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A sufficient or acceptable excuse or explanation made in court for an act that is otherwise unlawful; the showing of an adequate reason, in court, why a defendant committed the offense for which he or she is accused that would serve to relieve the defendant of liability.

A legal excuse for the performance or nonperformance of a particular act that is the basis for exemption from guilt. A classic example is the excuse of Self-Defense offered as justification for the commission of a murder.


noun adjustment, allowance, clarifying statement, clearance, compurgation, defense, exculpation, excusatio, excuse, exonerating circumstance, exonerating fact, exoneration, explanation, exposition, extenuation, ground for excusing, legal defense, mitigating circummtance, mitigation, palliation, purgatio, rationalization, reason, reasonable excuse, reasoning, statement of defense, vindication
Associated concepts: justification for committing an unlawful act, legal cause
See also: alibi, authority, basis, capacity, compurgation, corroboration, defense, determinant, excuse, explanation, ground, precedent, pretext, right, support



JUSTIFICATION. The act by which a party accused shows and maintains a good and legal reason in court, why he did the thing he is called upon to answer.
     2. The subject will be considered by examining, 1. What acts are justifiable. 2. The manner of making the justification. 3. Its effects.
     3.-1. The acts to be justified are those committed with a warrant, and those committed without a warrant. 1. It is a general rule, that a warrant or execution, issued by a court having jurisdiction, whether the same be right or wrong, justifies the officer to whom it is directed and who is by law required to execute it, and is a complete justification to the officer for obeying its command. But when the warrant is not merely voidable, but is absolutely void, as, for want of jurisdiction in the court which issued it, or by reason of the privilege of the defendant, as in the case of the arrest of an ambassador, who cannot waive his privilege and immunities by submitting to be arrested on such warrant, the officer is no longer justified. 1 Baldw. 240; see 4 Mass. 232; 13 Mass. 286, 334; 14 Mass. 210. 2. A person may justify many acts, while acting without any authority from a court or magistrate. He may justifiably, even, take the life of an aggressor, while acting in the defence of himself, his wife, children, and servant, or for the protection of his house, when attacked with a felonious intent, or even for the protection of his personal property. See Self- defence. A man may justify what would, otherwise, have been a trespass, an entry on the land of another for various purposes; as, for example, to demand a debt due to him by the owner of the land to remove chattels which belong to him, but this entry must be peaceable; to exercise an incorporeal right; ask for lodging's at an inn. See 15 East, 615, note e; 2 Lill. Ab. 134; 15 Vin. Ab. 31; Ham. N. P. 48 to 66; Dane's Ab. Index, h.t.; Entry. It is an ancient principle of the common law, that a trespass may be justified in many cases. Thus: a man may enter on the land of another, to kill a fox or otter, which are beasts against the common profit. 11 H. VIII. 10. So, a house may be pulled down if the adjoining one be on fire, to prevent a greater destruction. 13 H. VIII. 16, b. Tua res agitur paries cum proximus ardet. So, the suburbs of a city may be demolished in time of war, for the good of the commonwealth. 8 Ed. IV. 35, b. So, a man may enter on his neighbor to make a bulwark in defence of the realm. 21 H. VIII. b. So, a house may be broken to arrest a felon. 13 Ed. IV. 9, a; Doder. Eng. Law. 219, 220. In a civil action, a man may justify a libel, or slanderous words, by proving their truth, or because the defendant had a right, upon the particular occasion, either to write and publish the writing, or to utter the words; as, when slanderous words are found in a report of a committee of congress, or in an indictment, or words of a slanderous nature are uttered in the course of debate in the legislature by a member, or at the bar, by counsel, when properly instructed by his client on the subject. See Debate; Slander; Com. Dig. Pleader, 2 L 3 to 2 L 7.
     4.-2. In general, justification must be specially pleaded, and it cannot be given in evidence under the plea of the general issue.
     5.-3. When the plea of justification is supported by the evidence, it is a complete bar to the action. Vide Excuse.

References in periodicals archive ?
As noted, John Wesley stressed Cranmer's persuasiveness on justification by faith and salvation "by only Christ.
That emphasis was individualistic and doctrinal, forcibly reducing the variegated letters of Paul into a sonorous monotone of justification by faith.
A third dilemma concerns justification by faith in practice.
But that, for much of the eighteenth century, the doctrine of justification by faith was--and was seen to be--the more "dangerous" heresy.
Is it true that Johnson was an Augustinian Christian and, therefore, that "the foundation of the whole edifice of [his] religion" was "the doctrine of justification by faith alone"?
The Pauline literature, especially in the Book of Romans, makes the case for religious justification by faith alone, while the Book of James seems to state the very opposite--'faith without works is dead.
Levenson adroitly analyzes, in text and context, the nexus of the Apostle Paul's salvific mandate to the Nations, justification by faith, and redemption by the atonement death of Christ.
It is instructive to note that the Reformation theology of justification by faith alone meant that the centuries-old practice of intercession for the souls of the dead by the living was discontinued.
John Calvin, a French theologian of the Protestant Reformation, publishes his groundbreaking Institutes of the Christian Religion, in Basel, Switzerland, in which he expounds the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, justification by faith alone and the supremacy of God in selecting individuals for salvation.
Their topics include the problem of intellectual reform, synchronic contingency and the significance of Cornelis Elleboogius' Disputationes de Tetragrammato to the analysis of his life and work, Melanchthonian thought in Gisbertus Voetilus' scholastic doctrine of God, justification by faith and the early Arminian controversy, omniscient and eternal God, Edwardsian theodicy, and why a trinitarian dynamics requires open scholasticism.
He presents strong evidence which makes clear the rejection of the doctrine of justification by faith, and the emphasis instead placed on good works.
As a corollary to his proclamation of justification by faith and his opposition to the sacrifice of the Mass, Martin Luther denied the notion that souls in purgatory could be assisted by prayers and indulgences.

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