Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Functus Officio Definition:

Latin: an officer or agency whose mandate has expired either because of the arrival of an expiry date or because an agency has accomplished the purpose for which it was created.

Mostly it refers to the lack of authority of a judge to rehear a case after it has rendered judgment; they are "void of office".

In Chandler v Alberta Association of Architects, Justice Sopinka wrote in relation to the principle of functus officio:

"The general rule (is) that a final decision of a court cannot be reopened....

"The rule applied only after the formal judgment had been drawn up, issued and entered, and was subject to two exceptions: where there had been a slip in drawing it up, and where there was an error in expressing the manifest intention of the court."

In the context of criminal law, Ruby wrote:

"The expression functus officio means having discharged a duty.

"When used in relation to a court, it may also mean  whose duty or authority has come to an end.

"Once a court has passed a valid sentence after a lawful hearing, it is functus officio and cannot repoen the case."

Many losing litigants misunderstand the finality of a judicial decision and hope to re-engage the court by suggesting a missed point or new evidence. To promote finality of judicial decisions which would otherwise be subject to applications to reopen the case by all disappointed litigants, once a decision is issued, the judge loses his/her authority to further rule on it. He/she is without authority; no longer seized of the litigation; functus officio. This leaves the litigant with the sole recourse of an appeal.


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