golden rule (1) the doctrine that legal terms should be taken into context to avoid absurdity or inconsistency; or (2) an argument given to jurors to consider a litigant’s position

     This page is continued from Getting Started >>>> Representing Yourself “Pro Se” or Assisting Others as a Non-Lawyer >>>> Good Samaritan Action:


golden rule:

1. The interpretive doctrine that words in a legal instrument should be given their ordinary sense, as understood in context, unless that would lead to some absurdity or inconsistency with the rest of the text; ORDINARY-MEANING CANON (1).  *  The term golden rule is a mostly British name for the doctrine. — aka Baron Parke’s Rule.

2. The doctrine that a judge may look beyond the ordinary meaning and consult extratextual sources if the result dictated by the words is absurd.

3. The doctrine that a word or phrase is presumed to bear a consistent meaning throughout a text; PRESUMPTION OF CONSISTENT USAGE.  *  The phrase golden rule has been used in so many divergent senses by so many commentators that it is often seen as being best avoided altogether. [1]

1. A guide for jurors in their deliberations, sometimes suggested in arguments of counsel, that the jurors place themselves in the position of a litigant. Norton Bros. v Nadebok, 92 Ill App 541, affd 190 Ill 695, 60 NE2d 843.

An erroneaous principle hat in assessing damages he jurors should put themselves in the injured person’s place and render such a verdict as they would wish to receive were they in his position. 22 Am J2d Damg §§ 342, 346. [2]

golden rule argument:

1. A jury argument in which a lawyer asks the jurors to reach a verdict by imagining themselves or someone they care about in the place of the injured plaintiff or crime victim.  *  Because golden-rule arguments ask the jurors to become advocates for the plaintiff or victim and to ignore their obligation to exercise calm and reasonable judgment, these arguments are widely condemned and are considered improper in most states. [1]

1. An argument made by attorneys to jurors that, in assessing liability (in a civil case) or guilt (in a criminal case), they should put themselves in the place of the injured party or victim and render a verdict such as they would wish to receive were they in such a position. — aka golden rule contention[3]

     Excerpt from Ruper Cross’s Statutory Interpretation 14 (1976):

     “[T}he ‘golden’ rule… allows for a departure from the literal rule when the application of the statutory words in the ordinary sense would be repugnant to or inconsistent with some other provision in the statute or even when it would lead to what the court considers to be an absurdity.  The usual consequence of applying the golden rule is that words which are int eh statute are ignored or words which are not there are read in.  the scope of the golden rule is debatable, particularly so far as the meaning of an ‘absurdity’ is concerned. [4]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is compiled in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Ruper Cross’s Statutory Interpretation 14 (1976).


Back to Good Samaritan Action

Back to Representing Yourself “Pro Se” or Assisting Others as a Non-Lawyer

Back to Getting Started

Home Page

Like this website?

Offer a contribution to Wild Willpower PAC


Disclaimer: Wild Willpower PAC does not condone the actions of Maximilian Robespierre, however the above quote is excellent!

This website is being broadcast for First Amendment purposes courtesy of

Question(s)?  Suggestion(s)?
We look forward to hearing from you!