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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

NOBILE OFFICIUM, n.phr. Sc. Law: the power of equitable jurisdiction possessed by the Court of Session in cases where the law itself does not provide a clear remedy (see quots.). [′nobɪle o′fɪʃiəm]Sc. 1773 Erskine Institute i. iii. § 22:
The session is a court of equity as well as of law; and as such may and ought to proceed by the rules of conscience in abating the rigour of the law, and in giving aid in the actions brought before them to those who can have no remedy in a court of law. This power, which is called the nobile officium of the judges, is inherent in the supreme judicatory of every state, unless where separate courts are established for law and for equity.
Sc. 1838 Bell Dict. Law Scot. 361:
In Scotland, the Court of Session, as the supreme civil court of the country, combines in itself all the functions of the English courts, both of law and equity. . . . This equitable power is, in Scotland, called the nobile officium of the court, a term derived from the Roman law.
Sc. 1896 W. K. Morton Manual 14:
Applications to the nobile officium of the Court [of Session], that is, in cases for which there is no legal authority and requiring no judicial decision, but rather an equitable or administrative remedy. In dealing with these, the Court acts not as a Court of law, but as coming in place of the old Scots Privy Council.
Sc. 1958 Intro. Sc. Legal Hist. (Stair Soc.) 345:
The Nobile Officium came to find its chief expression in dealing with the casus improvisus, whether under a statute or otherwise, in situations of urgency for which a solution had to be found, and for which only an extraordinary solution would suffice. Since the formation of the Divisions, the jurisdiction has been exclusive to the Inner House, and the modern tendency has been to confine its exercise within the range of past precedents.

[Lat. “pre-eminent function”.]

Nobile Officium n. phr.

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"Nobile Officium n. phr.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 May 2024 <>



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