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Legal Dictionary

quorum

Legal Definition of quorum

Noun

  1. The number of people who must be present at a meeting before business can be conducted. Without "quorum", decisions are invalid. Many organizations have a quorum requirement to prevent decisions being taken without a majority of members present.

Definition of quorum

Etymology

    From Latin quōrum, genitive plural form of quī (“who, which”), used as standard wording in written commissions.

Pronunciation

  • (RP) IPA: /ˈkw"ː.rəm/
  • (US) IPA: /ˈkw"ːr.əm/
  • Audio (US) [?]

Noun

quorum (plural quorums or quora)

  1. The minimum number of members required for a group to officially conduct business and to cast votes, often but not necessarily a majority or supermajority.

    We can discuss the issue tonight, but cannot vote until we have a quorum.

  2. A selected body of persons.

Further reading

A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly (a body that uses parliamentary procedure, such as a legislature) necessary to conduct the business of that group. According to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, Tenth Edition, the current edition of Robert's Rules of Order, the "requirement for a quorum is protection against totally unrepresentative action in the name of the body by an unduly small number of persons."

The term quorum is from a Middle English wording of the commission formerly issued to justices of the peace, derived from Latin quorum, "of whom", lled membership composed only of persons who maintain their status as members in a prescribed manner-the quorum is a majority of the entire membership, by the common parliamentary law."[1] In the meetings of a convention, unless provided otherwise in the bylaws, a quorum is a majority of registered delegates, even if some have departed. In a mass meeting, or "in a regular or properly called meeting" of an organization whose bylaws do not prescribe a quorum and whose membership is loosely determined, such as many religious congregations or alumni associations, "there is no minimum number of members who must be present for the valid transaction of business, or -as it is usually expressed-the quorum consists of those who attend the meeting."

In a Committee of the Whole or its variants, a quorum is the same as the assembly unless otherwise provide in the assembly's bylaws or rules. In all other committees and boards, a quorum is a majority of the members of the board or committee unless the bylaws, the rule of the parent organization, or the motion establishing the particular committee provide otherwise. According to Robert's Rules, "a board or committee does not have the power to determine its quorum unless the bylaws so provide."

United Kingdom

In the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the House of Commons has a quorum of 40 MPs, including the Speaker, out of 650 members of the House. There is no need for a quorum to be present at all times. Commons debates could theoretically continue even if just one MP and the Speaker were present. However, if a division is called and fewer than 40 MPs are present, then a decision on the business being considered is postponed and the House moves on to consider the next item of business. The quorum for votes on legislation in the House of Lords is 30, but just three of the 753 peers, including the Lord Speaker, are required to be present for a debate to take place.

Historically, the Quorum was a select group of the Justices of the Peace in each county in the Early Modern Britain. In theory they were men experienced in law, but many of the quorum were appointed because of their status. Some legislation required the involvement of a member of the quorum, (e.g. granting a licence to a badger). In practice, they increasingly were not qualified, as the proportion in the quorum rose faster than proportion who were called to the bar or practising lawyers. By 1532 an average 45% of Justices of the Peace nationally were of the quorum. In Somerset the proportion rose from 52% in 1562 to 93% in 1636. By then most of those not on the quorum were new to the bench. Sometimes Justices of the Peace were removed from the quorum as a disciplinary measure less drastic than removal from the bench.

United States

Article I, Section 5, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution provides that "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business..." Therefore in both the House of Representatives and the Senate a quorum is a simple majority of their respective members. The only exception is that stated in the Twelfth Amendment, which provides that in cases in which no candidate for President of the United States receives a majority in the Electoral College, the election is decided by the House of Representatives, in which case "a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states," and in cases in which no candidate for Vice President of the United States has been elected, the election is decided by the Senate, in which case "a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators."

The Senate has the additional ordinary requirement in Rule VI of its Standing Rules that "A quorum shall consist of a majority of the Senators duly chosen and sworn."

The Internal Revenue Service requires that non-profit organizations that receive tax exemptions under Section 501(c)(3) have a quorum present at their required yearly meeting. If it is not, then not only can they not vote, but they must also have another meeting so that it then takes longer for them to make decisions.

References:

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



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