Statutory Interpretation Canons

When interpreting statutes, Courts follow certain rules or cannons of construction. Generally, the rule is to give effect to legislative intent as reflected in the plain language of the statute at issue. Parktown Imports, Inc. v. Audi of Am., Inc., 278 S.W.3d 670, 672 (Mo. 2009).  There are “fancier” rules of interpretation depending on the situation.

For instance, the rule of ejusdem generis suggests that “where general words follow a specific enumeration of person or things, the general words should be limited to persons or things similar to those specifically enumerated.” Pollard v. Board of Police Com’rs, 665 S.W.2d 333, 341 (Mo. 1984) (using rule to interpret “political party, political club, or any political purpose whatsoever”). Likewise, noscitur a sociis (a word is known by the company it keeps) is applied where a word is capable of many meanings in order to avoid the giving of unintended breadth. Id. at 345 n13.

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