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"Standing in the Shadow of the Law", 4th Edition
Tips and Topics from Jurisdictionary~
| One of the biggest problems pro se litigants run into is mis-reading the law ... or hiring a lawyer they can't trust! |
If you don't know what the law says, you'll have a hard time getting the courts to agree with you.
Understanding statutory interpretation is essential.
(Pro se litigants are people just like you, who either can't afford or don't trust lawyers and, therefore, need what Jurisdictionary explains!)
Reading law can be confusing, especially statutes and code. The words must be interpreted according to rules of statutory interpretation. Rules of statutory interpretation are vitally important for you to learn ... if you want to win your lawsuit!
You need to know how courts interpret what Congress or your state legislature really meant when they wrote the law!
Too many people assume they know what the law says, when the only opinion that counts is what the courts say the law says.
The courts follow rules of statutory interpretation, and
you need to learn these rules!The paramount rule for interpreting statutes is that the words used by Congress or the legislature should be given their "plain meaning". Courts should not play games with the words. If a reasonable person would read the word "bicycle" to mean a two-wheeled engine-less vehicle powered only by legs and feet, then judges should not be permitted to interpret that word to include motorcycles.
Law should say what it means and mean nothing more.
Words should be given a plain meaning, according to the "plain meaning rule".
But, what if the meaning is not plain?By the rule of ejusdem generis (Latin: "of the same type"), judges should interpret general terms at the end of specific lists as including only things of the same type as those specifically mentioned in the list. For example, if a statute lists "oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and other fruit", the doctrine of ejusdem generis limits the phrase "other fruit" to mean other citrus fruit. Apples and pears are not included. Judges are allowed to assume the law intends by "other fruit" to include all types of citrus, kumquats, tangelos, limes ... but not pineapples or persimmons.
When the legislature lists items of similar kind and adds "and other", the doctrine of ejusdem generis limits the word "other" to include only items of the same type.
Help Your Friends!Another rule of statutory interpretation is inclusio unius, exclusio alterius (Latin: include one, exclude others). If a statute specifically refers to lemons (and does not mention limes or grapefruit or "other fruit"), courts should obey this rule and not expand the legislative intent to include limes and grapefruit. It is not the domain of our courts to expand what the legislature says beyond what the legislature specifically says!
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