Footnotes (370)



Llewellyn's Dueling Canons, One to Seven: A Critique

Michael Sinclair

New York Law School

New York Law School Law Review, Vol. 51, Fall 2006
NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05/06-03

In 1950 the redoubtable Karl N. Llewellyn launched the most famous of all attacks on canons of construction, a list of twenty eight pairs of anons having opposite effect: "Remarks on the Theory of Appellate Decision and the Rules or Canons About How Statutes Are to Be Construed," 3 VANDERBILT L.REV. 395 (1950). This was and has been widely considered by statutory interpretation theorists to be devastating to the legitimacy of canons. But there has been no detailed examination of the validity or contrariety of Llewellyn's pairings. We should not accept Llewellyn's list as a devastating deconstruction just because of its rhetorical impact. It is like adopting a theory in chemistry on the basis of an extraordinary experiment that nobody ever even tried to replicate. My working hypothesis is that Llewellyn's pairings are not really devastating to canons. The conditions for the proper use of each of the superficially contrary members of a pair, and the justifications for their use, might adequately deflate the dramatic effect of the prima facie contrariety. This paper reports my results for Llewellyn's first seven pairs.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 81

Keywords: statutory interpretation, cannons of construction

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: August 9, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Sinclair, Michael, Llewellyn's Dueling Canons, One to Seven: A Critique. New York Law School Law Review, Vol. 51, Fall 2006; NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 05/06-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=780424

Contact Information

Michael Sinclair (Contact Author)
New York Law School ( email )
185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States
212-431-2153 (Phone)
212-431-1830 (Fax)
Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 9,050
Downloads: 1,403
Download Rank: 9,494
Footnotes:  370