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A group of people who form an ascending chain of power or authority.

Officers in a government, for example, form an escalating series of ranks or degrees of power, with each rank subject to the authority of the one on the next level above. In a majority of hierarchical arrangements, there are a larger number of people at the bottom than at the top.

Originally, the term was used to mean government by a body of priests. Currently, a hierarchy is used to denote any body of individuals arranged or classified according to capacity, authority, position, or rank.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

HIERARCHY, eccl. law. A hierarchy signified, originally, power of the priest; for in the beginning of societies, the priests were entrusted with all the power but, among the priests themselves, there were different degrees of power and authority, at the summit of which was the sovereign pontiff, and this was called the hierarchy. Now it signifies, not so much the power of the priests as the border of power.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
David McElhinney, the city's executive director for central services and Mr Finnegan's immediate superior, launched an investigation into the council's news department and shortly afterwards Mr Finnegan was ordered to clear his desk.
The official, whose accusation of ball-tampering against Pakistan led to the protest which prematurely ended the fourth Test against England, emailed his immediate superior, Doug Cowie, with the proposal as the row threatened to wreck the one-day series between the two countries.
In a work situation, this means the new employee and his or her immediate superior. It is important that these exchanges are open and honest, so that appropriate responses to actual and potential difficulties can be formulated.
Initially the aggrieved should be encouraged to have an informal meeting with their immediate superior to discuss the problem and see if they can work it out without using the formality of the procedure.
Sambur, who was Druyun's immediate superior as assistant secretary for acquisition beginning in 2001, said he does not feel responsible for the scandal.
The lapses and rationalizations Rutkowski reveals bring on a return of the madness that overcame him twenty years earlier, goaded by an immediate superior whose pestilent bravado still holds him in thrall.
* Discuss the situation with her immediate superior, and confront him with her evidence that he is acting in a discriminatory manner.
Vogts' crime is also compounded by the stance taken by his immediate superior Taylor.
The sample was purposefully drawn from those employees in the banking system whose immediate superior is a woman.
IF a group of you could go to personnel together and ask them to support your going to her immediate superior to make an informal complaint, perhaps this may hold more sway.
Commander Paddick was told his fate by his immediate superior, Assistant Commissioner Mike Todd, and his new job at Scotland Yard will be in "territorial policing".
Caborn, whose immediate superior Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, announced the levy determination, gave the strongest possible indication that the Government is not impressed by what he described as "megaphone diplomacy".

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