Canon Spotting

52 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2021 Last revised: 28 Jan 2022

See all articles by Evan C. Zoldan

Evan C. Zoldan

University of Toledo College of Law

Date Written: January 27, 2022


The canons of statutory interpretation are central to the work of legal interpreters, including judges, scholars, and advocates. But, despite the importance of the canons, there is no accepted way to determine whether an interpretive principle is a canon. Without a way to identify canons, we cannot evaluate whether the countless cases that turn on their application are correctly decided. And unless there is a way to identify them, normative debates about the canons will remain incomplete and muddled. This Article proposes and defends three criteria for spotting canons—that is—for determining whether an interpretive principle is a canon of statutory interpretation. An interpretive principle is a canon only if: (1) it is used by legal interpreters; (2) using it affects interpretive outcomes; and (3) its proponents claim that it is theoretically justified.

Keywords: Statutory Interpretation, Canons of Construction, Textualism, Legislation

Suggested Citation

Zoldan, Evan Craig, Canon Spotting (January 27, 2022). 59 Hous. Law Rev. 621 (2022), University of Toledo Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

Evan Craig Zoldan (Contact Author)

University of Toledo College of Law ( email )

2801 W. Bancroft Street
Toledo, OH 43606
United States

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