Words of judgments

Military Rehabilitation v May [2016] HCA 19 

This case (at [52]) reminds us that when a judge explains what statutory words mean, their reformulation cannot be substituted for those words and construed as if it were the statutory text3.  Unlike statutes, the meaning of judgments isn’t found by analysing the specific words used by the judge.  Instead, read the rest of the judge’s reasoning to find the underlying concept or principle and use this to interpret the statute4

Similarly, judgments are based on a particular set of facts and a certain statutory scheme, and they may be less relevant in other contexts.  iTip – never treat a judge’s words like a statutory definition.

This case is from Episode 16 of interpretationNOW!


Baini [2012] HCA 59 (at [14]); Cooper Bros [2013] AATA 99 (at [58-60]).

Brennan v Comcare (1994) 50 FCR 555 (at 572).