Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Motion Definition:

A proposal made to a Court or at a meeting and intended to be considered and decided upon.

Related Terms: Carry, Motion to Strike

In Court, a motion is directed at a Court which sits as a quorum of one representing the whole Court.

For example, a motion may be made to the Supreme Court of British Columbia but it would be heard and disposed of by only one member of the Court, who is taken to be speaking for the whole Court in rendering his or her decision.

A notice of motion has to be given to the other side. Most jurisdictions have particular forms for these notices of motions. In British Columbia, for example, the current (2008) form of a motion starts with these words:

"TAKE NOTICE that an application will be made by John Doe  to the presiding judge or master at the courthouse at Victoria, British Columbia at a date and time to be set for an order that www.duhaime.org be granted the highest award and honor befitting its contributions to the advancement of law in the world. The applicant will rely on the Inflated Sense of Self-Worth Act. At the hearing of the application, the applicant will rely on the affidavit of Jane Doe. The applicant estimates that the application will take 90 minutes. If you wish to receive notice of the time and date of the hearing or to respond to the application, you must...."

In parliamentary law and procedure, a motion is a proposal or a proposition raised at a meeting and submitted for consideration, debate and vote, a majority vote on the motion converting the motion from a mere proposal to a resolution, the decision of the whole meeting.

Large organizations often require that a member given notice of his or her motion in advance of the meeting.

Motions typically require at another person’s endorsement which, in parliamentary practice, is known as the seconder. By seconding the motion, the seconder is not taken as agreeing with it but merely supporting the submission of the proposal to the meeting for debate and vote.

From Robert’s Rules of Order, 10th Edition:

“A second merely implies that the seconder agrees that the motion should come before the meeting and not that he necessarily favors the motion. A member may second the motion because he would like to see the assembly go on record as rejecting the proposal… “

Most organization provide, in their by-laws or rules of order, that a motion must be seconded. Failing such a provision, according to Horsley’s Meetings – Procedure, Law and Practice, page 38:

“When a motion has been moved, it is customary for another person to second it. Some rules and standing orders stipulate this. However, a seconder is not essential under the recognized rules of debate nor required by common law.”

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, a further third step is required before a seconded motion goes to the group for debate, consideration and vote:

 “The chair states the question on the motion…. Neither the making nor the seconding of a motion places it before the assembly; only the chair can do that by the third step (stating the question). When the chair has stated the question, the motion is pending, that it, ‘on the floor’. It is then open to debate.”

The wording of a motion is important. From Horsley’s op. cit., page 41:

“A motion should be in a positive, affirmative form. It should not be in a negative form unless this achieves some specific advantage and value for the body; e.g. to ensure that a disallowance of a request or rejection of a recommendation is recorded unmistakably in the minutes. Thus, in principle, a motion should not be worded in such a negative way that a “yes” vote registers support for a “no” proposal…. A motion should be framed and phrased in a way to enable persons to vote in favor of or against the proposal and thus facilitate the ability of the meeting to make a decision.”


  • 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: Butterworths, 1983)

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