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BAR Definition & Legal Meaning

Definition & Citations:

1. A partition or railing running across a court-room, intended to separate the general public from the space occupied by the judges, counsel, jury, and others concerned in the trial of a cause. In the English courts it is the partition behind which all outer-bar risters and every member of the public must stand. Solicitors, being officers of the court, are admitted within it; as are also queen’s counsel, barristers with patents of precedence, and serjeants, in virtue of their ranks. Parties who appear in person also are placed within the bar on the floor of the court. 2. The term also designates a particular part of the court-room; for example, the place where prisoners stand at their trial, whence the expression “prisoner at the bar.” 3. It further denotes the presence, actual or constructive, of the court. Thus, a trial at bar is one had before the full court, distinguished from a trial had before a single judge at nisi prius. So the “case at bar” is the case now before the court and under its consideration ; the case being tried or argued. 4. In the practice of legislative bodies, the bar is the outer boundary of the house, and therefore all persons, not being members, who wish to address the house, or are summoned to it appear at the bar for that purpose. 5. In another sense, the whole body of attorneys and counselors, or the members of the legal profession, collectively, are figuratively called the “bar,” from the place which they usually occupy in court. They are thus distinguished from the “bench,” which term denotes the whole body of judges. 6. In the law of contracts, “bar” means an Impediment, an obstacle, or preventive barrier. Thus, relationship within the prohibited degrees is a bar to marriage. In this sense also we speak of the “bar of the statute of limitations.” 7. It further means that which defeats, annuls, cuts off, or puts an end to. Thus, a provision “in bar of dower” is one which has the effect of defeating or cutting off the dower-rights which the wife would otherwise become entitled to in the particular land. 8. In pleading, it denoted a special plea, constituting a sufficient answer to an action at law; and so called because it barred, i. e., prevented, the plaintiff from further prosecuting it with effect, and, if established by proof, defeated and destroyed the action altogether. Now called a special “plea in bar.” See PLEA IN BAB.


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