Canon of Legal Construction – Ejusdem Generis | Whuff News


For purposes of statutory construction, courts and accountants use a series of “canons” to guide them. These include textual canons (internal aids), linguistic assumptions and grammatical conventions, objective canons and external aids. It is impossible to list them all, but there are some common canons, and these are very useful for legislation.

We begin with the careful and deliberate preparation of draft laws by the legislature. Because of this assumption, the normal practice of the judiciary is to narrow the law rather than to expand it, and the courts are by definition less activist.

Ejusdem Generis It directs the courts to interpret – all phrases to be limited by the words around them. Former United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia asked, “What kind of category can come to the mind of a reasonable person?” they asked. His opinion was that the canon would have narrowed the law, or contained it all, in the words surrounding it in the rest of the statute.

Latin phrase Ejusdem generis It means “the same” and is used in relation to related content in the law. In other words, this canon of construction follows that if there are general words in a statute, following specific and specific words, the general words must be limited to things similar to those specifically mentioned.

This canon is used to interpret loosely written statutes. Again, if the law lists some things and the list ends with a general statement to include other things (the drafters of the law call it “all”) then a court will assume that the general statement includes only those things. Similar to the items listed.

For example, if a law states that “cars, motorcycles, scooters, and other motorized vehicles must be licensed,” the court would not require that boats, trains, or airplanes also be licensed.

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