Judicial Discretion Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Judicial Discretion?

It refers to the inherent powers of the judge to pass a judgement without interference of the rules laid in the statues or rulebooks. Their discretion in certain range in deciding is accepted by the higher court if the judge is not bias or does not go beyong their authority. As in child custody, the judge can take its own decision on the basis of his/her understanding of the case.

History and Meaning of Judicial Discretion

Judicial discretion is a concept that has its roots in ancient legal systems, but its modern meaning has evolved over time. Today, it is the power of a judge to make decisions in cases that are not explicitly dictated by laws or statutes. The term is often associated with family law cases, where a judge may have to make decisions about child custody or visitation rights. It is also frequently used in criminal law cases where a judge must decide on a sentence that is appropriate for a particular crime.

Judicial discretion is typically limited by certain legal standards, such as the need to avoid bias or to adhere to certain legal precedents. Nevertheless, it is an important tool that judges use to ensure that justice is served in a particular case. As long as the judge's decisions are not arbitrary or capricious, they are usually given deference by higher courts.

Examples of Judicial Discretion

  1. In a child custody case, a judge may use their discretion to decide the best custody arrangement for a child based on the unique circumstances of the case, rather than simply following a predetermined set of guidelines.
  2. In a criminal case, a judge may use their discretion to impose a sentence that takes into account the particular circumstances of the crime and the defendant's background, rather than simply applying a mandatory minimum sentence.
  3. In a civil case, a judge may use their discretion to allow or disallow certain evidence or testimony, based on their assessment of its relevance and reliability.

Legal Terms Similar to Judicial Discretion

  1. Judicial Review: The power of a court to review the actions of other branches of government and to strike down laws or regulations that are deemed unconstitutional or unlawful.
  2. Stare Decisis: The legal principle that courts should follow precedent and abide by prior rulings in similar cases.
  3. Prosecutorial Discretion: The power of a prosecutor to decide whether to bring criminal charges against a defendant, and what charges to bring.