Without Day

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A term used to describe a final ending or adjournment of a session of a legislature or a court; the English translation of the Latin phrase sine die.

When a state legislature or Congress makes a final adjournment of a legislative session, the presiding officer typically ends the session by announcing to the body that "the house (or senate) stands adjourned, sine die." The use of the phrase sine die, or its English equivalent, without day, is more than a legal formality carried over from the common law. The use of without day signifies finality and triggers constitutional requirements that the governor or president must meet if he wishes to sign legislation that has been passed in the last days of a legislative session.

For example, the president of the United States has ten days to sign or veto a bill. If Congress adjourns without day before the ten days have expired, however, and the president has not signed the bill, it is said to have been subjected to a pocket veto. A pocket veto deprives Congress of the chance to override a formal veto. State governors have similar pocket veto powers.

In addition, once a legislature makes a final adjournment, it generally cannot call itself back into special session. In this situation the governor or president is authorized to call a special session of the legislature. The legislature, however, retains the right to adjourn the special session. If a legislature merely recesses for a holiday or vacation break, it may reconvene at its discretion.

In the modern legal system, without day has little importance as a legal formality. At one time it meant the final dismissal of a case. The Latin phrase Quod eat sine die ("that he go without day") was the old form of a judgment for the defendant; it had the effect of discharging the defendant from any further appearances in court.