Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Adjourn Definition:

The postponement, suspension and interruption of an ongoing hearing or meeting to resume at some future date; to break off for later resumption.

At common law, a meeting is deemed to have the power to adjourn itself although many by-laws, rules or other constitutional documents vests this authority exclusively with the chair of a meeting, if the chair is supported by a majority of members.

Judges typically have the power to adjourn the hearing of a case such as §33 of the Supreme Court of Canada Act:

"The Court may adjourn any session from time to time and meet again at the time appointed for the transaction of business."

In parliamentary law and procedure, according to Horsley's Meetings – Procedure, Law and Practice, p. 84, the word is sometimes misused and is:

"... acquiring a further, derived meaning of 'close, conclude or finish'…. When a meeting concludes its business and finishes, the customary term is 'closes' (not 'adjourns') even if some agenda items have not been dealt with and are left over until a later meeting."

Contrast this statement with Robert's Rules of Order, 10th Edition (2000) which states:

"To adjourn means to close the meeting."

In a meeting, a motion to adjourn, if seconded and accepted by the chair, takes precedence over the debate then occurring, if any, is debated and put to a vote.

In Procedures for Meetings and Organizations:

"The motion (to adjourn) formally closes the meeting. Any unfinished business dies with the meeting and can only be considered at another meeting if specifically placed on the new agenda. The motion can be moved at any time during the meeting, but the move or cannot interrupt a speaker who has the flor. If the motion is passed, the meeting closes abruptly."


  • Kerr, K. and King, H., Procedures for Meetings and Organizations (Toronto: Carswell, 1996), page 210.
  • Kerr v Wilkie 6 Jurist Reports, New Series 383 (1860)
  • Stoughton v Reynolds 1736 Fortescue's King's Bench Reports 168
  • Robert, H., Robert's Rules of Order, 10th Edition (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Publishing, 2000)
  • Taggart, W. J., Horsley's Meetings – Procedure, Law and Practice, 2nd Edition (Sydney: Butterworth, 1983)

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