The term “Functus officio” means literally, “having discharged the office”. It is a concept that operates so as to stop a case before court being re-opened before that same court where it has entered a final decision. It gives finality and reliability to court determinations. It also stops judges from engaging in improper attempts to re-litigate matters or cover up their own misconduct or error.
It’s related to (but different from) the concept of res judicata, a reference to the notion that justice must be final for it to be principled and effective. In it’s context, it comes from the maxim, “interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium” (for the good of the commonwealth, there must be finality to litigation).
There are slip rules that permit the re-opening of a matter for the purposes of correction of orders or some ancillary matters.
The term res judicata refers to a case having ended while functus officio means the end of office – that is the end of an ability to make further orders because a Court has ended its function in a mater (such as where the Court has disqaulified itself).
The general statement of the rule is predicated on the notion that once a court has delivered a final judgement, it finalises the capacity of the court to do anything more. The decision or judgement cannot be reopened or subject to further pronouncement because it has changed its mind or made an error or if circumstances have changed. In those cases, the avenue available for remedy is an appeal (subject to the existence of any slip rule by which a Court may re-open proceedings under a statutory head of power.
Kernaghan and Associates Lawyers Pty Ltd
Criminal and Royal Commission Litigation Lawyers
SYDNEY – MELBOURNE – BRISBANE