Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



If wishes were horses, all men could ride. And if judges were legislators, the laws would probably read differently than they do. At least, this might well be the case in the field under discussion. With few exceptions, the courts speak of "domicil" while statutes refer to "residence" instead.' Domicil has a reasonably constant meaning. Residence, on the other hand, is one of the most variable words in the legal dictionary. It can be synonymous with domicil; it can also mean something else or something more. As such, it must be further defined, something which rarely is satisfactorily done in the statutes themselves. The courts must therefore interpret it as best they can without any indication of the legislative intent other than that which can be derived from the purpose underlying the enactment in question. The consistent appearance of residence in statutes is difficult to explain. For legislators are frequently lawyers, and it is impossible to believe that all of them are unaware of the ambiguities and complexities which use of the term involves.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the various meanings attributed to residence in its principal statutory settings. The trail has already been well blazed by Professor Beale in an early article, but it is believed that the importance of the subject warrants its reexamination in the light of modern developments. Before doing so, however, a few words should be said on the subject of domicil. This is essential not only for purposes of comparison, but also because residence and domicil are so frequently held to be identical.