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What Is Leave of Court?

Daphne Mallory
Daphne Mallory

A leave of court is a legal term used to describe asking the court permission to do something that the court doesn’t normally allow according to its rules and procedures. Either party can file this motion, which is often called a motion for leave. It's commonly used to ask the court to file papers or take some action after a deadline has passed. The party filing the motion has to list a good reason for requesting the court to allow the action out of time, or after the expiration of the date, in order for a court to grant the motion. The party who files the motion often asks the opposing party whether he or she will oppose the filing, and when there is no opposition, the party will indicate so in the motion.

When a court allows the action, then the party can go forward with the court’s permission. It’s often within the court’s discretion to make that decision, but the court usually has to take into account any hardship or prejudice that the other party would suffer as a result and the reason for the motion for leave of court. For example, a court may not grant a lawyer for the defense to file a motion late because he forgot the date. A court may consider a motion if the lawyer submitted an electronic version of a document but encountered technical difficulties in the process.

A leave of court request asks the court for permission to do something that it normally does not allow.
A leave of court request asks the court for permission to do something that it normally does not allow.

The other party may oppose a motion and argue that the court should not grant the motion because to do so would somehow prejudice that party’s case or give the motioning party an unfair advantage. The court signs the motion when it makes a decision. The court order is often prepared prior to a decision and submitted by the party filing the motion, along with the original motion. If the court rules in the party’s favor, it often signs the court order that was submitted.

There are a few cases in which the judge is compelled to provide a written opinion for why she grants or denies a motion, but judges often provide no opinion. Some make comments about the motion during a trial proceeding about the motion for leave of court. Either party can ask the court to reconsider its decision on a motion by filing a motion to reconsider.

FAQ on Leave of Court

What is "leave of court" and when is it required?

"Leave of court" refers to obtaining permission from a court to take a specific legal action. It is required when a procedural rule or law mandates court approval before proceeding. For instance, leave of court may be necessary to file an amended complaint after a certain deadline has passed, or to appeal a decision after the standard appeal period has expired. This ensures that legal processes are followed fairly and justly, maintaining the integrity of the judicial system.

How does one apply for leave of court?

To apply for leave of court, a party typically must submit a formal request, often called a motion, to the court. This motion should clearly state the reasons for seeking permission and include any relevant legal arguments or evidence supporting the request. The opposing party is usually given an opportunity to respond, and the court may hold a hearing to consider both sides before making a decision. The exact procedure can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the specific rules of the court involved.

Can leave of court be denied, and what happens if it is?

Yes, leave of court can be denied if the judge finds that the request is not justified or does not meet the legal requirements. If leave is denied, the party requesting it may be unable to proceed with the intended action, such as filing a late appeal or introducing new evidence. In some cases, the party may seek further review of the denial by appealing the decision to a higher court, if permitted under the law.

What are the consequences of proceeding without leave of court when it's required?

Proceeding without leave of court when it is required can result in significant consequences. The action taken without permission may be deemed invalid or void, leading to potential dismissal of a claim or defense. Additionally, the offending party may face sanctions, including fines or attorney's fees, and could potentially harm their credibility with the court. It's crucial to adhere to procedural rules to avoid these negative outcomes.

Does leave of court apply to both civil and criminal cases?

Leave of court is a concept that applies to both civil and criminal cases, although the specific circumstances under which it is required can differ between the two. In civil cases, leave may be sought for procedural matters like amending pleadings or joining parties. In criminal cases, leave might be necessary for actions such as filing an interlocutory appeal or exceeding limitations on the number of witnesses. Regardless of the case type, the underlying principle is to seek the court's permission before taking certain legal steps.

Discussion Comments


Can a party change his mind after obtaining permission from court? For example, after leave of court has been granted, is the party bound to follow through with the action/motion or can the party change his mind subsequently?


clearly explained! thanks!

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    • A leave of court request asks the court for permission to do something that it normally does not allow.
      By: Gary Blakeley
      A leave of court request asks the court for permission to do something that it normally does not allow.