress must approve the compact before it becomes effective. A compact cannot be changed without the consent of the other state and the United States Congress. In consideration of these limitations, the Code Commission decided that the provisions in Title 1 should reference the authority of the compact and set out at length the original act embodying the compact in the Compacts volume of the Code. Sections that contain a discernable metes and bound description are also retained in Title 1 because of the value they add in their specificity to the boundary line. A description of what would appear in Title 1 and the Compacts volume is set out in the drafting note for each section.
Chapter 4 - Jurisdiction Over Lands Acquired by the United States
The definition of person is deleted as unnecessary because the new definition in Title 1 would suffice. Except for stylistic changes and updated cross-references, the rest of the chapter is retained without any substantive change because the sections constitute agreements with the United States that cannot be changed unilaterally.
Chapter 5 - Emblems
The significant change in this chapter is its reorganization. The chapter consolidates the several chapters of Title 7.1, which often only contained one section. The provisions governing the seals of the Commonwealth and the flag of the Commonwealth are combined into Article 1. The rationale for a separate article is that these emblems are symbols of the Commonwealth's sovereignty and are unique from the other official emblems and designations that are grouped together into Article 2.