Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Hillary Term Definition:

The first of four English court terms during the calendar year.

Related Terms: Trinity Term, Michaelmas Term, Easter Term

Historically, the courts in England divided the calendar year into four distinct "Terms", making for a predictable work schedule for the court apparatus including judges and lawyers, and also accommodating the harsh travel conditions then extant.

Hilary Term began on January 23 and lasted for three weeks and one day; thus ending in the middle of February. As such, it was the first term of court hearings in the calendar year.

Hillary Term was followed by a long judicial holiday during which the court did not sit until the Easter Term which started on the first Wednesday two weeks after Easter and then ran for three weeks and six days.

samples of references to Hillary and Michaelmas termsIf an ongoing matter did not end at the end of a Term, it was adjourned over to the first day of the following Term.

The other terms of the judicial calendar were known as the Michaelmas Term, and the Trinity Term.

John Bouvier, in his 1914 legal dictionary, offered this description of a "Term" and of the former four Terms in England, and reflecting that, later, the Terms began and ended on set dates:

"... a space of time during which a court holds a session....

"In England, Hillary Term is from January 12 to April 12; Easter (Term) from April 21 to May 29; Trinity (Term) from June 9 to July 31; and Michaelmas (Term) from October 12 to December 21.

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