While California statutes do not provide general canons of statutory construction, readers can find in the California Civil Code “Maxims of Jurisprudence”. These maxims are set forth in Division 4, General Provisions, Part 4, of the Civil Code, contained in Sections 3509 – 3548.

So, what are these maxims? A “maxim” is generally defined as “a short, pithy statement expressing a general truth or rule of conduct.” As you can read below, these sections of the Civil Code indeed provide short statements that express a rule of jurisprudence, although some may be difficult to decipher.

Part 4 of the Civil Code, which was enacted in 1872, contains 38 code sections, each setting forth a short legal rule. While most were placed in statute in 1872, some of these maxims were added to the Code in 1965. In Civil Code Section 3509, we are told that “[t]he maxims of jurisprudence hereinafter set forth are intended not to qualify any of the foregoing provisions of this code, but to aid in their just application.” Hopefully, that is clear to all.

The following are the jurisprudential maxims and their associated code section, along with the year they were placed in the Civil Code, along with my pithy commentary: