What Does "Quaere" Mean?

G. Wiesen

Quaere is a legal term that is effectively used as a conjunction within a statement to indicate that what follows is not based on what preceded it. Specifically, this term is typically used in legal briefs and other documents to indicate that further information is needed with regard to part of a statement. Someone may write the first part of a statement to indicate what was found based on existing evidence or testimony. The use of the phrase “quaere” then splits that first part from the second part of the statement that follows, which could indicate potential findings that would require additional evidence or information to justify them.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

In Latin, the word “quaere” means “inquire” or “question.” This meaning is similar to the legal meaning of the term, though it does not typically mean that part of a statement is literally a question. Instead, this term is typically used to indicate to the reader that he or she should consider whether part of a statement is correct. When “quaere” is used within a statement, it usually indicates to a reader that he or she should assume that what follows is not supported by existing knowledge though it is worthy of consideration.

Within a legal context, the word “quaere” often acts as a conjunction in a sentence, joining two parts of a sentence together. Much like the word “but” in standard usage, it joins the two parts together by indicating that there is conflict between them. In the instance of “quaere,” this conflict arises due to the fact that one part of a statement is based on factual evidence while the following part is not. The second part of the statement is being presented to give a reader something to consider or question with regard to future findings or additional evidence that may come to light.

An example of how this term can be used would be someone stating that “It is clear that the defendant knew his wife was in the trunk when he drove it into the lake and is guilty of murder, though quaere whether he would be guilty if he had not known she was in the trunk.” In this example, the term is used to posit a question to the reader or listener of the statement. While the first part of the statement expresses one idea, guilt due to proven knowledge, the second statement that follows “quaere” expresses the opposite idea, lack of guilt due to ignorance, for consideration in future or similar cases.

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