assorted-color books on bookcase

Ultra Vires

Legal Definition and Related Resources of Ultra Vires

Meaning of Ultra Vires

Literally the term means beyond powers. In relation to corporations, an act is said to be ultra vires when it is beyond the purpose or power of a corporation, when such acts, though not illegal, are outside the scope of general express or implied authority, as defined by its charter or by laws or the statute under which it is incorporated. See Central Transp. Co., v Pulmans Palace Car Co., 139 U.S. 24, 11 S.Ct. 478, 35 L.Ed.55; Also U.S. Rubber Products v Batesburg, 183 S.C. 49, 190 S. £ 120. The term is also used in a secondary sense in respect to corporate acts, as some- thig beyond the power of the majority to bind dessenting stockholders or something in violation of the legal rights of creditors, and sometimes in the sense merely of something beyond the authority of corporate agents or executive officers. The primary meaning applies only when the public is concerned. The secondary meaning applies when the issue is between the corporation and its shareholders or creditors, or other parties dealing with it or between it and its agents or executive officers. See Minnesota Thresher Manufacturing Co. v Langdon, 46 N. W. 310, 44 Minn. 37.

Ultra Vires Alternative Definition

(Lat.) The modem technical designation, in the law of corporations, of acts beyond the scope of their powers, as defined by their charters or acts of incorporation; as distinguished from acts which are authorized. It was early contended that a corporation could not exceed its powers; that the acts of its agents beyond the charter powers of the corporation were not the acts of the corporation; but it is now well settled that “corporations, like natural persons, have power and capacity to do wrong. They may, in their dealings and contracts, break over the liability imposed upon them by their charters, and when they do so, their exemption from liability cannot be claimed on the mere ground that they have no attributes or faculties which render it possible for them to thus act.” 119 Ind. 324. The act need not necessarily be expressly prohibited by the charter or by statute. Nor need it be in any sense immoral or injurious to others. It may be an act which could be lawfully done by a natural personl It may be even praiseworthy, as in the case of a gift by a corporation for charitable or religious purpose. Yet, if it is not authorized by the charter of the corporation, or is not an implied or incidental power, it is ultra vires. 3 Fletcher Cyclopedia Corporations, 2571. There is much conflict in the cases as to the validity of an ultra vires contract. In some states, it is held that, if the corporation had no authority to make the contract, it is void, but if it was within the general scope of the corporate power, and the want of power in that case was because of particular facts, it is valid (43 Wis. 420; 8 Ohio 257) ; while in several states it is held that “the plea of ultra vires should not prevail, whether it is imposed for or against the corporation, when it would not advance justice, but, on the contrary, would accomplish a legal wrong (63 N. Y. 62; 151 111. 531).

Related Entries of Ultra Vires in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Ultra Vires in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Ultra Vires in Historical Law

You might be interested in the historical meaning of this term. Browse or search for Ultra Vires in Historical Law in the Encyclopedia of Law.

Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

Search for legal acronyms and/or abbreviations containing Ultra Vires in the Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms Dictionary.

Related Legal Terms

You might be also interested in these legal terms:

United States Constitutional Meaning of Ultra Vires

An action by a person, corporation, or public agency that is beyond the actor’s legitimate authority.

Latin Definition

beyond (its) power

Other Latin Constitutional Definitions in the Law Dictionary

  • dictum
  • in personam
  • in rem
  • ultra vires
  • per curiam
  • amicus curiae
  • ex post facto
  • ex parte
  • ex relatione
  • nolo contendere
  • de facto
  • de jure
  • in forma pauperis
  • in re
  • ratio decidendi
  • obiter dictum
  • seriatim
  • certiorari
  • stare decisis
  • subpoena
  • mandamus
  • habeas corpus


You might be interested in these references tools:

Resource Description
Ultra Vires in the Dictionary Ultra Vires in our legal dictionaries
Browse the Legal Thesaurus Find synonyms and related words of Ultra Vires
Legal Maxims Maxims are established principles that jurists use as interpretive tools, invoked more frequently in international law
Legal Answers (Q&A) A community-driven knowledge creation process, of enduring value to a broad audience
Related topics Ultra Vires in the World Encyclopedia of Law


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

Vocabularies (Semantic Web Information)

Resource Description
Topic Map A group of names, occurrences and associations
Topic Tree A topic display format, showing the hierarchy
Sitemap Index Sitemap Index, including Taxonomies The URI of Ultra Vires (more about URIs)

Ultra vires in Law Enforcement

Main Entry: Law Enforcement in the Legal Dictionary. This section provides, in the context of Law Enforcement, a partial definition of ultra vires.

Etimology of Ultra Vires

(You may find ultra vires at the world legal encyclopedia and the etimology of more terms).

Latin, literally “beyond powers,” from ultra (see ultra-) + vires “strength, force, vigor, power,” plural of vis (see vim). Usually “beyond the legal or constitutional power of a court, etc.”


See Also

  • Law Enforcement Officer
  • Police
  • Law Enforcement Agency

Further Reading

Concept of Ultra Vires in the context of Real Property

A short definition of Ultra Vires: Originally acts of a corporation beyond or against its charter. Now includes illegal acts. An officer of a corporation may be personally liable for an ultra vires act of the corporation.

Concept of Ultra Vires in the context of Real Property

A short definition of Ultra Vires: Originally acts of a corporation beyond or against its charter. Now includes illegal acts. An officer of a corporation may be personally liable for an ultra vires act of the corporation.

Meaning of Ultra Vires in Canada

In this country (and some others), a meaning of Ultra Vires may be the following: Beyond the powers.

Definition of Ultra Vires

The Canada social science dictionary [1] provides the following meaning of Ultra Vires: From the Latin meaning to act beyond the scope of powers. Government powers in (some countries, like the U.S., Brazil and) Canada are distributed between the federal and provincial governments; each government then must act within its own power. If provinces pass criminal law, for example, this would be ruled ultra vires since criminal law is an exclusive federal power .

Ultra Vires: Resources

Notes and References

  • Drislane, R., & Parkinson, G. (2016). (Concept of) Ultra Vires. Online dictionary of the social sciences. Open University of Canada

Ultra Vires


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *