Sunday, April 7, 2013

De Minimis Non Curat Lex


Meaning: The law cares not for trifles.

This maxim may be seen as one of the principles of judicial economy―that the court should not spend its time on trifling matters, or that some trifling details should not divert court's decision on a material point.

In California, the rule is codified in CC 3533, but courts apply it in criminal context too, for instance, where "[t]he cost to the public of transporting appellant to the superior court for resentencing would far exceed [the disputed] amount." People v. Benton, 2003 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5602, 4-5 (Cal. App. 3d Dist. June 10, 2003), an unpublished case, citing People v. Turner, 96 Cal.App.4th 1409, 1414 (2002).

At least one court qualified the rule, explaining that, in the criminal case, the maxim "is concerned with harm rather than with force." Washington v. Hively, 695 F.3d 641, 643 (7th Cir. Wis. 2012).

A good collection of U.S. Supreme Court cases applying the rule is presented in Skaff v. Meridien N. Am. Beverly Hills, LLC, 506 F.3d 832 (9th Cir. Cal. 2007).

Alternative formslex non curat de minimis.

Earliest US referenceWare v. Hylton, 3 U.S. 199 (U.S. 1796), where it is already referenced to as "an old law maxim." Id. at 268.

Latest US referenceUnited States v. Nduribe, 703 F.3d 1049, 1052 (7th Cir. Ill. 2013).

Latest California referenceCalifornia v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10503 (S.D. Cal. Jan. 25, 2013), a case with some earlier California decisions on the de minimis rule cited.

Search index: 1802/1931 (Lexis); Google gives 312,000 strict search results (as of 4-7-13).

This maxim remains in regular current use. It is also popular: Lexis returned 1802 "strict" results for the exact spelling of the phrase and 1931 for the keywords to appear in the same sentence. These include the decisions where the same rule was phrased backward (45 decisions).

More history posts

1 comment:

  1. De minimis is also a doctrine in copyright law that holds an insignificant amount of a copyrighted work has been used to warrant infringement ie the copying falls below the threshold risen of substantial similarity. It is different than -but sometime confused with-the doctrine of Fair Use. One of the most famous de minimis cases is w/the brad pitt movie seven Sandoval v. New Line Cinema (2d Cir. 1998)