Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Continuance Definition:

An adjournment of a trial or some other legal hearing.

The adjournment of a hearing from one day to another, usually a matter left to the discretion of the Court.

William Blackstone explains, in Book 3 of his Commentaries on the Laws of England, that, historically, the parties were required to stay in the Court until their case was disposed of, failing which judgment could be given against them in their absence. To avoid that, the lawyers would seek an order from the Court for a formal continuance, a Court order allowing the matter to continue on another specified day and thus:

"... proceedings are continued without interruption from one adjournment to another. If these continuances are omitted, the cause is thereby discontinued.'

In Bouvier's 1897 (American) Law Dictionary, several examples of grounds for a continuance motion are given:

  • the absence of a material witness;
  • the need to file amendments to the pleadings;
  • illness of an attorney;
  • surprise or unexpected testimony or evidence; or
  • the detention of a party.

The law of continuance is quite refined in those jurisdictions that have retained the term but in most regards, the term has fallen into disuse and replaced with the word adjournment.

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