statutory interpretation

Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionarySo-called Defense of Marriage laws define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, for the purpose of excluding same-sex couples from the institution of marriage. The federal DOMA...

last antecedent rule

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryA doctrine of interpretation by which a court finds that qualifying words or phrases refer to the language immediately preceding the qualifier, unless common sense shows that it was meant to apply to...

Ministerial Act

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryAn act performed by a government employee following explicit instructions in a statute or other legal authority, or directions given from a superior, without exercising any discretion or independent...


A term used in describing a statute or regulation indicating that the particular law reaches beyond the scope of the subject matter it was originally intended to cover, causing it to cover activity that it was not intended to cover.

Statutory Construction


The process of determining what a particular statute means so that a court may apply it accurately.


Any question of statutory interpretation begins with looking at the plain language of the statute to discover its original...

substantive law

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryStatutory or written law that governs the rights and obligations of everyone within its jurisdiction. It defines crimes and punishments, as well as civil rights and responsibilities. Compare: procedural...