The Conversation Canon

58 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2021 Last revised: 23 Sep 2022

See all articles by Evan C. Zoldan

Evan C. Zoldan

University of Toledo College of Law

Date Written: August 23, 2022


Should a judge interpret a statute like it is a conversation between friends? Judges sometimes do just that, searching for the meaning of statutory language in a variety of nonlegal sources, including transcripts of conversations. Although this method of interpretation is common, scholars and judges have failed to identify it and consider its consequences. This Article identifies the practice as a canon of statutory interpretation: the Conversation Canon. But, although it is a canon, it is a bad one. Because it leads to unpredictable results, fails to constrain the interpreter, and undermines important public values, the Conversation Canon is normatively unattractive and should be avoided.

Suggested Citation

Zoldan, Evan Craig, The Conversation Canon (August 23, 2022). 110 Kentucky L. J. 1 (2022), University of Toledo Legal Studies Research Paper Forthcoming, 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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