Court Discusses Unusual Standards of Review

In two of the opinions that it issued last week, the Alabama Supreme Court discussed standards of review that receive attention less frequently than others.  In Intergraph Corporation et al. v. Bentley Systems Incorporated, Nos. 1080300, 1080405  (Ala. March 12, 2010), the Court described the standard of review that it applies to findings of special masters.  In Archer v. The Estate of Archer, Nos. 1090093, 1090094, 1090096 (Ala. March 12, 2010), the Court outlined the standard of review that it uses when interprets a statute.

With respect to decisions of special masters, the Court stated in Intergraph Corporation that:

‘[A] court accepts a master’s findings of fact in non-jury actions unless clearly erroneous; and to the extent the trial court has adopted the findings of a master, this same standard applies to an appellate review of these findings. Rule 53(e) (2), Ala. R. Civ. P., and committee comments to Rule 53, Rule 52, Ala. R. Civ. P., and committee comments to Rule 52. In essence, a master’s report is accorded the same weight as a jury verdict and, therefore, is not to be disturbed unless it is palpably and plainly wrong. Patterson v. Lovelady, 233 Ala. 554, 556, 172 So. 646, 648 (1937) .’


Id. (quoting Burgess Mining & Constr. Corp. v. Lees, 440 So. 2d 321, 327 (Ala. 1983)). 

In Archer, the Court explained that its de novo review of questions of law concerning statutory interpretation require the Court to:

‘give effect to the legislature’s intent in enacting a statute when that intent is manifested in the wording of the statute. Bean Dredging[, LLC v. Alabama Pep’t of Revenue], 855 So.2d [513] at 517 [(Ala. 2003)]. … ‘if the language of the statute is unambiguous, then there is no room for judicial construction and the clearly expressed intent of the legislature must be given effect. In determining the intent of the legislature, we must examine the statute as a whole and, if possible, give effect to each section. 


Archer (quoting Ex parte Birmingham Bd. of Educ., [Ms. 1071539, November 6, 2009]___So.3d____(Ala. 2009))(internal citations omitted) .