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Gravamen

Definition - What does Gravamen mean?

Gravamen refers to the pivotal issue or material essence of a claim, charge or cause of action.

Gravamen is a term passed down from ancient English ecclesiastical law and was used historically to describe a grievance that the lower clergy brought before the bishops. Today, when someone refers to the gravamen in a case, they are describing the most important issue in the case.

Justipedia explains Gravamen

Different cases present different contexts, fact patterns and key issues. Each different case, then, involves a different gravamen.

Generally, in a first-degree homicide case, the prosecution seeks to prove that the defendant intentionally murdered the victim. But, in one first-degree homicide case, the gravamen may be centered on whether the defendant’s action that resulted in the victim’s death was intentional, while in another first-degree homicide case, the gravamen may be be centered on whether mitigating circumstances, such as insanity, exist that would reduce the homicide charge.

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