Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Plain Meaning Rule Definition:

A rule of interpretation that where the plain meaning of a statute is apparent, there is no room for interpretation.

Related Terms: Literal Construction, Interpretatio Cessat in Claris, Golden Rule

In Supervalu Inc., Madam Justice Joy Conti of the United States District Court (Pennsylvania) adopted these words:

"It is axiomatic that the starting point in every case involving construction of a statute is the language itself.... What has come to known as the plain meaning rule has been given expression in a variety of ways. When the intention of the legislature is so apparent from the face of the statute that there can be no question as to its meaning, there is no room for construction."

In US Xpress, Justice Chavez of the Supreme Court of New Mexico wrote:

"We are bound by the plain meaning rule, which requires a court to give effect to the statute's language and refrain from further interpretation when the language is clear and unambiguous. Unless a statute violates the Constitution, we will not question the wisdom, policy, or justness of legislation enacted by our Legislature."

In 2747-3174 Québec Inc. v. Quebec, Justice l'Heureux-Dubé of Canada's Supreme Court:

"In reality, there are two successive stages in this plain meaning rule process: first, by default, the so-called plain meaning of the words must be used; second, if -- and only if -- there is something in the context to indicate that the meaning differs from the plain meaning, then it is possible to depart from that plain meaning. According to this rule, it is only at this second stage that the legal interpretation process should begin; if the meaning seems prima facie clear, then this rule functions as a sort of mythological estoppel that seeks to prevent the legal interpretation process from beginning."

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