Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Interpretatio Cessat in Claris Definition:

Latin: Interpretation stops when a text is clear.

Related Terms: Plain Meaning Rule, Literal Construction, Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius, Golden Rule

The Latin maxim interpretatio cessat in claris (interpretation stops in the face of clarity), is more widely accepted and used in civil law jurisdictions to indicate that a clear legal rule needs no interpretation. In common law jurisdictions, the similar rule is known as the plain meaning rule or even literal construction.

In Global Video Inc. v. The Queen, Madam Justice Louise Lamarre Proulx of the Tax Court of Canada adoopted these words:

"This guideline (if the statute is clear, it is not subject to interpretation) is expressed by the rarely-used Latin maxim interpretatio cessat in claris. The principle appeared in the draft French Civil Code, and was concisely expressed as follows: When a statute is ambiguous, the letter of the law should not be avoided on the pretext of respecting its spirit".

Rebecca Barrett-Hall wrote:

"(J)udicial interpretation is only necessary when the plain meaning of statutory text does not reveal clear legislative intent or leads to ambiguous results.... The principle is based on the Latin maxim of statutory interpretation, interpretatio cessat in claris: there is no need for interpretation when the text is clear."

The 2006 version of the French Civil Code provided this, at §9, as an admonition against ambiituois judges and the use of judicial discretion where the text of law was clear:

"When a law is clear and unambiguous and its application does not lead to absurd consequences, the law shall be applied as written and no further interpretation may be made in search of the intent of the legislature."


  • Barrett Hall, Rebecca, Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Dressing-up Substantive Legislation to Trigger the Interpretive Exception to Retroactivity Violates Constitutional Principles, 67 La. L. Rev. 599 (2006-2007)
  • Global Video Inc. v. The Queen, 2005 TCC 742
  • Rieg, Alfred, Judicial Interpretation of Written Rules, 40 La. L. Rev. 49 (1979-1980)

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