Nisi Prius Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Nisi Prius?

It is a phrase used for the original lower level or trial court (thus called “court of orginal jurisdiction”) where the case was first heard by the judge and the jury, irrespective of where it is heard now. A common meaning is ” unless before”.

History and Meaning of Nisi Prius

Nisi Prius is an old English legal term that can be traced back to the early 14th century. It means "unless before" and refers to the trial court where a case was first heard before a judge and jury. In England, it was originally a term used for the assize courts, which were traveling courts that heard civil and criminal cases in different parts of the country. In the United States, it is commonly used to refer to trial courts at the state level.

Examples of Nisi Prius

  1. The case was heard in Nisi Prius court before being appealed to the state supreme court.
  2. The witness testified in Nisi Prius court that he saw the defendant commit the crime.
  3. The judge in Nisi Prius court instructed the jury on the burden of proof.
  4. The plaintiff filed a complaint in Nisi Prius court to seek damages for breach of contract.
  5. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the case in Nisi Prius court.

Legal Terms Similar to Nisi Prius

  1. Court of Original Jurisdiction - Refers to the court in which a case is first heard and determined.
  2. Trial Court - A court of original jurisdiction that conducts trials and decides cases based on the evidence presented.
  3. Appellate Court - A court that reviews decisions made by lower courts.
  4. Circuit Court - A court of general jurisdiction that hears a wide range of cases, including civil and criminal matters.
  5. Superior Court - A trial court of general jurisdiction that hears civil and criminal cases and handles appeals from lower courts.