Strict Construction Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Strict Construction, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Strict Construction?

(n). A Constitution, Law or Act when interpreted strictly by the word meaning, without considering the purpose and intention of law makers while drafting the Law and applying such intention in the circumstances prevailing now is termed as strict construction of law.

History and Meaning of Strict Construction

Strict construction is a legal principle that requires that the words used in a constitution or law be interpreted as they are written, without any attempt to divine the intentions of the drafters or the historical context in which they were written. This means that the meaning of the law is derived exclusively from the text itself and not from any extraneous considerations. While the principle has been applied since the early days of the United States, it received its greatest articulation and development in the late 19th century, as a response to the judicial activism of the era.

Examples of Strict Construction

  1. A judge interpreting the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to mean only those forms of speech explicitly protected by the text, and not any implicit right to free speech, would be applying a strict constructionist philosophy.

  2. If a contract were to specify that all disputes arising from its interpretation were to be resolved in the state of California, a strict constructionist reading would hold that only those disputes occurring within California are covered, and not those occurring elsewhere.

  3. If a law specifies that only "blue" vehicles are allowed to park in a certain lot, a strict interpretation would prohibit other shades of blue, such as navy or turquoise.

Legal Terms Similar to Strict Construction

  1. Originalism: Like strict constructionism, originalism is a judicial philosophy that favors a literal interpretation of legal texts, but takes into account the intended meaning of the framers of the law.

  2. Judicial Activism: The opposite of strict constructionism, judicial activism asserts that the courts can and should interpret laws in light of contemporary needs and issues, rather than relying solely on a literal reading of the text.

  3. Broad Interpretation: The practice of reading a law's text more expansively than might be necessary or warranted by its plain meaning.