Privilege (legal ethics)

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For other uses, see Privilege (disambiguation).

A privilege is a special entitlement to immunity granted by the state or another authority to a restricted group, either by birth or on a conditional basis. It can be revoked in certain circumstances. In modern democratic states, a privilege is conditional and granted only after birth. By contrast, a right is an inherent, irrevocable entitlement held by all citizens or all human beings from the moment of birth. Various older privileges, such as the old common law privilege to title deeds, may still exist, but be of little relevance today.[1] Etymologically, a privilege (privilegium) means a "private law", or rule relating to a specific individual or institution.

Boniface's abbey of Fulda, to cite an early and prominent example, was granted privilegium, setting the abbot in direct contact with the pope, bypassing the jurisdiction of the local bishop.

One of the objectives of the French Revolution was the abolition of privilege. This meant the removal of separate laws for different social classes (nobility, clergy, and ordinary people), instead subjecting everyone to the same common law. Privileges were abolished by the National Constituent Assembly on August 4, 1789.

One common legal privilege in the United States is protection from the requirement to testify or provide documents in certain situations (see subpoena duces tecum and privilege (evidence)).

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References[edit]

  1. ^ Suzanna McNichol, The Law of Privilege (1st ed., 1992)