Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter, Communities for Great Ore., 515 U.S. 687, 8 (1995)

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694

BABBITT v. SWEET HOME CHAPTER, COMMUNITIES FOR GREAT ORE.

Opinion of the Court

ing Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, 843 (1984)). The District Court therefore entered summary judgment for petitioners and dismissed respondents' complaint.

A divided panel of the Court of Appeals initially affirmed the judgment of the District Court. 1 F. 3d 1 (CADC 1993). After granting a petition for rehearing, however, the panel reversed. 17 F. 3d 1463 (CADC 1994). Although acknowledging that "[t]he potential breadth of the word 'harm' is indisputable," id., at 1464, the majority concluded that the immediate statutory context in which "harm" appeared counseled against a broad reading; like the other words in the definition of "take," the word "harm" should be read as applying only to "the perpetrator's direct application of force against the animal taken . . . . The forbidden acts fit, in ordinary language, the basic model 'A hit B.' " Id., at 1465. The majority based its reasoning on a canon of statutory construction called noscitur a sociis, which holds that a word is known by the company it keeps. See Neal v. Clark, 95 U. S. 704, 708-709 (1878).

The majority claimed support for its construction from a decision of the Ninth Circuit that narrowly construed the word "harass" in the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, 16 U. S. C. 1372(a)(2)(A), see United States v. Hayashi, 5 F. 3d 1278, 1282 (1993); from the legislative history of the ESA; 7 from its view that Congress must not have intended the purportedly broad curtailment of private property rights that the Secretary's interpretation permitted; and from the ESA's land acquisition provision in 5 and restriction on federal agencies' activities regarding habitat in 7, both of which the court saw as evidence that Congress had not intended the 9 "take" prohibition to reach habitat modi-7 Judge Sentelle filed a partial concurrence in which he declined to join the portions of the court's opinion that relied on legislative history. See 17 F. 3d 1463, 1472 (CADC 1994).

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