Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of petitioner

Related terms

Definition of petitioner


petitioner (plural petitioners)

  1. (law) Someone who presents a petition to a court.

Further reading

A petitioner is a person who pleads with governmental institution for a legal remedy or a redress of grievances, through use of a petition.

In the courts

The petitioner may seek a legal remedy if the state or another private person has acted unlawfully. In this case, the petitioner, often called a plaintiff, will submit a plea to a court to resolve the dispute.

To the government

On the other hand, the petitioner may be complaining against the law itself, rather than against a breach of the law or a failure of the machinery of government to appropriately enforce it. In this case, the petitioner is said to seek "redress of grievances"; this is a political act instead of a legal one, and usually involves approaching the legislature.

The freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances is guaranteed by law in some countries. The English Bill of Rights specifically declared, among other things, "That it is the right of subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal". Its American counterpart likewise commands Congress to "... make no law... abridging... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances".

A petitioner need not seek a change to an existing law. Often, petitioners speak against (or in support of) legislative proposals as these progress.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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