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Vern Edwards

Contract Interpretation: Which is right?

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Isn?t ?knowingly submitted? the verb and ?cost or pricing data that were incomplete,

inaccurate, or noncurrent? the object? ?cost or pricing data that were incomplete,

inaccurate, or noncurrent? is a group of words functioning as a noun.

I pick interpretation 3 - as above.

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Isn?t ?knowingly submitted? the verb and ?cost or pricing data that were incomplete,

inaccurate, or noncurrent? the object? ?cost or pricing data that were incomplete,

inaccurate, or noncurrent? is a group of words functioning as a noun.

I pick interpretation 3 - as above.

"Cost or pricing data that were incomplete, inaccurate, or noncurrent" is a noun phrase consisting of the nouns "cost or pricing data" and the restrictive relative clause "that were... ." That noun phrase functions as the object of the transitive verb "submitted."

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If I understand Vern?s quote from the Supreme Court, when the term ?knowingly? is used in an indictment or charge it should be interpreted fully consistent with ordinary English usage. Maybe in this context ?knowingly? refers to the offense or the material element of the offense. There is no offense in knowingly submitting cost or pricing data. The only offense is knowingly submitting incomplete, inaccurate, or noncurrent cost or pricing data.

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"The Supreme Court addressed the construction: "knowingly [verb] [object]" in IGNACIO CARLOS FLORES-FIGUEROA,PETITIONER v. UNITED STATES, 556 U..S. _____ (2009) http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-108.ZO.html."

Point of inquiry to Vern: how did you find this? A data base search on the term "knowingly?"

Exactly. I tried it in a number of combinations that I can't remember now. It was pretty much luck that I stumbled on the Supreme Court's decision.

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But, and this leads to the second point, sometimes you forget a rule in the fun of the reinterpretation. Part of the language posted, and of the sentence in question, states, "if the Contractor or subcontractor knowingly submitted cost or pricing data that were incomplete, inaccurate, or noncurrent." Interpretation 2 basically requires that we pretend the words "that were incomplete, inaccurate, or noncurrent" were never there. If we go with interpretation 2 then those words no longer have meaning. They apply to nothing.

That cannot be, and that is a rule the courts will follow. If an interpretation requires ignoring part of the language set forth then that interpretation cannot be correct. Or so the courts hold. Put another way; if a word or phrase is put into place it must be assumed it was put there for some purpose. It cannot be interpreted out of existence.

jmj,

That is what I initially thought about the student's interpretation. However, if I understand the student's interpretation, she is giving meaning to the words "that were incomplete, inaccurate, or noncurrent", she's just not applying "knowingly" to them. I believe her interpretation goes something like this:

"If the contractor knowingly submitted cost or pricing data that were (as in "turned out to be") incomplete, inaccurate, and noncurrent." In other words, the contractor is liable for a penalty if two conditions are satisfied: 1) the contractor knowingly submitted cost or pricing data; AND 2) the data were defective (regardless of whether the contractor knew the data were defective or not).

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jmj,

That is what I initially thought about the student's interpretation. However, if I understand the student's interpretation, she is giving meaning to the words "that were incomplete, inaccurate, or noncurrent", she's just not applying "knowingly" to them. I believe her interpretation goes something like this:

"If the contractor knowingly submitted cost or pricing data that were (as in "turned out to be") incomplete, inaccurate, and noncurrent." In other words, the contractor is liable for a penalty if two conditions are satisfied: 1) the contractor knowingly submitted cost or pricing data; AND 2) the data were defective (regardless of whether the contractor knew the data were defective or not).

Don,

You're right. I was thinking of that in my first post and forgot about it in the second.

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"I tried it in a number of combinations that I can't remember now. It was pretty much luck that I stumbled on the Supreme Court's decision."

There's some effort and thought currently to find ways to leverage the web to make information already out there more accessible and usable. Here's an interesting presentation by Tim Berners-Lee on that topic:

http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_berners_lee_o...e_next_web.html

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