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A written application from a person or persons to some governing body or public official asking that some authority be exercised to grant relief, favors, or privileges.

A formal application made to a court in writing that requests action on a certain matter.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees to the people the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. Petitions are also used to collect signatures to enable a candidate to get on a ballot or put an issue before the electorate. Petitions can serve as a way of pressuring elected officials to adhere to the position expressed by the petitioners.

The right to petition the government for correction of public grievances derives from the English Magna Charta of 1215 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689. One of the colonists' objections to British rule before the American Revolution was the king's refusal to act on their petitions of redress. The Founders attempted to address this concern with the First Amendment, which affirms the right of the people to petition their government. Almost all states adopted similar guarantees of petition in their own constitutions.

Between 1836 and 1840, abolitionists collected the signatures of two million people on petitions against Slavery and sent them to the U.S. House of Representatives. In the early twentieth century, states passed laws allowing initiative (the proposing of legislation by the people) and recall (an election to decide whether an elected official should be removed from office). Both processes start with the collection of a minimum number of signatures on a petition. Small political parties often use petitions to collect signatures to enable their candidates to be placed on the election ballot.

Petitions are also directed to courts of law and administrative agencies and boards. A petition may be made ex parte (without the presence of the opposing party) where there are no parties in opposition. For example, the executor of an estate may file a petition with the probate court requesting approval to sell property that belongs to the estate or trust.

In contested matters, however, the opposing party must be served with the petition and be given the opportunity to appear in court to argue the merits of the issues it contains. A prisoner may file a petition for a writ of Habeas Corpus, in which the prisoner requests a hearing to determine whether he or she is entitled to be released from custody because of unconstitutional or illegal actions by the government. The prisoner must serve the government office that prosecuted him or her with a copy of the petition. The writ of habeas corpus, like many other types of writs, is discretionary; the court is free to deny the petition.

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


1) n. a formal written request to a court for an order of the court. It is distinguished from a complaint in a lawsuit which asks for damages and/or performance by the opposing party. Petitions include demands for writs, orders to show cause, modifications of prior orders, continuances, dismissal of a case, reduction of bail in criminal cases, a decree of distribution of an estate, appointment of a guardian, and a host of other matters arising in legal actions. 2) a general term for a writing signed by a number of people asking for a particular result from a private governing body (such as a homeowners association, a political party, or a club). 3) in public law a petition may be required to place a proposition or ordinance on the ballot, nominate a person for public office, or demand a recall election. Such petitions for official action must be signed by a specified number of registered voters (such as five percent). 4) v. making a formal request of a court, presenting a written request to an organization's governing body signed by one or more members. 5) in some states a suit for divorce is entitled a petition, and the parties are called petitioner and respondent. (See: motion, writ, divorce, petitioner)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


a formal application in writing made to a court asking for some specific judicial action. In Scotland there is a technical distinction between a petition and a summons.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

PETITION. An instrument of writing or printing containing a prayer from the person presenting it, called the petitioner, to the body or person to whom it is presented, for the redress of some wrong, or the grant of some favor, which the latter has the right to give.
     2. By the constitution of the United States the right "to petition the government for a redress of grievances," is secured to the people. Amend. Art. 1.
     3. Petitions are frequently presented to the courts in order to bring some matters before them. It is a general rule, in such cases, that an affidavit should be made that the facts therein contained are true as far as known to the petitioner, and that those facts which he states as knowing from others be believes to be true.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
However, a debtor that successfully contests and obtains dismissal of an involuntary bankruptcy petition can assert a broad range of damage claims against the petitioning creditors.
On May 31, 2018, three creditors of QDOS filed an involuntary Chapter 11 petition against QDOS, QDOS responded by moving to dismiss the involuntary petition, in part by challenging the standing of one of the petitioning creditors, Felice Terrigno ("Terrigno"), for failing to satisfy Section 303(b)(1), In advance of a hearing scheduled on August 8, 2018, the bankruptcy court published a tentative ruling granting QDOS's motion to dismiss the involuntary petition, disqualifying Terrigno--and, therefore, finding there were less than the requisite three petitioning creditors needed to support the involuntary petition.
But as the history of suffrage petitioning shows us, focusing on the lack of immediate results misses the point of petitioning.
The court initially ruled that Blixseth had at least 12 creditors and, therefore, a minimum of three petitioning creditors with unsecured claims totaling at least $14,425, not subject to a bona fide dispute as to liability or amount, had to join the involuntary petition.
Motion 428 also proposes the petitioning process be further reformed to enhance the role and impact of petitions in Parliament.
The First Circuit ruled that the petitioning creditor was eligible to participate in the involuntary bankruptcy filing where a portion of the creditors judgment claim, based on discrete claims consisting of guaranteed obligations, was not subject to a bona fide dispute as to liability or amount.
Before I conclude, allow me to bring up certain other points that concern the petitioning of the National Assembly.
The petitioning creditors must also prove that the debtor is generally not paying its debts that are not otherwise subject to a bona fide dispute as to liability or amount, as such debts become due.
If the debtor contests the involuntary petition, the petitioning creditors must also prove, as a prerequisite to being granted relief on the involuntary petition, that the debtor is generally not paying its debts that are not otherwise subject to a bona fide dispute as to liability or amount as such debts become due.
Now the existence of disputes concerning either liability or the amount of a petitioning creditor's claim may give rise to a bona fide dispute that would disqualify the petitioning creditor and risk dismissal of the involuntary petition.
The court ruled that the debtor/agency had to prove a legitimate factual or legal basis for disputing the petitioning creditors' claims in order to raise a bona fide dispute that would defeat their involuntary bankruptcy petition.
The procedure for an involuntary petition is that petitioning creditors file an involuntary petition with the Bankruptcy Court in the district where the debtor has primarily conducted its business for the last six months.