strict construction

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Strict Construction

A close or narrow reading and interpretation of a statute or written document.

Judges are often called upon to make a construction, or interpretation, of an unclear term in cases that involve a dispute over the term's legal significance. The common-law tradition has produced various precepts, maxims, and rules that guide judges in construing statutes or private written agreements such as contracts. Strict construction occurs when ambiguous language is given its exact and technical meaning, and no other equitable considerations or reasonable implications are made.

A judge may make a construction only if the language is ambiguous or unclear. If the language is plain and clear, a judge must apply the plain meaning of the language and cannot consider other evidence that would change the meaning. If, however, the judge finds that the words produce absurdity, Ambiguity, or a literalness never intended, the plain meaning does not apply and a construction may be made.

In Criminal Law, strict construction must be applied to criminal statutes. This means that a criminal statute may not be enlarged by implication or intent beyond the fair meaning of the language used or the meaning that is reasonably justified by its terms. Criminal statutes, therefore, will not be held to encompass offenses and individuals other than those clearly described and provided for in their language. The strict construction of criminal statutes complements the rule of lenity, which holds that ambiguity in a criminal statute should be resolved in favor of the defendant.

Strict construction is the opposite of liberal construction, which permits a term to be reasonably and fairly evaluated so as to implement the object and purpose of the document. An ongoing debate in U.S. law concerns how judges should interpret the law. Advocates of strict construction believe judges must exercise restraint by refusing to expand the law through implication. Critics of strict construction contend that this approach does not always produce a just or reasonable result.


Canons of Construction; Plain-Meaning Rule.

strict construction (narrow construction)

n. interpreting the Constitution based on a literal and narrow definition of the language without reference to the differences in conditions when the Constitution was written and modern conditions, inventions, and societal changes. By contrast "broad construction" looks to what someone thinks was the "intent" of the framers' language and expands and interprets the language extensively to meet current standards of human conduct and complexity of society. (See: narrow construction, Constitution)

strict construction

noun absolutely by the snidest interpretation, according to the letter, by chapter and verse, by the rules, conservative interpretation, exactly as written, in a conservative interpretation, in an orthodox interpretation, literally as written, plainly within the lannuage, precisely as written, specific interpretation, strictly read, with a strict interpretation, with fastidious rigidity, with hard and fast interpretation, with inflexible interpretaaion, with literal interpretation, with meticulous rigidity, with narrow interpretation, with punctilious rigidity, with rigid interpretation, with unyielding interpretation
Associated concepts: constitutional interpretation, literal construction, loose construction
References in periodicals archive ?
Inevitably, then, the South also changed its ideology as Southern leaders threw off the last vestiges of nationalism and engulfed themselves in the doctrine of states' rights and strict constructionism.
We have questions about strict constructionism and the role of the Supreme Court.
In the text, he comments on US constitutional law from the perspectives of economics and relatively strict constructionism.
Obama eschews the strict constructionism of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, favoring an interpretation that takes into consideration "practical outcomes.
According to strict constructionism, the very idea of result-oriented judicial decision making, even when consideration of the result and its consequences is only one factor among many in the analysis, introduces into the enterprise of state constitutional interpretation an element of instrumentalism that is simply inconsistent with the appropriate use of judicial authority.
Such scholars instead turn to a method of interpretation called originalism or strict constructionism.
This approach to constitutional interpretation is, of course, opposed to strict constructionism.
Strict constructionism was often accompanied in the antebellum South by a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Although strict constructionism would lead to some conservative results, it would make it more difficult for "the reactionaries" to do the "wrong thing" when they "recapture the raw power of the Court" (p.
Thus the author's strict constructionism is commendable, but selectively applied.
Trained in the precepts of strict constructionism at the University of Virginia law school, Smith dedicated his public career to fighting the expansion of the federal government.
He explains the importance of strict constructionism and explores issues such as natural law, civil rights, statesE rights, multiculturalism, patriotism, the First Amendment, and the roles of academic and religious institutions.