Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Interpretation of Statutes and of Contracts Dictionary

Written words often lend themselves to several interpretations leaving a court to sort out the maze in order to determine legal rights (this area of the law is also known as construction of statutes). In those cases, the law presents an arsenal of maxims and rules. This Interpretation of Statutes and of Contracts Dictionary houses all those maxims, rules and legal terms that direct the inquiring mind as to the interpretation of statutes and contracts.

Ab Absurdo
Latin: an evidentiary suggestion or statutory interpretation that is, or leads to, an absurdity.
Actus Dei Nemini Facit Injuriam
Latin: An act of God causes legal injury to no one.
Ad Proximum Antecedens Fiat Relatio Nisi Impediatur Sententia
Latin: relative words must ordinarily be referred to the last antecedent, the last antecedent being the last word which can be made an antecedent so as to give a meaning.
Amend
To change, to revise; to formally change a statement on the record or the wording of a written document, such as a statute.
And/Or
Any combination of two options; one, the other (either), or both.
Argumentum Ab Inconvenienti Plurimum Valet In Lege
Latin: An argument drawn from inconvenience is forcible in law.
Armchair Rule
A rule of interpretation that a judge, called upon to interpret an otherwise unclear legal document, shall take into account the circumstances in which the document was created.
Cessante Ratione Legis, Cessat Ipsa Lex
Latin: The reason for a law ceasing, the law itself ceases.
Construction
The legal process of interpreting a phrase or document; of trying to find it’s meaning.
Contemporanea Expositio
That the meaning of words in a document are to be understood in the sense which they bore at the time of the document.
Deem
To accept a document or an event as conclusive of a certain status in the absence of evidence or facts which would normally be required to prove that status.
Ejusdem or Eiusdem Generis
Of the same kind or nature.
Enactment
A statute or regulation pursuant thereto.
Exordium
Latin: introduction.
Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius
Latin: the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other.
Falsa Demonstratio Non Nacet
A wrong description of an item in a legal document (such as a will) will not necessarily void the gift if it can be determined from other facts.
Generalia Specialibus Non Derogant
Latin maxim of interpretation: the provisions of a general statute must yield to those of a special one.
Golden Rule
A rule of statutory or legal document interpretation which allows a shift from the ordinary sense of as word(s) if the overall content of the document demands it.
Grand-Father Clause
A provisions in law or a contract which exempts persons already engaging in the activity which the law or contract prohibits, from adverse results from the subsequent law or contract.
Honour of the Crown
A phrase of Canadian aboriginal law in reference to the sometimes generous attitude the law takes to the definition of aboriginal rights.
Ignorantia Juris Non Excusat
Latin: ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Indian Canon
A principle of statutory interpretation that statutes should be construed liberally in favor of Indians.
Interpretatio Cessat in Claris
Latin: Interpretation stops when a text is clear.
Ipso facto
Latin: By the act itself.
Legalese
Legal terms combined in long-winded sentences, or varied or with permutations, with the initial design of legal or drafting precision but which otherwise add unnecessary complexity or inadvertently resulting in confusion.
Leges Posteriores Priores Contrarias Abrogant
Latin: Later laws abrogate prior contrary laws.
Liberal Construction
A form of construction which allows a judge to consider other factors when deciding the meaning of a phrase or document.
Literal Construction
A form of construction which does not allow evidence extrapolated beyond the actual words.
nimia subtilitas in jure reprobatur, et talis certitudo certitudinem Confundit
Latin: too much subtlety in law is condemned, and so much certainty confounds certainty.
Non Sequitur
Latin: it does not follow.
Noscitur a sociis
Latin: that the meaning of a word may be known from accompanying words.
Nova Constitutio Futuris Formam Imponere Debet, Non Praeteritis
Latin: a new law ought to be construed to interfere as little as possible with vested rights.
Plain Meaning Rule
A rule of interpretation that where the plain meaning of a statute is apparent, there is no room for interpretation.
Rule of Lenity
A rule of construction of statutes: that criminal statute ambiguities are resolved in favor of the defendant or accused.
Statuta Suo Clauduntur Territorio, Nec Ultra Territorium Disponunt
Statutes are confined to their own territory and have no extra-territorial effect.
Statutes in Pari Materia
Statutes sharing a common purpose or relating to the same subject and which are construed together.
Strictissimi Juris
Latin: the strictest letter of the law.
Sui Generis
Latin: of its own kind.
Surplusage
Superfluous allegations, especially in regards to pleadings.
Ubi Eadem Ratio, Ibi Idem Jus
Latin: Where there is the same reason, there is the same law
Utile Per Inutile Non Vitiatur
Latin: That which is useful is not vitiated by that which is useless.
Ut Res Magis Valeat Quam Pereat
Latin: It is better for a thing to have effect than to be made void.
Valeat Quantum Valere Potest
Latin: it shall have effect as far as it can have effect.
Verba Fata
Latin: faded, obsolete words.
Verba Fortius Accipiuntur Contra Proferentem
Latin: a contract is interpreted against the person who wrote it.
Videlicet
Latin: to wit or that is to say.
Viz
Latin: to wit, that is to say.
Words of Limitation
Words in a conveyance or in a will which set the duration of an estate.
Words of Purchase
Also known as words of substitution; words which describe what should happen to a gift if the person first named is no longer alive when it takes effect.
Wrongful
An act or omission that exposes a person to civil or criminal liability.

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