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WordsofLaw

Words of Law is a regular feature of Massachusetts Law Updates, highlighting a particular word or phrase and its meaning in law.

Today’s phrase is sua sponte.

sua sponte (s[y]oo- Ə spon-tee). [Latin “of one’s own accord; voluntarily”] Without prompting or suggestion; on its own motion <the court took notice sua sponte that it lacked jurisdiction over the case>. • A multimember court may use the form nostra sponte [Latin “of our own accord”] to distinguish its collective action from that of a single judge. – Also termed sponte sua.

Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th ed., Editor in Chief, Bryan A. Garner, Thomson Reuters, 2014.

An example of use of the phrase appears in Abate v. Fremont Investment & Loan, 470 Mass. 821. “As a component of subject matter jurisdiction, a party may challenge, or a judge may consider, sua sponte, standing under rule 12 (b) (1) at any time.”

Another example appears in the notes to Massachusetts Guide to Evidence, section 601 “Competency.” In regard to the competency of a criminal defendant, “The trial judge has a duty to act sua sponte whenever there is ‘a substantial question of possible doubt’ as to the defendant’s competency to stand trial.”

 

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