Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.


At Common Law, that extinction of Civil Rights and capacities that took place whenever a person who had committed Treason or a felony received a sentence of death for the crime.

The effect of attainder upon a felon was, in general terms, that all estate, real and personal, was forfeited. In common law, attainder resulted in three ways: by confession, by verdict, and by process or outlawry. The first case was where the prisoner pleaded guilty at the bar, or having fled, confessed guilt and abjured the realm to save his or her life. The second was where the prisoner pleaded not guilty at the bar, and the jury brought in a verdict against him or her. The third, when the person accused made his or her escape and was outlawed.

In England, by statute 33 & 34 Vict. c. 23, attainder upon conviction, with consequent corruption of blood, Forfeiture, or Escheat, was abolished. In the United States, the doctrine of attainder is now scarcely known, although during and shortly after the Revolution acts of attainder were passed by several of the states. The passage of such bills is expressly forbidden by the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 9).

Bills of attainder are special acts of the legislature that inflict capital punishments upon persons supposed to be guilty of high offenses, such as treason and felony, without any conviction in the ordinary course of judicial proceedings. If an act inflicts a milder degree of punishment than death, it is called a bill of pains and penalties, but both are included in the prohibition in the Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 9).

The term attainder is derived from attincta, Latin for stained or blackened. When attainder occurred, the condemned person was considered to bear a mark of infamy that corrupted his or her blood. Attainder was eventually abolished in England by statute.In the United States, attainder is scarcely known today, although several states enacted acts of attainder during the Revolutionary War period. A few states consider the disqualification of a person impeached and convicted to hold any government office to be a type of attainder. Attainder is akin to the concept of civil death, the forefeiture of certain rights and privileges upon conviction of a serious crime.


formerly the extinction of a person's civil rights resulting from a sentence of death or outlawry on conviction for treason or felony; an obsolete procedure not unlike IMPEACHMENT.

ATTAINDER, English criminal law. Attinctura, the stain or corruption of blood which arises from being condemned for any crime.
     2. Attainder by confession, is either by pleading guilty at the bar before the judges, and not putting one's self on one's trial by a jury; or before the coroner in sanctuary, when in ancient times, the offender was obliged to abjure the realm.
     3. Attainder by verdict, is when the prisoner at the bar pleads not guilty to the indictment, and is pronounced guilty by the verdict of the jury.
     4. Attainder by process or outlawry, is when the party flies, and is subsequently outlawed. Co. Lit. 391.
     5. Bill of attainder, is a bill brought into parliament for attainting persons condemned for high treason. By the constitution of the United States, art. 1, sect. 9, Sec. 3, it is provided that no bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.

References in periodicals archive ?
Before the trial could conclude and the Lords come to judgement, the Commons abandoned the treason charges in favour of a bill of attainder.
In response to the argument that the legislation was a bill of attainder, the Court found that Nixon was a "legitimate class of one" because Congress acted on the basis of permissible reasons--the preservation of presidential records--that at the time applied only to him.
When sentence of death, the most terrible and highest judgment in the laws of England, is pronounced, the immediate inseparable consequence by the common law is attainder.
14) Because the BOCs would have been able to enter long-distance markets without satisfying the requirements of Section 271 if their bill of attainder argument had somehow prevailed, they had less motivation to attempt to do so until the argument was finally rejected by the courts.
I, [section] 9 ("No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
841, 846-47 (1984) (defining a bill of attainder as
While recent scholarship has examined the Bill of Attainder Clause in the modern context, (8) the issue of its direct application to administrative or executive agencies has been largely undeveloped.
escribe Madison: <<Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and
But after further legal consultation, (92) Ryder and the Solicitor-General decided that "it was impossible to prepare [a pardon for Lord MacLeod] with such a condition as is proposed by attainder, as any pardon by attainder would leave him capable of inheriting notwithstanding his own treason.
If the legislature were to control these procedural criminal rights, their actions could amount to an unconstitutional "bill of attainder," (26) under which the legislature may act judicially to criminally punish a person or group that it believes deserves punishment, without the protection of due process of law.
Emergency laparotomy was done with right salpingectomy & left tubectomy not done as the patient & attainder did not give the consent for tubectomy, with intra-op findings right tubal abortion with minimal collection of 500ml & products of conception sent for HPR.
act constituted an impermissible Bill of Attainder, (42) is