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To assent, concur, confirm, approve, or ratify. The part of a law that is designed to secure enforcement by imposing a penalty for violation of the law or offering a reward for its observance. A punitive act taken by one nation against another nation that has violated a treaty or international law.
Sanction is a broad term with different meanings in different contexts. Sanction can be used to describe tacit or explicit approval. Used in this sense, the term usually is used in assigning liability to a party who was not actively involved in wrongdoing but who did nothing to prevent it. For example, if the upper-level managers of a business knew that their employees were using unfair employment practices and did nothing to stop them, it may be said that the managers sanctioned the unfair practices.
The term sanction also can describe disagreement and condemnation. In criminal law, a sanction is the punishment for a criminal offense. The criminal sanction for a criminal defendant varies according to the crime and includes such measures as death, incarceration, probation, community service, and monetary fines.
In civil law, a sanction is that part of a law that assigns a penalty for violation of the law's provisions. The most common civil sanction is a monetary fine, but other types of sanctions exist. Depending on the case, a sanction may be the suspension or revocation of a business, professional, or hobby license, or a court order commanding a person to do or refrain from doing something. A sanction may even be tailored to the case at hand. For instance, under rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, if a party refuses to obey a discovery order, or an order to relinquish requested evidence, the court may order that the evidence sought be automatically construed in favor of the requesting party, refuse to allow the disobedient party to make claims or defenses related to the evidence, stay or postpone the case until the discovery order is obeyed, dismiss the action or render judgment for the requesting party, declare the disobedient party in contempt of court, or make any other order that is just under the circumstances.
In civil litigation, sanctions are slightly different from remedies. A remedy is the relief accorded to a victorious litigant. The remedy may be money damages, an order that forbids or commands the opposing party or parties to do or refrain from doing a certain act or acts, or some other result favorable to the victorious litigant. Remedies are not always intended to punish a person, while sanctions are always punitive. Nevertheless, remedies and sanctions are similar in that they refer to a loss that a civil litigant must bear if she is found liable for a civil wrong.
In some cases a party may have to remedy another party's loss as well as suffer criminal and civil sanctions, all for the same act. For example, if an attorney is professionally negligent in his handling of a client's case and steals funds from the client's trust account, the attorney may face a malpractice civil suit from the aggrieved client in which the client asks for money as a remedy for the malpractice. The attorney also may suffer sanctions from the professional conduct committee of the state bar association and criminal sanctions from a prosecution for the theft.
The contempt-of-court offense provides a flexible form of sanction. Contempt-of-court sanctions may be either civil or criminal. The court may order a party to pay a fine or suffer some setback in the case (civil contempt), or it may order that the party be placed in jail (criminal contempt). The basic difference between the two is that criminal contempt is an act of disrespect toward the court, whereas civil contempt acts tend to be less offensive transgressions, such as the unintentional failure to comply with discovery orders or to perform other acts ordered by the court.
A common form of sanction is the administrative agency sanction against a corporation. Corporations must follow various rules passed by federal, state, and local administrative agencies authorized by lawmaking bodies to regulate specific topics of government concern. If a business does not obey agency rules that apply to it, it may face sanctions levied by the administrative agency responsible for enforcing the rules. For example, federal and state environmental protection agencies are authorized by statute to levy fines against businesses that violate environmental laws and regulations.
An international sanction is a special form of sanction taken by one country against another. International sanctions are measures that are designed to bring a delinquent or renegade state into compliance with expected rules of conduct. International sanctions may be either non-forceful or military. Military sanctions can range from cutting off access to limited strikes to full-scale war. Non-forceful international sanctions include diplomatic measures such as the withdrawal of an ambassador, the severing of diplomatic relations, or the filing of a protest with the United Nations; financial sanctions such as denying aid or cutting off access to financial institutions; and economic sanctions such as partial or total trade embargoes. The U.N. Security Council has the authority to impose economic and military sanctions on nations that pose a threat to peace.
"Limits of the Criminal Sanction." 2002. New Jersey Law Journal (July 29).
Pate, William H. 2002. "To Sanction or Not to Sanction: Why Arguing Against the Court's Precedent is Not an Automatic Rule 11 Violation." Campbell Law Review 25 (fall).