Just cause is a legal term that refers to a legally permissible or sufficient reason. The phrase may apply to many legal situations, including eviction of tenants, termination of employees, and restraint or termination of parental rights. Litigants in civil proceedings must also prove just cause to file and proceed with a case. The phrase means that a person is acting in a reasonable manner given the circumstances. Courts interpret and determine the existence of just cause after reviewing the relevant facts of each case.
Laws protect tenants from unfair eviction by unscrupulous landlords or owners by establishing appropriate reasons for a lawful eviction. The eviction statutes generally apply to landlords or owners of buildings with greater than five units. Legal reasons for eviction include considerable damage to the property, failure to pay the rent, or habitual late payment of rent. Landlords may also evict tenants who use the rental unit for illegal purposes or create a nuisance. If a resident undergoes eviction without a just cause, the landlord is required to offer rental of the unit to the wrongfully evicted tenant before renting the involved unit to someone else.
Custodial interference, which is a criminal offense, is any action by a party that restricts, limits, or inhibits a parent's legal custody of his child. If, however, the action taken prevents harm to the child or advances the best interests of the child, courts will often decide that just cause existed to justify the action. Conditions that may satisfy the just cause requirement for courts to limit visitation, remove a child from custody of a parent, or terminate parental rights include child abuse, child endangerment, negligence, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. If a court finds a parent to be inadequate or incompetent in his parental responsibility, the judge's overriding priority will be to attend to the best interest and welfare of the child.
Just cause also applies to an employer's prerogative to discipline or discharge an employee. Many state statutes, as well as union contracts, require that an employer has an appropriate cause for terminating an employee. The just cause standard also may require that the company investigate the matter carefully and notify the employee before the disciplinary action. In addition, courts determine whether the rules governing the conduct for which the employee is being fired are clear, reasonable and evenly enforced. Finally, the degree of the discipline must reasonably match the offense and the employee's previous work record.