Word of the Week in Law: Quash (not to be confused with “reverse”)

Word of the Week

When the same word gets mistranslated over and over again, translators usually get the blame. But translators are not always at fault. When it comes to the law, there are terms that even lawyers get wrong, and that incorrect usage becomes so widespread in the source language that it filters through to the target language. One such word in English is “quash” which is often misused to mean “reverse.”

Back in 1961 when HLA Hart wrote The Concept of Law, these terms were already being commonly misused by legal professionals in England; and, after discussing this issue with a colleague of mine in the US, it would seem these terms are still being misused today even by lawyers on the other side of the pond. So, just to add clarity to two commonly confused terms, let’s see what Hart had to say about what these terms actually mean and how they differ from each other:

“It is to be noted that there is an important difference between what is spoken of in England as a ‘reversal’ by a superior court of an inferior court’s order and the ‘quashing’ of an order for lack of jurisdiction. If an order is reversed, it is because what the lower court has said either about the law applicable to the case or the facts, is considered wrong. But an order of the lower court which is quashed for lack of jurisdiction may be impeccable in both these respects. It is not what the judge in the lower court has said or ordered that is wrong, but his saying or ordering of it. He has purported to do something which he is not legally empowered to do though other courts may be so empowered. But for the complication that, in the interests of public order a decision given in excess of jurisdiction stands till quashed by a superior court, conformity or failure to conform to rules defining the conditions for the valid exercise of powers by private individuals.”

  1 comment for “Word of the Week in Law: Quash (not to be confused with “reverse”)

  1. July 12, 2018 at 5:31 am

    Good post Paula, I enjoyed reading it. Thanks.


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