Adjournment sine die (from the Latin "without day") means "without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing". To adjourn an assembly sine die is to adjourn it for an indefinite period. A legislative body adjourns sine die when it adjourns without appointing a day on which to appear or assemble again.
It can be used in reference to United States legislatures whose terms or mandates are coming to an end, and it is anticipated that this particular body will not meet again in its present session, form, or membership. A legislative body adjourned in this way may be called back into special session, a reason why sine die adjournment rather than dissolution may be preferred in some cases.
A court may also adjourn a matter sine die, which means the matter is stayed until further notice. This may be due to various reasons. For example, if the case is started with a wrong procedure chosen, the judge may adjourn the matter sine die, so that the party may choose to start the action again with the correct procedure. It may also be thus adjourned if there is no possibility of proceeding in the foreseeable future—for example, an action may be adjourned sine die if the defendant is in prison and there is no prospect of continuing the action at that time. In a sine die adjournment of this type, the hearing stands open indefinitely, and could theoretically be resumed if the situation changed.
United States usage
Adjournment sine die—as in "The One Hundred Tenth Congress of the United States closed its second session today by adjourning sine die"—is an adjournment until the next session of Congress, there usually being at least two sessions[note 1] to each numbered Congress—e.g., the 110th Congress met in 2007 (first session) and in 2008 (second session). The next numbered Congress would have a different membership: Some members would not be running for election again, while others might not win reelection. Sine die adjournments in the Congress typically do not have a date certain, but rather are determined by the Speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the Senate at a later time.
James Madison ended his long chronicle of the Philadelphia Convention with the following: "The Constitution being signed by all the members present except Mr. Randolph, Mr. Mason, and Mr. Gerry, who declined giving it the sanction of their names, the Convention dissolved itself by an adjournment sine die."
The final entry in the Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America reads: "The hour of 2 o'clock having arrived, / The Speaker announced that the House stood adjourned sine die" (7 J. Cong. C.S.A. 796, Mar. 18, 1865).
In the Florida Legislature, the term refers to a traditional adjournment ceremony. During this ceremony, the respective sergeant-at-arms from both the Florida Senate and the Florida House of Representatives, step outside their chambers holding up a handkerchief. When they meet in between the chambers, they both drop the handkerchiefs, signifying the end of the legislative session.
Hong Kong usage
On 28 June 1997, Andrew Wong, President of the last Legislative Council of Hong Kong as a British crown colony (which was to be dissolved by the incoming sovereign power over Hong Kong, the People's Republic of China, and replaced by a provisional legislature), declared at the end of its last session: "In accordance with the Standing Orders of the Legislative Council, I now adjourn the Council, sine die."
- Various United States Congresses have held a third session, though not since 1940
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- Glossary - Latin Terms: Sine Die Archived 2010-06-29 at the Wayback Machine Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, Retrieved May 16, 2011
- "Adjournment sine die", US Senate Glossary, Retrieved July 18, 2009
- Erickson, Brenda (2012). "Glossary of Legislative Terms". National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved December 9, 2012.
- Dughi, Don (1979). "Sine Die Handkerchief Ceremony-Florida State Capitol". Florida State Library and Archives.
- "Tallahassee not only capitol with 'sine die' traditions - Florida Politics". floridapolitics.com. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
- Hansard, 27 June 1997, Legislative Council for 1996/97 Session (P.224) HKSAR Legislative Council Website, retrieved February 19, 2012