Legal Definition and Related Resources of Oyer

Meaning of Oyer

Literally, to hear. In the olden times when most people were illiterate or were deemed to be illiterate, it was common practise for a defendant to demand or crave oyer of a deed pleaded by the plaintiffs statement of claim be read to him.

Oyer Alternative Definition

The reading to a party of a written instrument stated in the pleadings of the opposite party. In modem practice a copy of the writing is ordered furnished on application. See Profert in Curia.

Related Entries of Oyer in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

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Oyer in Historical Law

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This definition of Oyer is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This entry needs to be proofread.

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Oyer in the Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims

L.F. oyer; L. audire, to hear. At common law, a defendant may ñcrave oyerî of the writ, bond or other specialty upon which the action is brought; that is, petition to ñhearî it read. The generality of defendants, in times of simplicity, being supposed incapable to read, the whole of an instrument sued upon was entered verbatim on the record. The defendant could then take advantage of any part not stated in the declaration. 3 Bl. Com. 299. Oyer occurs where the plaintiff in his declaration, or the defendant in his plea, finds it necessary to make profert [production] of a deed, probate, letters of administration, or other instrument under seal, and the other party prays that it may be read to him. The effect is to make the instrument a part of the pleadings. Suydam v. Williamson, 20 How. 436 (1857), Clifford, J.; 58 N.H. 313. Giving a copy, or acting forth the instrument in full, – the modern practice, – attains the end sought by oyer, as originally understood. When the court deems that knowledge of the contents of a particular writing is proper and essential to a party to a suit, it may order that he have a copy, although the writing being unsealed is, strictly, not the subject of oyer. Mealey v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 23 F.R. 25 (1885), in which case the court refused to direct the defendant to file the application and the medical examination in the clerkÍs office. See also Sneed v. Wister, 8 Wheat. 695 (1823); 1 Chitty, Pl. *430.

Note: This legal definition of Oyer in the Dictionary of Law (English and American Jurisprudence) is from 1893.

Concept of “Oyer”

Traditional meaning of oyer in the French law history (with some legal use in England and the United States in the XIX Century) [1]: (in French) To hear; hearing; see 3rd Book (“Of Private Wrongs”), Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England 299; Robinson’s Elementary Law Rev. ed.; § 315. Oyez: hear ye. The hearing a deed read in court, to which a defendant was entitled in actions based upon the deed or record where the plaintiff had to make profert; see 4th Book (“Of Public Wrongs”), Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England 340. To crave oyer: to demand that the instrument be read, or that the party may be furnished with a copy.


Notes and References

  1. Based on A Concise Law Dictionary of Words, Phrases and Maxims, “Oyer”, Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1911, United States. It is also called the Stimson’s Law dictionary. This term and/or definition may be absolete.

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