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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.

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


Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
(30) John Wesley, "Justification by Faith," in Albert C.
As noted, John Wesley stressed Cranmer's persuasiveness on justification by faith and salvation "by only Christ." The thirty-six homilies, many in several parts, deal convincingly and intelligently with key elements in Christian living (for examples, "Christian Love and Charity," "Concerning Prayer," and "Against the Fear of Death") as well as with the significance of central events in the Christian year such as the Nativity, Good Friday, Easter Day, and Whitsunday.
That emphasis was individualistic and doctrinal, forcibly reducing the variegated letters of Paul into a sonorous monotone of justification by faith. By contrast Stendahl worked to decentralized Pauline studies away from its preoccupation with the Letter to the Romans; and indeed in that letter itself he shifted attention away from the great creedal statements of its early chapters and toward an anticipated climax of salvati on-history in Romans, chapters 9-11.
A third dilemma concerns justification by faith in practice.
Though Luther produced entire volumes of tracts devoted to "justification by faith," this central conviction of Protestant belief came to him as an experiential truth.
Some readers, such as conservative Catholics who believe it impossible that Protestants should believe in the Real Presence, or Protestants whose sense of identity depends on the assertion that Catholics cannot believe in justification by faith, will feel disorientated and even made angry by this approach.
Against the prevailing heretical tendencies, Edwards delivered a series of sermons on "Justification by Faith Alone" in November 1734.
I will also aruge that the doctrine of justification by faith, in its antinomian inflexion, was one of the most radical and potentially subversive of the vectors which carried the ideas of seventeenth-century Levellers and Ranters through to the next century.
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"?
Divine?"; "Jesus and Judaism" and "Did Paul Represent or Misrepresent the Judaism of His Time?"; "Did Paul Have any Problems with the Law?"; "Did Paul Think That Jews and Jewish-Christians Must Follow Torah?"; "Was Paul's Chief Figure Justification by Faith or the Transfer of Lordship?"
The Epistles also formed the basis for later Christian interpretations of forgiveness and grace, justification by faith, and the use of the sacraments.
The Council was not simply asserting Catholic doctrine in response to Protestant challenges; O'Malley's narrative recounts the thoughtful and subtle discussion of ideas such as justification by faith. Nor was the Council simply representing papal will as evidenced by disputes among the Catholic prelates in attendance at the sessions.

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