formal written document that creates law, including acts, executive orders, and by-laws
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Statutes are formal written enactments of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations issued by government agencies.[1] Statutes are sometimes referred to as legislation or "black letter law". As a source of law, statutes are considered primary authority (as opposed to secondary authority).


Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 227-231.
  • Acts of Parliament are the works of the legislature, and the publication of them has always belonged to the King, as the Executive Part, and as the Head and Sovereign.
  • Notwithstanding all the care and anxiety of the persons who frame Acts of Parliament to guard against every event, it frequently turns out that certain cases were not foreseen.
  • There is nothing so common in the framing of instruments as that whilst the framer of them is studious to avoid one inconvenience, he incurs another which does not present itself to his view. This is often to be seen in Acts of Parliament.
    • Booke, J., Lord Nelson v. Tucker (1802), 3 Bos. & Pull. 275.
  • Inconvenience arising from the operation of an Act of Parliament can be no ground of argument in a Court of law.
  • Un Act de Parlement poet fair aucun chose, comme de fair une feme Mayor ou Justice de Paix, car ceux sont les creatures des homes, mes ne poet alter le course del nature: An Act of Parliament can do anything, as it may make a woman Mayor or Justice of the Peace, but it cannot alter the course of nature.
    • Wild, J., Crow v. Ramsey (1670), Jones's (Sir Thos.) Rep. 12.
  • The language of statutes is peculiar, and not always that which a rigid grammarian would use; we must do what we can to construe them.
    • Grove, J., Lyons v. Tucker (1881), L. R. 6 Q. B. D. 664.
  • There are two ways of construing an Act of Parliament—one to extend it to every case reasonably within its operation, and the other to lay hold of every expression to limit and curtail the intention of the legislature.
    • Sir John Stuart, V.-C, In re Warner and Powell's Arbitration (1866), L. R. 3 Eq. Ca. 266.
  • All Acts of Parliament are to be expounded according to the true meaning to be collected from the words of 'em.
    • North, C.J., Carter v. Crawley (1681), Sir Thos. Raym. Rep. 500.
  • It is safest to keep to the Statute.
    • Lord Mansfield, Rex v. Inhabitants of Hatfield (1758), 1 Burr. Part IV. 497.
  • We ought not to decide hastily against the words of an Act of Parliament.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., King v. Justices of Flintshire (1797), 7 T. R. 200.
  • The sense and meaning of an Act must be collected from what it says when passed into a law, and not from the history of changes it underwent in the House where it took its rise. That history is not known to the other House, or to the Sovereign.
    • Willes, J., Millar v. Taylor (1769), 4 Burr. 2332, cit. Caird v. Sime, L. R. 12 App. Cas. 356.
  • No stops are ever inserted in Acts of Parliament, or in deeds; but the Courts of law, in construing them, must read them with such stops as will give effect to the whole.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., Doe d. Willis and others v. Martin and others (1790), 4 T. R. 65.
  • I do exceedingly commend the Judges that are curious and almost subtil, Astuti (which is the word used in the Proverbs of Solomon in a good sense, when it is to a good end) to invent reasons and means to make Acts, according to the just intent of the parties, and to avoid wrong and injury which by rigid rules might be wrought out of the Act.
  • We must give effect to the plain language of the legislature, according to the fair interpretation of the words of the Act.
    • Abbott, C.J., Baildon v. Pitter (1819), 1 Chit. Rep. 639.
  • With regard to the construction of statutes according to the intention of the legislature, we must remember that there is an essential difference between the expounding of modern and ancient Acts of Parliament. In early times the legislature used (and I believe it was a wise course to take) to pass laws in general and in few terms; they were left to the Courts of law to be construed so as to reach all the cases within the mischief to be remedied. But in modern times great care has been taken to mention the particular cases in the contemplation of the legislature, and therefore the Courts are not permitted to take the same liberty in construing them as they did in expounding the ancient statutes.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., Bradley and another v. Clark (1793), 5 T. R. 201.
  • We must decide according to the intention of the legislature, which is to be collected from the general object of the Act and from the particular words used in it.
    • Grose, J., Farmer v. Legg (1797), 7 T. R. 192.
  • These laws must be construed according to the intention of them: and the circumstances of things at the time of enacting them ought to be taken into consideration.
    • Wilmot, J., Rex v. Inhabitants of Burton-Bradstock (1765), Burrow (Settlement Cases), 536.
  • If it were a doubtful point how the statute should be construed, I must consider myself as bound by the construction it has already received in two Courts in Westminster Hall.
    • Giles Rooke, J., Cox v. Morgan (1801), 1 Bos. & Pull. 411.
  • In the absence of all authority, I can only look to the language of the statute.
    • Chambre, J., Barnes v. Headley (1807), 1 Camp. 164.
  • Our limited function is not to say what the legislature meant, but to ascertain what the legislature has said that it meant.
    • Mathen, J., Rothschild & Sons v. Commissioners of Inland Revenue (1894), L. R. 2 Q. B. D. [1894], p. 145.
  • However we might wish to provide for every hardship that may occur, we are bound to put that construction on the Act that the legislature intended.
    • Orose, J., Farmer v. Legg (1797), 7 T. B. 193.
  • People cannot escape from the obligation of a statute by putting a private interpretation upon its language.
    • Lord Macnaghten‎, Netherseal Colliery Co. v. Bourne (1889), L. R. 16 Ap. Ca. 247.
  • There is a great difference between the Purview of an Act of Parliament, and a Proviso in an Act of Parliament.
  • A statute cannot alter by reason of time, but the common law may.
    • Ask, J., Anon. (1649), Style's Rep. 190.
  • A Court cannot give itself jurisdiction by misconstruing a document or statute.
    • Pollock, B., Queen v. County Court of Lincolnshire and Dixon (1887), L. J. (N. S.) 57 Q. B. D. 137.
  • The statute is like a tyrant; where he comes he makes all void; but the common law is like a nursing father, makes only void that part where the fault is, and preserves the rest.
  • The statute law is the will of the legislature in writing; the common law is nothing else but statutes worn out by time; all our law began by consent of the legislature, and whether it is now law by usage or writing, it is the same thing.
    • Wilmot, L.C.J., Collins v. Blantern (1767), 2 Wils. 341.
  • Bind not the new statutes so to the common law, that their words increased for the King's advantage, should be deprived of their force.
  • Sir Henry Hobart, 1st Baronet, C.J., Sheffield v. Ratcliffe (1614), Ld. Hob. Rep. 341.
  • It is the duty of Judges, not to supply the defects of the legislature by providing a remedy, but simply to construe the provisions of the statute it has enacted.
    • Patteson, J., Gray v. The Queen (1844), 6 St. Tr. (N. S.) 150.
  • We ought to apply to this case what is called the golden rule of construction, namely, to give an Act of Parliament the plain, fair, literal meaning of its words, where we do not see from its scope that such meaning would be inconsistent, or would lead to manifest injustice.
    • Jervis,C.J., Mattison v. Hart and another (1854), 23 L. J. O. P. 114.
  • A very ingenious attempt to drive a coach-and-four through this Act of Parliament.
  • The Court is not bound to a strictness at once harsh and pedantic in the application of statutes. The law permits the qualification implied in the ancient maxim, de minimis non curat lex. Where there are irregularities of very slight consequence, it does not intend that the infliction of penalties should be inflexibly severe. If the deviation were a mere trifle, which, if continued in practice, would weigh little or nothing on the public interest, it might properly be overlooked.
    • Sir W. Scott, "The Reward" (1820), 2 Dods. Adm. R. 269, 270.

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