What is the meaning of ‘adjournment, sine die’?
When the Senate voted to acquit President Donald J. Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell closed the trial with the following statement:
“I move that the Senate sitting as a court of impeachment on the articles against Donald John Trump adjourn, sine die”
Thus bringing to an end the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history.
Along with the controversy generated by the verdict, there was a fair amount of confusion regarding the meaning of the Latin phrase Sen. McConnell employed at the end of his statement.
If you’re not an expert on legal matters or parliamentary procedure, chances are good you’ve never heard “sine die” used in a sentence. According to the U.S. Senate glossary, “adjournment sine die” means the end of a legislative session, literally “without day.”
In its standard use in Congress, the statement indicates the final adjournment of an annual or two-year congressional session, when it is anticipated that this particular body will not meet again in its present session, form, or membership.
According to the ‘Lectric Law Library, A court may also adjourn a matter sine die, which means the matter is stayed until further notice. It may also be adjourned sine die if there is no possibility of proceeding in the foreseeable future.
In the case of President Trump’s impeachment, the latter example was the usage employed by McConnell, as the sine die adjournment indicated the formal end of the trial.
While this sort of information is unlikely to benefit you on a day-to-day basis, the next time you and your friends crowd around the flat-screen with snacks and drinks in hand to watch the close of a legislative session, you’ll be able to impress them with your knowledge of this obscure legal term.