Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Ex Debito Justitiae Definition:

Latin: as of right.

A matter ex debito justiciae is one which a litigant is entitled merely upon the asking for it; as opposed to something which may be a matter of judicial discretio or determination.

Justice Beetz of Canada's Supreme Court, writing in Harelkin v University of Regina, adopted these words:

"Ex debito justitiae literally means as of right, by opposition to as of grace.

"A writ cannot at once be a writ of grace and a writ of right. To say in a case that the writ should issue ex debito justitiae simply means that the circumstances militate strongly in favour of the issuance of the writ rather than for refusal. But the expression, albeit Latin, has no magic virtue and cannot change a writ of grace into a writ of right nor destroy the discretion even in cases involving lack of jurisdiction."

In Schachtel v Wassman, Justice Zarzeczny used these words in reference to a litigant's right to set aside a default judgment:

"[H]e is entitled, ex debito justitiae - as a matter of right - to have the default judgment registered against him set aside."


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