Court orders

Re Goyal and ACN 154 520 199 [2018] FCA 129

What happens when court orders are less than clear?  This case (at [28-29]) makes 2 points – (A) if the orders are immediately plain, they ‘speak for themselves’, and (B) if they are ambiguous, the ‘ordinary rules of construction’ apply. 

In situations of ambiguity, evidence of surrounding circumstances is then available to resolve the issue5 – the ‘primary reference point’ being the judgment.  Court orders, therefore, are interpreted broadly in the same way as contracts6.  This is a little different to how legislation is approached where, by contrast,  extrinsic materials are to be consulted at the outset and without the need first to find ambiguity. 

This case is from Episode 35 of interpretationNOW!


5 Codelfa (1982) 149 CLR 337 (at 352), Ellison [2018] FCAFC 44 (at [155]).

6 See Episodes 20 and 32.