Showing posts from June, 2017

English Language and English Law

I doubt whether anybody penning his or her ‘last will and testament’ ever considered why he or she was not simply making a will. It is probably attributed to long-standing usage, and therefore any innovation such as (horror!) omitting the ‘and testament’ might create some ambiguity, or, even worse, an incorrigible legal defect resulting in a family feud lasting generations. Lawyers probably encouraged this kind of thinking so that ordinary people (that is, their paying clients) understood that the lawyer was a real professional and his ways might be questioned only at considerable personal risk. In fact the explanation is quite mundane and relatively sensible. ‘Will’ is Anglo-Saxon or Old English for the same thing as the Norman-French-derived ‘testament’. In both cases the word simply means a legal document disposing of one’s property on death. Legal drafters were sensitive to possibly different nuances of these two words. After all I ‘will’ this article into existence (an intention…

Does the “Basic Structure Doctrine” Apply in Singapore’s Constitution? An Inquiry into Some Fundamental Constitutional Premises

[This appears as ch.2 of Jaclyn Neo (ed), Constitutional Interpretation in Singapore: Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2016). The chapter argues that the basic structure doctrine has no application in Singapore, given the nature of its constitutional history. If you follow my argument it will be clear that I do not, however, imply that it does not apply elsewhere.]
Any form of constitutional interpretation engages, or should engage, with fundamental constitutional principles. Purely pragmatic or knee-jerk solutions could prove very awkward if the deep structural implications of a particular interpretation are not carefully considered as a matter of legal reasoning within a particular frame of reasoning. In a rule-of-law society, consistency in the way the law deals with difficult issues such as constitutional interpretation is of the utmost importance, and therefore lawyers are always concerned with “basic structure”” in one way or another: the chapters in this book are a…