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To assent, concur, confirm, approve, or ratify. The part of a law that is designed to secure enforcement by imposing a penalty for violation of the law or offering a reward for its observance. A punitive act taken by one nation against another nation that has violated a treaty or International Law.

Sanction is a broad term with different meanings in different contexts. Sanction can be used to describe tacit or explicit approval. Used in this sense, the term usually is used in assigning liability to a party who was not actively involved in wrongdoing but who did nothing to prevent it. For example, if the upper-level managers of a business knew that their employees were using unfair employment practices and did nothing to stop them, it may be said that the managers sanctioned the unfair practices.

The term sanction also can describe disagreement and condemnation. In Criminal Law, a sanction is the punishment for a criminal offense. The criminal sanction for a criminal defendant varies according to the crime and includes such measures as death, incarceration, Probation, community service, and monetary fines.

In Civil Law, a sanction is that part of a law that assigns a penalty for violation of the law's provisions. The most common civil sanction is a monetary fine, but other types of sanctions exist. Depending on the case, a sanction may be the suspension or revocation of a business, professional, or hobby license, or a court order commanding a person to do or refrain from doing something. A sanction may even be tailored to the case at hand. For instance, under rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, if a party refuses to obey a discovery order, or an order to relinquish requested evidence, the court may order that the evidence sought be automatically construed in favor of the requesting party, refuse to allow the disobedient party to make claims or defenses related to the evidence, stay or postpone the case until the discovery order is obeyed, dismiss the action or render judgment for the requesting party, declare the disobedient party in Contempt of court, or make any other order that is just under the circumstances.

In civil litigation, sanctions are slightly different from remedies. A remedy is the relief accorded to a victorious litigant. The remedy may be money damages, an order that forbids or commands the opposing party or parties to do or refrain from doing a certain act or acts, or some other result favorable to the victorious litigant. Remedies are not always intended to punish a person, while sanctions are always punitive. Nevertheless, remedies and sanctions are similar in that they refer to a loss that a civil litigant must bear if she is found liable for a civil wrong.

In some cases a party may have to remedy another party's loss as well as suffer criminal and civil sanctions, all for the same act. For example, if an attorney is professionally negligent in his handling of a client's case and steals funds from the client's trust account, the attorney may face a Malpractice civil suit from the aggrieved client in which the client asks for money as a remedy for the malpractice. The attorney also may suffer sanctions from the professional conduct committee of the state bar association and criminal sanctions from a prosecution for the theft.

The contempt-of-court offense provides a flexible form of sanction. Contempt-of-court sanctions may be either civil or criminal. The court may order a party to pay a fine or suffer some setback in the case (civil contempt), or it may order that the party be placed in jail (criminal contempt). The basic difference between the two is that criminal contempt is an act of disrespect toward the court, whereas civil contempt acts tend to be less offensive transgressions, such as the unintentional failure to comply with discovery orders or to perform other acts ordered by the court.

A common form of sanction is the Administrative Agency sanction against a corporation. Corporations must follow various rules passed by federal, state, and local administrative agencies authorized by lawmaking bodies to regulate specific topics of government concern. If a business does not obey agency rules that apply to it, it may face sanctions levied by the administrative agency responsible for enforcing the rules. For example, federal and state environmental protection agencies are authorized by statute to levy fines against businesses that violate environmental laws and regulations.

An international sanction is a special form of sanction taken by one country against another. International sanctions are measures that are designed to bring a delinquent or renegade state into compliance with expected rules of conduct. International sanctions may be either non-forceful or military. Military sanctions can range from cutting off access to limited strikes to full-scale war. Non-forceful international sanctions include diplomatic measures such as the withdrawal of an ambassador, the severing of diplomatic relations, or the filing of a protest with the United Nations; financial sanctions such as denying aid or cutting off access to financial institutions; and economic sanctions such as partial or total trade embargoes. The U.N. Security Council has the authority to impose economic and military sanctions on nations that pose a threat to peace.

Further readings

"Limits of the Criminal Sanction." 2002. New Jersey Law Journal (July 29).

Pate, William H. 2002. "To Sanction or Not to Sanction: Why Arguing Against the Court's Precedent is Not an Automatic Rule 11 Violation." Campbell Law Review 25 (fall).


1) a financial penalty imposed by a judge on a party or attorney for violation of a court rule, for receiving a special waiver of a rule, or as a fine for contempt of court. If a fine, the sanction may be paid to the court or to the opposing party to compensate the other side for inconvenience or added legal work due to the rule violation. Examples: a) under local rules Bagatelle's attorney is required to file a brief in response to the opposition's motion five days before the hearing, but is two days late. The judge accepts the documents, but imposes a $200 sanction on Bagatelle's attorney for the failure to file them on time. b) Campbell's lawyer wants to include a newly-found expert in his list of witnesses, but the date for adding to the list has passed. The judge permits the added witness, but allows the opposition to take the expert's deposition, and imposes a sanction (fine) on Campbell to pay both sides' costs of the deposition and $500 attorney's fees to the opposing counsel. Defendant Danny Dipper says "you son-of-a-bitch" in court when the Judge fines him $100 for jay-walking. The judge imposes a sanction of $200 and a day in jail for Danny's contempt of court. 2) v. to impose a fine or penalty as part of a judge's duty to maintain both order and fairness in court. 3) v. in international law, to impose economic constraints on trade against a country that violates international law or is guilty of human rights violations. 4) v. to allow or approve. This is ironically in contrast to the other meanings of "sanction." (See: contempt of court)


(Permission), noun acceptance, affirmance, affirmation, agreement, allowance, approbation, approval, assent, auctoritas, authorization, charter, confirmatio, consent, cooperation, countenance, empowerment, encouragement, endorsement, favor, grant, homologation, immunity, indulgence, legality, license, permit, ratification, seal, stamp of approval, subscription, sufferance, support, tolerance, toleration, vouchsafement, willingness
Foreign phrases: Multa conceduntur per obliquum quae non conceduntur de directo.Many things are allowed indirectly which are not allowed directly.


(Punishment), noun condemnation, deprivation, disciplinary action, discipline, infliction, penal retribution, penalty, retributive action, suffering


verb accede, accept, acquiesce, agree to, allow, approbate, approve, assent to, authenticate, charter, confer a privilege, confer a right, confirmare, consent to, countenance, empower, enable, endorse, foster, give approval, give permission, go along with, grant, gratify, homologate, indulge, legitimate, legitimize, license, permit, privilege, promote, ratify, ratum facere, stand behind, subscribe to, suffer, support, tolerate, uphold, validate, vouchsafe
Associated concepts: civil sanctions, criminal sanctions, penal sanctions
See also: abide, accept, acceptance, accredit, acquiescence, adoption, advantage, advocacy, advocate, agree, allow, appoint, approval, approve, assent, authority, authorize, bear, bestow, bind, brevet, capacity, certify, compulsion, concede, concession, concur, confirm, confirmation, consent, constitute, copyright, corroborate, countenance, countersign, decree, delegate, discretion, dispensation, documentation, droit, embrace, empower, enable, endorse, enfranchise, establish, exception, favor, fiat, force, franchise, grant, indorse, indorsement, indulgence, invest, leave, legality, legalization, legalize, legislate, legitimate, let, liberty, license, obligate, option, organize, pass, permission, permit, prefer, prerogative, privilege, promote, qualify, ratification, reassure, recommend, recommendation, right, seal, sign, subscription, support, sustain, title, tolerate, uphold, validate, vest, warrant

SANCTION. That part of a law which inflicts a penalty for its violation, or bestows a reward for its observance. Sanctions are of two kinds, those which redress civil injuries, called civil sanctions; and those which punish crimes, called penal sanctions. 1 Hoffm. Leg. Outl. 279; Just. Ins. lib. 2, t. 1, Sec. 10; Ruthf. Inst. b. 2, c. 6, s. 6; Toull. tit. prel. 86; Ferguss. Inst. of Mor. Phil. p. 4, c. 3, s. 13, and p. 6, c. 1, et seq; 1 Bl. Com. 56.

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trade sanctions have an inherent extraterritorial application even when the nexus with the United States is indirect.
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Transnational Publications (Ardsley, NY) has released "Environmental Sovereignty and the WTO: Trade Sanctions and International Law," a book that examines how WTO law can contribute to achieving coherence between general international law, international environmental law and international trade law and avoid conflicts between trade liberalization and global environmental protection.
When a country or region wins a case before a WTO arbitration panel, it is authorized to impose punitive trade sanctions against the loser.
Codex Alimentarius standards can now be imposed upon the 136 current WTO member nations through the use of severe trade sanctions for countries that fail to comply with CAC regulations.
The first time Section 421 was tested was in 2003, but thus far, no trade sanctions have been applied against China under the ruling of Section 421.
This would provide Canadian industry with protection from trade sanctions for a minimum of five years, the Canadian Industry Softwood Lumber Negotiating Position states.