Lame Duck

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Lame Duck

An elected official, who is to be followed by another, during the period of time between the election and the date that the successor will fill the post.

The term lame duck generally describes one who holds power when that power is certain to end in the near future. In the United States, when an elected official loses an election, that official is called a lame duck for the remainder of his or her stay in office. The term lame duck can apply to any person with decision-making powers, but it is usually refers to presidents, governors, and state and federal legislators.

When a legislature assembles between election day and the day that new legislators assume office, the meeting is called a lame-duck session. On the federal level, under the Twentieth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Senate and the House of Representatives must convene on January 3 each year. Incoming legislators assume office that day, and outgoing legislators leave office that day. Thus, from the day after election day in November until late December, retiring and defeated legislators have time to pass more legislation.

Legislatures do not have to conduct lame-duck sessions. In fact, if many of their members will be new in the next legislative session, the idea of their defeated lawmakers voting on legislation may be criticized by the public—especially by those who voted for the incoming legislators. The issue of whether to conduct a session between mid-November and early January is usually decided by a vote of the legislators in office during the last session before the election. The legislature may elect to reconvene on a certain date, to adjourn at the call of the chair of either house or both houses, or to adjourn sine die (without planning a day to reconvene). Also, a lame-duck president or governor has the power to call a lame-duck session.

Lame-duck sessions may be called to pass emergency legislation for the immediate benefit or protection of the public during November or December. They also may be conducted for political purposes. For example, if a certain party stands to lose the presidency or governorship and seats in the new legislature, that party may seek to push through a few last pieces of legislation. Thus, lame-duck sessions can spawn hastily written legislation, and the finished product may be of dubious quality.

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), also known as Superfund (42 U.S.C.A. § 9601 et seq.), is a piece of lame-duck legislation. This federal statute, which regulates the cleanup of toxic waste sites, was hurriedly passed by a lame-duck Congress and signed by lame-duck president jimmy carter in December 1980. Congress crafted the statute with virtually no debate and under rules that allowed for no amendments. CERCLA is regarded as problem ridden by persons on all sides of the environmental debate.

Further readings

Kuhnle, Tom. 1996. "The Rebirth of Common Law Action for Addressing Hazardous Waste Contamination." Stanford Environmental Law Journal 15.

Thurmond, William M. 1996. "CERCLA's 'All Appropriate Inquiry': When Is Enough, Enough?" Florida Bar Journal 70 (March).


Environmental Law.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The months between the election and the inauguration--the so-called "lame duck" period-thus provided the last opportunity for the Federalists to exercise the authority of the government of the United States.
Caption: Commando Lites and the Lame Ducks (comprised of military attaches), continued their rivalry at the University of Ottawa.
That's probably the only category the Lame Duck has a chance to win because its chances of taking the grand prize are pretty much hopeless.
Alloa Angling Club, Central Scotland Police Angling Club, Eaglesham Fly Fishers, Dunfermline Angling Club, Dunfermline Railway Angling Club, Fife Arms Angling Club, GEC Ferranti Angling Club, Largs and District Angling Club, Lochgelly SRC (angling section), Lochgilphead and District Angling Club, Newton Stewart and District Angling Club, Paddock Angling Club, Penicuik Angling Club, St Boswells Newton and Districts Angling Club, Scottish Lame Ducks (Disabled) Angling Club, Stanley Angling Club, Stewarton Angling Club, Thack Angling Club.
It was a creditable performance for the Lame Ducks, who are doing well this year.
Despite having a short bench, the Lame Ducks came out flying in the first period, establishing a solid 4:1 lead.
MARCH 29, 2017 will go down in the Commando franchise history as a 'Day of Infamy.' First of all it was the Commando Lite squad being bested by a combative Lame Duck team by a convincing margin of 3:1.
As true military warriors though, the Lame Ducks practice with dedication and vigour.
As a part of their Canadian experience, the attaches are encouraged to participate in Lame Ducks' weekly hockey practices.
Many of the Lame Ducks have never skated prior to their postings to Ottawa, but mastering basic hockey skills is some thing these warriors take very seriously.
TRAILING 5:7 WITH less than two minutes to play in the game, the Lame Ducks' coaching staff decided to pull their goalie and add an extra attacker in a last-gasp effort to equalize.