Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Adjective Law Definition:

Procedural law.

Related Terms: Procedural Law

Odgers called it:

"... the procedure by which rights are enforced and wrongs redressed."

Often distinguished from substantive law, which sets out rights and wrongs, adjective law supports substantive law.

Adjective law, for which most modern jurists now prefer the term procedural law, includes those parts of the law which are concerned with the enforcement of the law and the process of seeking relevant relief from a court.

In Re Jag Diswar Singh, the Canadian Immigration Appeal Board, member Weselak writing the decision for the majority, wrote extensively on point, concluding by adopting these words:

"Law is sometimes described as being substantive or adjective.

"Substantive law is that which has an independent standing, and determines the rights and obligations of persons in particular circumstances.

"Adjective law is dependent or subsidiary, and prescribes the procedure for obtaining a decision according to substantive law."

Odgers commented on the value of effective procedural or adjective law as follows:

"The wisest measure conferring rights or imposing duties will be inoperative if no adequate remedy be provided in case those rights are violated or those duties neglected."

And one must remember the wise words of Gerald Nokes' 1962 book, An Introduction to Evidence:

"... neither substantive nor adjective law is divided into the equivalent of watertight compartments. It is now familiar knowledge that, in the infancy of courts of justice, Substantive Law had at first the look of being secreted in the interstices of procedure; but while in modern times substantive law takes precedence over procedure, the borderline between them is occasionally blurred."


  • Nokes, G., An Introduction to Evidence (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1962), p. 30.
  • Odgers, W. B., The Common Law of England (London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1911), page 951.
  • Re Jag Diswar Singh, 8 IAC 174 (1969)

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