Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Dies Dominicus Non Est Juridicus Definition:

Latin: Sunday is not a day for judicial or legal proceedings.

Related Terms: Sabbath Breaking

This Latin maxim has, at its origin, the 4th of the Ten Commandments, to keep Sunday "holy"; later, Sunday was said to be the day of the week upon wich Jesus resurrected.

According to the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales:

"The first formal laws requiring Sunday observance under pain of punishment are attributed by virtually all authorities to the Roman Emperor Constantine in 321 A.D.... From the fifth century onwards most of Europe was under the sway of Christendom and laws requiring the observance of Sunday as part of the Christian religion became normal....

"In Saxon England laws regulating behaviour on Sunday were inspired by the edicts of the Holy Roman Empire and were in force at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. Thereafter Sunday observance in England (and Europe generally) declined and it was not until the fifteenth century that strong legislation began to reappear.

The maxim was incorporated into statute in 1676 with the Sunday Obervance Act that prohibited legal proceedings or the execution of judicial service or other warrants on a Sunday except for high crimes.

The statute at 29 Car. 2, Chapter VII, An Act for the Better Observation of the Lord's Day, Commonly Called Sunday, stated that:

"[E]very person whatsoevershall on the Lord's day apply themselves to the observation of the same, by exercising theselves thereon in the duties of piety and true religion publicly and privately....

"No person whatsoever shall do or exercise any worldly labour, business or work of their ordinary calling upon the Lord's Day."

At one point, the space made for religious observance was so large that even contracts entered into on a Sunday were suggested to be void on that basis (see Drury v Defontaine, page 135-136).


  • Broom, Herbert, A Selection of Legal Maxims Classified and Illustrated, 10th Ed., (London: Sweet & Maxwell Limited, 1939).
  • Drury v Defontaine, 1 Taunt. 131 (1808)
  • Law Reform Commission of New South Wales, Report 37 (1983) - Community Law Reform Program Third Report: Service of Civil Process on Sunday (1983)

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