attainder

attainder
/euh tayn"deuhr/, n.
1. the legal consequence of judgment of death or outlawry for treason or felony, involving the loss of all civil rights.
2. Obs. dishonor.
[1425-75; late ME, n. use of AF attaindre to convict, OF ataindre to convict, ATTAIN]

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In English law, the extinction of civil and political rights after a sentence of death or outlawry, usually after a conviction of treason.

A legislative act attainting a person without trial was known as a bill of attainder. The most important consequences of attainder were forfeiture of property and "corruption of blood," meaning that the attainted person was disqualified from inheriting or transmitting property, thus disinheriting his descendants. All forms of attainder except forfeiture following indictment for treason were abolished in the 19th century. As a result of the English experience, the U.S. Constitution provided that "no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted." The U.S. Supreme Court has also struck down as bills of attainder such things as the test oaths passed after the Civil War to disqualify Confederate sympathizers from certain professions.

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law
      in English law, the extinction of civil and political rights resulting from a sentence of death or outlawry after a conviction of treason or a felony (felony and misdemeanour).

      The most important consequences of attainder were forfeiture and corruption of blood. For treason, an offender's lands were forfeited to the king. For felonies, lands were forfeited to the king for a year and a day and then, because felonies were considered a breach of the feudal bond, escheated (forfeited) to the lord from whom the offender held his tenure. Subsequently, in Magna Carta (1215), the crown renounced its claim to forfeiture in the case of felony. Even harsher than attainder was the doctrine of corruption of blood, by which the person attainted was disqualified from inheriting or transmitting property and his descendants were forever barred from any inheritance of his rights to title. All forms of attainder—except the forfeiture that followed indictment for treason—were abolished during the 19th century.

      As a result of the English experience, the framers of the Constitution of the United States (Constitution of the United States of America) provided (Article III, Section 3) that “the Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.”

      Historically, a legislative act attainting a person without a judicial trial was known as a bill of attainder or—if punishment was less than death—as a bill of pains and penalties. The power of Parliament to declare guilt and impose punishment by such measures was well established by the 15th century. During the Wars of the Roses (Roses, Wars of the) (1455–85), bills of attainder were used by rival factions to rid themselves of each other's leaders, and later King Henry VIII (reigned 1509–47) induced both the House of Lords (Lords, House of) and the House of Commons (Commons, House of) to pass such bills against ministers whom he had ceased to trust. Unlike impeachment, which is a judicial proceeding in the House of Lords on charges made by the House of Commons, a bill of attainder was a legislative act adopted by both houses with the formal consent of the king. The offenses charged in such bills were usually characterized as treason but did not have to satisfy established legal definitions of that or any other crime. Thus, bills of attainder have generally been deplored not only because they deprived the accused of a fair trial but also because of their typically ex post facto (ex post facto law) quality. The dominant faction of the legislature could make any past conduct that it found offensive into a crime. In England the last bill of attainder was against Lord Edward Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald, Lord Edward), who was condemned to death by an act of Parliament for leading the 1798 rebellion in Ireland. The last bill of pains and penalties, introduced in 1820, led to a legislative trial of Queen Caroline (Caroline of Brunswick-Lüneburg), wife of King George IV, on charges of adultery, but the bill was not passed.

      Acts of attainder or of pains and penalties were passed by some of the American colonial legislatures until the Constitution forbade them. In applying these prohibitions, the Supreme Court of the United States has expanded the historical conception of attainder. It invoked these clauses in 1867 in Cummings v. Missouri and Ex parte Garland to strike down loyalty oaths passed after the American Civil War to disqualify Confederate sympathizers from practicing certain professions. Similarly, in United States v. Lovett (1946), the court invalidated as a bill of attainder a section of an appropriation bill forbidding the payment of salaries to named government officials who had been accused of being subversive. Later decisions, however, have declined to treat requirements of loyalty oaths as bills of attainder, though they have invalidated such requirements on other grounds.

      Nixon v. Administrator of General Services (1977) held that the Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act was not a bill of attainder even though the law referred to President Richard Nixon (Nixon, Richard M.) by name. This law directed the administrator of the General Services Administration to seize tape recordings, papers, and other materials then in Nixon's possession. The law did not impose a punishment and did not evidence a congressional intent to punish. In light of the fact that Nixon was the only president to resign under threat of impeachment by the House of Representatives, the court held that the “appellant constituted a legitimate class of one.”

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • attainder — at·tain·der /ə tān dər/ n [Anglo French atteinder, from ateindre to convict, sentence, literally, to reach, attain, ultimately from Latin attingere to reach, from ad to + tangere to touch]: the termination of the civil rights of a person upon a… …   Law dictionary

  • Attainder — • An Act of Parliament for putting a man to death or for otherwise punishing him without trial in the usual form Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Attainder     Attainder      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Attainder — At*tain der, n. [OF. ataindre, ateindre, to accuse, convict. Attainder is often erroneously referred to F. teindre tie stain. See {Attaint}, {Attain}.] 1. The act of attainting, or the state of being attainted; the extinction of the civil rights… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • attainder — [ə tān′dər] n. [ME atteindre < Anglo Fr atteinder, inf. used as n. < OFr ataindre (see ATTAIN); sense infl. by ME atteinten, ATTAINT] 1. forfeiture of property and loss of civil rights of a person sentenced to death or outlawed: see BILL OF …   English World dictionary

  • attainder — (n.) extinction of rights of a person sentenced to death or outlaw, mid 15c., from noun use of O.Fr. ataindre to touch upon, strike, hit, seize, accuse, condemn (see ATTAIN (Cf. attain)). For use of French infinitives as nouns, especially in… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Attainder — In English criminal law, attainder or attinctura is the metaphorical stain or corruption of blood which arises from being condemned for a serious capital crime (felony or treason). It entails losing not only one s property and hereditary titles,… …   Wikipedia

  • attainder — /ateyndar/ At common law, that extinction of civil rights and capacities which took place whenever a person who had committed treason or felony received sentence of death for his crime. The effect of attainder upon such felon was, in general… …   Black's law dictionary

  • attainder — /ateyndar/ At common law, that extinction of civil rights and capacities which took place whenever a person who had committed treason or felony received sentence of death for his crime. The effect of attainder upon such felon was, in general… …   Black's law dictionary

  • attainder — [ə teɪndə] noun historical the forfeiture of land and civil rights suffered as a consequence of a sentence of death for treason or felony. Phrases act (or bill) of attainder an item of legislation inflicting attainder without judicial process.… …   English new terms dictionary

  • attainder — The state into which the offender was placed by operation of law when sentence was pronounced against him for a capital offense, by the ancient common law. The three principal incidents of attainder were forfeiture of property, corruption of… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

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