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In common-law-pleading, any of several types of defenses that could be asserted against a plaintiff's Cause of Action, delaying the time when the court would begin consideration of the actual facts in the case.
Under Common Law, a plaintiff began the lawsuit and drew up a paper reciting the events that supported his or her claim to relief. The defendant was entitled to enter a plea responding to the plaintiff's allegations. If the defendant's plea required the court to decide some threshold question not related to the merits of the plaintiff's case, it was called a dilatory plea. For example, a plea to the jurisdiction challenged the authority of the court to hear the kind of matters described by the plaintiff. A plea in suspension presented facts to justify a temporary halt to the proceedings, such as when a guardian was needed for one of the parties. A plea in abatement objected to the place, manner, or time of the lawsuit; it did not defeat the plain-tiff's claim entirely but, if successful, forced the plaintiff to renew the suit in another form, place, or time.
Federal courts and states that follow the pattern of Pleading permitted by the rules of federal Civil Procedure no longer specifically allow dilatory pleas. The same assertions can be made by motion, but the motions may sometimes be called dilatory pleas by persons complaining that they unnecessarily delay proceedings.