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Sub judice is a Latin phrase that literally interpreted means 'under judgment.' It is used to refer to situations that are currently in the process of being decided by the court system. This could mean matters that a judge is taking under consideration, as well as items that are being litigated and may be heard by a jury.
This term is sometimes used by attorneys to refer to the case at hand. They normally make this reference while they are in the courtroom. They do this in order to recognize that the case they are arguing is being heard and acknowledged by the judicial system.
In many countries, it can be considered a crime for members of the press to make comments on pending litigation. This is often true in criminal cases because doing so might prejudice potential members of the jury. Often, contempt of court charges may be brought against journalists who make statements about cases that are sub judice, or yet to be decided.
The fact that writing articles about a case can cause it to be tainted was one reason why published material about pending litigation was sometimes referred to as sub judice in America prior to 1981. In that year, the U.S. Contempt of Court Act was passed. This law states that media coverage of an event is only capable of swaying public opinion during the time of the trial itself. For this reason, newspaper or magazine articles about most cases are no longer referred to with this term.
Many times, court cases are pending for some time before they can be heard by a judge or jury. A matter is typically said to be sub judice from the time the first pleadings or written motions are filed with the court. It is no longer thought to be so once a final decision has been rendered or the case has been dismissed. This is because it then has the status of having been decided, rather than being under advisement.
Having a case be sub judice, or under judgment, is the foundation for the legal system of many countries throughout the world. This is because the right to a fair trial in both civil and criminal matters is a fundamental right of citizens in most cases. Preserving the integrity of the courts can play a crucial role in making sure the civil liberties of people are not violated.
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