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What does "Ex Officio" Mean?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Latin phrase “ex officio,” which is usually translated as meaning “because of someone's office,” refers to a position which someone holds because or her or his office. A classic example of a situation in which this term might be used is to describe ex officio members of subcommittees. It is common for the chairperson of a committee to be automatically placed on the membership of all subcommittees, making the chairperson an ex officio member.

In order to be designated as an ex officio member of a group, someone is not required to do anything. These members are not elected or appointed, they are simply included in the group automatically because of the offices they hold. The concept of having members of a group who are included by nature of their office dates back to Roman times, as does the term itself.

The position which gives someone ex officio rights may be one to which this person is elected or appointed. For instance, in some areas of the world, the sheriff acts as the ex officio coroner, and sheriffs may be appointed or elected, depending on the law. Generally people must demonstrate competency for the position which they hold in order to obtain it, and thus these members do have a baseline level of experience, ability, and skill which they can apply to the positions which they hold by virtue of their offices.

There are no special rights or privileges for ex officio members as a general rule, and their activities are not restricted. However, it is possible for the activities in which these members engage in to be restricted by the bylaws. For example, the bylaws may state that any such members do not have voting rights, which means that they can participate in meetings but they may not vote on subjects brought to a vote.

When structuring bylaws, people can define the situations in which people are given ex officio status and they can also clearly establish the boundaries of people who obtain positions because of the offices they hold. The goal is to avoid a situation in which a person abuses powers granted because of an office, and to set out clear rules of order for the organization so that there is no confusion in the event of controversy in the future. Bylaws can also be amended as circumstances change to meet the needs of a group which may be evolving over time.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By SteamLouis — On Jul 14, 2011

I don't think that there is a rule that ex officio members can never vote. I think it depends on the committee or board and what they've decided on. An ex officio member may be allowed to make a motion, second a motion and vote as well.

I think another issue that is confusing for some is what happens when let's say the President of a board is an ex-officio of another board or committee. Some people think that just because they hold the position of President, they will also have the right to chair and lead other boards that he or she is a member of. But that is not the case at all. No matter what position that person holds elsewhere, an ex officio member is just a member, not the chair.

By burcidi — On Jul 14, 2011

@behaviourism-- I know what you mean. It can feel as if you are not fulfilling any purpose as an ex officio, especially if you don't have a say in the decisions that are taken.

At the same time though, the rules have been established for a reason. I'm sure in the past, people who held offices used their other memberships, committees and subcommittees to further their personal professional goals. I think ex officio was established so that office holders could become more knowledgeable about their job and carry out their duties better. It's not meant to be taken advantage of in any other way.

Aside from ex-officio, there are also political offices that require the office holder to reveal all other positions they've held or are holding in other organizations, committees and so forth. The reasoning is exactly the same- so that they don't take advantage of their office to further unrelated goals.

By behaviourism — On Jul 14, 2011

I was in a lot of groups in college where because of my role in one thing, I had an exofficio rold in another group. Sometimes it bothered me, because I realized that often people with these sorts of positions, myself included, were not that interested in the things they did because of ex officio status.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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