Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Communis Error Facit Jus Definition:

Latin: Common error makes right.

Or, as the Supreme Court of Michigan wrote in Magreta v. Ambassador Steel Company:

"Communis error facit jus spells out, as I recall, that common error makes law."

The maxim that assists the law in resolving situations where many persons have innocently committed an error and were the errors to be strictly applied, would suffer unfairly. For example, where a process error runs rampant in the registration of land titles for several years and is then discovered with the potential effect of vacating titles of thousands of conveyances, a judge might invoke communis error facit jus to resolve the legal crisis and unfairness of such a legal mess to innocent land owners.

Of course, the maxim is fraught with danger:

"The maxim communis error facit jus, though said to be dangerous in its application, because it sets up a misconception of the law, for destruction of the law, might here find a safe and proper application, and make it one of the some case in which it is said the law so favors the public good, that it will permit a common error to pass for right."

So wrote Justice Grier of the Supreme Court of United States in Pease v. Peck.

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