A pronouncement is an authoritative statement from a party invested with the legal power to make a statement like a declaration of death or a formal declaration of opinion in a court case. Such statements usually need to follow a specific legal formula and must be made in front of witnesses as well as appropriately recorded to make sure they become part of the permanent legal record pertaining to a matter. Records of pronouncements can be found on file at courthouses and the offices of regional clerks, depending on what kind of statement a researcher is looking for.
Two common examples of pronouncements that happen outside a courthouse are official statements from doctors and members of the clergy. Doctors have the power to declare a patient legally dead after following appropriate protocols to verify that the patient is dead and cannot be revived; they will announce a death and note the time so it can be entered into the patient's chart and used to prepare a death certificate. Members of the clergy as well as certain other people with legal powers to do so can pronounce individuals married in a wedding ceremony. The wedding is recorded on a document signed by witnesses who saw the wedding and heard the pronouncement.
In court, a pronouncement is an official statement from a judge, including a ruling in a case or a response to a motion filed by an attorney. It is a legally binding decision and will be recorded by the court clerk, who will also make note of when it occurred and who was present at the time. In the event of questions about pronouncements made in court, the clerk can reference the record to get more information and provide details.
Some professions come with the legal authority to make pronouncements in certain situations, and members of these professions receive training in how to make pronouncements. This can include verifying the circumstances of a situation and issuing a formally worded statement; a member of the clergy, for example, verifies that both parties to a wedding are of age and have consented freely, and can ask to inspect the marriage license and any other paperwork to confirm the identities of the participants.
If a legal pronouncement is made in error or for fraudulent purposes, it must be corrected, and there may be penalties for cases where fraud is involved. The penalties for a false pronouncement can include stripping a practitioner of a license or assessing fines and other penalties like jail time.