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Incorrect Interpretation in the Light of the Law of Interpretation


There are certain standards of legal interpretation. Interpretive directives are heterogeneous—both in terms of the issues they address and of the form. Not all authors consider the canons of interpretation to be norms like any other ones. Moreover, some claim that the term “incorrect interpretation” refers only to an arbitrarily chosen concept. I intend to investigate whether, despite the objections raised, interpretative directives can be said to have the status of legal norms. I wonder whether the so-called law of interpretation (LoI), can provide a normative key to assess the correctness of the interpretation of legal texts. Text raises important questions concerning LoI. Firstly, the question of the status of interpretative directives and the problem of their defeasibility. Second, it refers to the problem of compliance with interpretative directives and the consequences of their violation, drawing attention to the two contexts of legal interpretation (the context of discovery and justification) and to the fact that canons of interpretation can constitute a standard for the correctness of the interpretative procedure and for its result. Third, this paper refers to the problem of vagueness of interpretative directives, analysing the advantages of maintaining it to a certain extent, as well as the possibilities of reducing it in the rest. The fourth issue analysed is the multiplicity of canons and the lack of a defined hierarchy of them. I conclude by pointing out that LoI should provide a model by which to assess the correctness of an interpretation.

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  1. I will use the term “incorrect interpretation” in the remaining part of the text.

  2. In the text I refer to a variety of guidelines used at different stages of working with a legal text and do not focus here on the distinction between the linguistic meaning of legal texts and the content of the law.

  3. See Sect. 2.

  4. Obviously there are some publications that present interpretative directives from a number of different countries [e.g. 37], but such literature focuses on a very different view of the issue at hand.

  5. See subsection 3.2.

  6. See Sect. 5.

  7. In the classical Popperian view, the emphasis was on the context of justification, while heuresis (the context of discovery) as a description of the conception of an idea was outside the sphere of scientific interest [see: 47].

  8. Although not every author would agree with that point of view [see: 1, 2].

  9. Ley 153 de 1887, por la cual se adiciona y reforma los códigos nacionales, la ley 61 de 1886 y la 57 de 1887.

  10. Judgment of the NSA of December 15, I OSK 1074/17, LEX nr 2458497.

  11. Judgment of the NSA of June 11, 2014, I OSK 575/14, LEX nr 1484868.

  12. Judgment of the SN of October 25, 2000, IV CKN 141/00, LEX nr 533911; Judgment of the SN of May 7, 1998, III CKN 191/98LEX nr 1224630.

  13. As far as the relative grounds of appeal are concerned, they are taken into account if the infringements described in them have influenced or may have influenced the final decision. It is different with absolute grounds of appeal, which are always taken into account when the situations defined in them occur (e.g. the case was resolved by a judge who was personally involved in it): there is no need to check whether they really had an impact on the outcome.

  14. This is how R. Posner writes about the canons: „I have thus far assumed that the “start with the words” canon has reference to temporal rather than to logical priority, and that is I think how it is usually meant. But maybe this is being too literal and what really is intended is that the language of a statute be deemed the most important evidence of its meaning-which it normally is-or at least indispensable evidence-which it always is. It is ironic that a principle designed to clarify should be so ambiguous” [49: 808].

  15. See Judgment of the WSA in Poznań of December 7, 2017, I SA/Po 730/17, LEX nr 2416508.

  16. Of course, for those who recognise it as a situation of interpretation. A different view is taken, for example, by T. Endicott [17].


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The research leading to these results received funding from the National Science Centre, Poland (Narodowe Centrum Nauki) under Grant Agreement No UMO-2018/29/N/HS5/00648.

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Konca, P. Incorrect Interpretation in the Light of the Law of Interpretation. Int J Semiot Law (2022).

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  • Canons of interpretation. Construction. Extrinsic and intrinsic aids. Interpretation. Law of interpretation. Legal text