Ejusdem Generis

Definition 

Ejusdem generis is latin for "of the same kind." When a law lists lists classes of persons or things, this concept is used to clarify such a list.  

For example, if a law refers to automobiles, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, and other motor-powered vehicles, a court might use ejusdem generis to hold that such vehicles would not include airplanes, because the list included only land-based transportation.

Overview

In Circuit City Stores Inc., v. Adams, 532 U.S. 105 (2001), the Supreme Court defined ejusdem generis as a situation in which "general words follow specific words in a statutory enumeration, the general words are construed to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words."

Limits of Ejusdem Generis

The dissent in Adams, however, stated that when there are good reasons not to abide by ejusdem generis, then a court will set aside its use. 

Further, the Supreme Court stated in N. & W. Ry. v. Train Dispatchers, 499 U.S. 117 (1991) that ejusdem generis does not apply "when the whole context dictates a different conclusion."

Further Reading

For more on ejusdem generis, see this Washington University Law Review article, this Scribes Journal of Legal Writing article, and this Michigan Law Review article