Legal Meanings of “rise”

The everyday word “rise” is used in at least two different contexts in US courtroom procedure. First, when a judge enters the courtroom, the bailiff or other court official shouts out, “All rise!” to call the court to order and to signal that those present in the courtroom should stand until the judge takes his seat. Standard formulae for commencing court sessions vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but these three are typical:

“Oyez, oyez, oyez.* The Third Circuit Court of the State of New York is now in session, Judge Jones presiding. All rise!”

“All Rise! Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having any business with the Honorable Court of Appeals of Maryland draw near and give your attention. The court is now in session. God save the State and this Honorable Court,” or

“All rise! Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye! The Supreme Court of the Great State of Florida is now in session. All who have cause to plea, draw near, give attention and you shall be heard. God save these United States, the Great State of Florida and this Honorable Court.”

In a second opposite meaning, “rise” is sometimes used in the sense of adjourning a court session (levantar la sesión): “The Court rose at 2:00 pm” (Se levantó la sesión a las 14.00 horas). In this context “rise” can also refer to the final adjournment at the end of a court term (fin del año judicial), prior to summer recess (vacaciones judiciales): “Justice Stevens announced he would be retiring from the US Supreme Court effective one day after the court rises for summer recess.” “Rise” is likewise used with respect to the adjournment of parliamentary sessions: “It is expected that the 3rd reading on this Bill will occur very soon, and the House of Commons will vote on it before they rise for summer recess” (or) “The Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on the penultimate sitting day before the House of Commons rose for summer recess.”

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* As Bryan Garner notes in his Dictionary of Legal Usage (Oxford, 2011, p. 650), “oyez, oyez, oyez” is the cry heard in court to call a courtroom to order when a session begins (“oyez” being the Law French equivalent of “here ye” in the Middle Ages). Quoting Clarence Darrow: “When court opens, the bailiff intones some voodoo singsong words in an ominous voice that carries fear and respect at the opening of the rite.” It is pronounced “oh-yes” or sometimes “oh-yay.”

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