What is “the service”?

The City of Cibolo, Texas, sought to establish sewer service that would conflict with the Greeny Valley Special Utility District’s right to provide such service under a federal program. The dispute turned on the meaning of the phrase “the service” in the relevant statute – the resulting analysis (a) resolved that use of “the” is not dispositive, since its meaning depends on the following noun, and (b) Congress’s many different uses of “service” and “services” in the pertinent set of statutes was not controlling. The Fifth Circuit concluded that the plain terms of the statute required it to “decline the city’s invitation to read adjectives” into the phrase “the service,” and it reversed the district court’s ruling that had limited the phrase to services financed by a federal loan. Green Valley Special Utility District v. City of Cibolo, No.16-51282 (Aug. 2, 2017).

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