Ultra Vires

Definition - What does Ultra Vires mean?

Ultra vires means "beyond the powers" in Latin, and is used to describe actions that exceed the authority given to governmental bodies or corporations and their officers.

In constitutional law, to claim that a legislature has acted ultra vires is to claim that the legislature has acted in a way that is not authorized by the constitution.

In corporate law, to claim that corporate officers have acted ultra vires is to claim that they have acted in ways that exceed the power given to them in a corporate charter.

Justipedia explains Ultra Vires

Ultra vires is a term most often used by parties wishing to limit the actions of governmental bodies or corporate officers. In each case, a claim of ultra vires revolves around interpretations of the documents describing what the intended powers for the governmental body or the corporation are. To prove that a governmental body or corporation acted ultra vires often requires extensive litigation over the language contained in the constitution or corporate charter.

There is a difference between ultra vires acts and illegal acts. A corporation, for example, may seek to use a company's assets in a manner that is outside the scope of the power given to them by their charter. A creditor of such a corporation may stop the corporation from using the company's assets in this way. The act, in this case, even though it is not illegal, might be outside the scope of the corporate charter and, therefore, voidable under ultra vires doctrine.

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