Canon of Legal Construction – Expressio Unius | 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.

Expression Unius A list of words with nothing – all means that the inclusion of certain words implies the exclusion of other words. It is a full Latin phrase. Expression unius est exclusio alterius This means that “the assertion of one thing does not exclude all others.”

In other words, when a law includes a list of certain items, that list is considered exclusive, so that the law applies only to the listed items and not to others that are not listed.

However, if the list begins with a phrase such as “at least” or “including,” or if the list ends with a general word, a court may interpret the list by example. The Act deals with types of things, not as specific lists.

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