Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Non Potest Rex Gratiam Facere Cum Injuria Et Damno Aliorum Definition:

The king cannot confer a favor on one subject which occasions injury and loss to others.

Related Terms: Rex Nunquam Moritur, Rex Non Potest Peccare

The point of this maxim, and historical context, was to prevent the monarch from intervening in a civil or even a criminal case and playing favourites by issuing a pardon, ordering the dismissal of a lawsuit between two private parties, or dismissing an appeal.

When first developed, it was done incrementally and timidly as this maxim was not popular with the monarch who believed, as they do no more, that their rights over their subjects were fettered by no mortal maxim.

James Ballentine rendered non potest rex gratiam facere cum injuria et damno aliorum as follows:

"The king cannot grant an indulgence attended with injury upon another."

Writing in the National University of Juridical Sciences Law Review, Roha Sahai wrote:

"It is settled law in England, that the right of pardon is confined to offences of a public nature where the Crown is prosecutor and has some vested interest either in fact or by implication, and where any right or benefit is vested in a subject by statute or otherwise, the Crown, by a pardon, cannot affect it or take it away.

Non potest rex gratiam facere cum injuria et damno aliorum"This restriction to the pardoning power in England is derived from the Latin maxim, non potest rex gratiam facere cum injuria et damno aliorum, meaning, the king cannot confer a favour on one subject to the injury and damage of others.

"Under this principle, the Crown cannot enable a subject to erect a market or fair so near that of another person so as to affect his interest therein...."

 

In Hoffa v Saxbe, Justice John Pratt of the United States District Court, District of Columbia rendered the maxim as follows:

"Only one limitation on the King's prerogative might be considered inherent to the pardoning power itself. The King, as sovereign, could forgive any offense against the crown but could not absolve a subject's liability to another party because to do so would be to extinguish the personal rights of a private suitor. As Blackstone put it, the King had no power to pardon "where private justice is principally concerned" under the doctrine of non potest rex gratiam facere cum injuria et damno aliorum - the king cannot confer a favour by the injury and loss of others."

REFERENCES:

  • 4 Bl. Comm. 398
  • Ballentine, James, Ballentine's Law Dictionary (Rochester: Lawyers Co-op. Publishing Co., 1969), page 860
  • Broom, Herbert, A Selection of Legal Maxims Classified and Illustrated, 10th Ed., (London: Sweet & Maxwell Limited, 1939), pages 31-32.
  • Hoffa v. Saxbe, 378 F. Supp. 1221 (1974)
  • Sahai, Rohan, Limits of the Pardoning Power under the Indian Constitution, 2 NUJS L. Rev. 283 (2009)

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