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09/05/2021

Harold Anthony Lloyd: Recasting Canons of Interpretation and Construction into "Canonical" Queries
Michael Ramsey

Harold Anthony Lloyd (Wake Forest University School of Law) has posted Recasting Canons of Interpretation and Construction into "Canonical" Queries (66 pages) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

This Article advocates recasting the canons of construction into neutral queries rather than presumptions or directives of meaning. Such an approach would not only rectify problems with the canons discussed in this Article. It would also provide lawyers with highly useful "checklists" of semantic questions lawyers might otherwise overlook when interpreting and construing meaning in contexts of both private law (e.g., contracts) and public law (e.g., constitutional provisions and statutes).

As a part of such advocacy, this Article explores in detail the following "canonical" queries and sub-queries (and the canons of construction they replace where applicable): the applicable text query, the plain meaning query, the ambiguity sub-query, the vagueness sub-query, the indeterminacy sub-query, the ordinary meaning query, the technical and term of art query, the grammar query, the punctuation query, the further meaning query, and the irony/non-literal meaning query. This Article also includes a detailed Appendix outlining further needed queries to be addressed in future articles. These include the ejusdem generis query, the noscitur a sociis query, the expressio unius query, the antecedent/subsequent query (rejecting the rule of the last antecedent), the anaphora query, the whole text query, the surplusage query, the absurdity query, the exercise of power query (rejecting general construction against the drafter), and queries of meaning through time.

Additionally, to help direct proper application of the queries, this Article also explores the distinction between interpretation and construction.