Abuse Of Discretion Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Abuse Of Discretion, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Abuse Of Discretion?

n. if a judge and not a jury have decided issues of fact, an appellate court will apply an abuse of discretion standard of review. Examples would include very harsh sentences, unrealistic fines or punishments, stopping a witness from testifying, etc. The appellate might reverse lower court’s decisions if and only if it clearly becomes a abuse of discretion case.

History and Meaning of Abuse Of Discretion

"Abuse of discretion" is a legal term that refers to a situation where a judge or other legal authority has acted in an unreasonable or arbitrary manner. The term is used primarily in appellate law, where a higher court is reviewing a lower court's decision or where administrative agencies are reviewing their own decisions. The idea behind the concept is that judges, while granted some discretion under the law, cannot exercise that discretion in ways that are clearly unfair, unjust, or outside the bounds of reason.

An "abuse of discretion" can involve any number of actions or decisions taken by a judge or other authority figure. For example, a judge who imposes a harsh sentence that goes well beyond what would be considered reasonable under the circumstances could be accused of abusing their discretion. Similarly, a judge who rules that a key witness cannot testify in a criminal trial might be accused of acting unreasonably or unfairly.

Examples of Abuse Of Discretion

  1. A judge imposes a fine of $1 million against a defendant who committed a relatively minor offense.

  2. An immigration judge denies an asylum application despite overwhelming evidence that the applicant would face persecution or harm if returned to their home country.

  3. A zoning board rejects a proposed development plan that conforms to all relevant laws and regulations without giving any justifiable reason.

Legal Terms Similar to Abuse Of Discretion

  1. Arbitrary and capricious: A legal term used to describe a decision that is made without reason or justification.

  2. Abuse of process: A legal term that occurs when a person uses the legal system in a way that is meant to harm another person rather than seeking a just outcome.

  3. Judicial discretion: The ability of a judge to make decisions based on their own judgment in certain legal matters.