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International Alliance for Advanced Judicial Studies (IAAJS)

Decree

 

A decree is a rule of law usually issued by a head of state (such as the president of a republic or a monarch), according to certain procedures (usually established in a constitution). It has the force of law. The particular term used for this concept may vary from country to country. The executive orders made by the President of the United States, for example, are decrees (although a decree is not exactly an order). In non-legal English usage, however, the term refers to any authoritarian decision. Documents or archives in the format of royal decrees or farming were issued by rulers.

Except for the reserve powers of the President (as stated in Art. 16 of the 1958 Constitution, exercised only once so far), the executive can issue decrees in areas that the Constitution grants as the responsibility of Parliament only if a law authorizes it to do so. In other cases, orders are illegal and, should anyone sue for the order's annulment, it would be voided by the Council of State. There exists a procedure for the Prime Minister to issue ordinances in such areas, but this procedure requires Parliament's express consent (see Art 38 of the 1958 Constitution).

Only the prime minister may issue regulatory or application decrees. Presidential decrees are generally nominations or exceptional measures where law mandates a presidential decree, such as the dissolution of the French National Assembly and the calling of new legislative elections.

A decree (Latin: decretum) in the usage of the canon law of the Catholic Church has various meanings. Any papal bull, brief, or motu proprio is a decree inasmuch as these documents are legislative acts of the pope. In this sense the term is quite ancient. The Roman Congregations were formerly empowered to issue decrees in matters which come under their particular jurisdiction, but were forbidden from continuing to do so under Pope Benedict XV in 1917. Each ecclesiastical province and also each diocese may issue decrees in their periodical synods within their sphere of authority.

According clause 77 of the Italian Constitution, "The Government may not, without an enabling act from the Houses, issue decrees having the force of ordinary law. When in extraordinary cases of necessity and urgency the Government adopts provisional measures having the force of law, it must on the same day present said measures for confirmation to the Houses which, even if dissolved, shall be summoned especially for this purpose and shall convene within five days. The decrees lose effect from their inception if they are not confirmed within sixty days from their publication. The Houses may however regulate by law legal relationships arising out of not confirmed decrees."

Decree of the President of the Republic (Portuguese: decreto do Presidente da Republica): is a decree issued by the President of Portugal, for the ratification of international treaties, the appointment or dismissal of members of the Government or to exercise other presidential powers defined in the Constitution.

In the United Kingdom, Orders-in-Council are either primary legislation deriving their authority from the Royal Prerogative, promulgated by the Privy Council in the name of the Monarch; or secondary legislation, promulgated by a Minister of the Crown using authority granted by an Act of Parliament or other primary legislation. Both are subject to judicial review, the former with some exceptions.

A decree is often a final determination, but there are also interlocutory decrees. A final decree fully and finally disposes of the whole litigation, determining all questions raised by the case, and it leaves nothing that requires further judicial action; it is also appealable. An interlocutory decree is a provisional or preliminary decree that is not final and does not fully determine the suit, so that some further proceedings are required before entry of a final decree. It is usually not appealable, although preliminary injunctions by federal courts are appealable even though interlocutory.

Executive orders, which are instructions from the President to the executive branch of government, are decrees in the general sense in that they have the force of law, although they cannot override statute law or the Constitution and are subject to judicial review.

 
 

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