Time is of the essence

If there's something common in every jurisdiction in regards to litigation, it's that it takes time. Procedural laws are different in every country, in some making the procedure mostly oral (usually in countries with common law traditions) and, in others, litigation is substantiated primarily by written submissions. In either case, litigation proceedings are supposed to culminate in a decision where one of the parties will be recognized a right and, usually, instruction is given out to help said party enforce the right that was previously under dispute.

Such a decision is not always easy to make. Judges or juries will need to analyze evidence or finely interpret laws to be able to make a conclusion. In the case of defendants, they are also recognized the right to due process, which means that they have a right to defend themselves and to be considered innocent until it's proven otherwise. All of these elements force procedural laws to establish long-winded processes that guarantee fair treatment on each side, causing the resolution of a legal dispute to take a considerable amount of time. As a consequence of this reality, alternative mechanisms of solving disputes are enjoying popularity nowadays, as is the case of arbitration.

Yet, however popular these mechanisms might be, litigation is still the main conduit to legally resolving disputes. What each party is looking for, in the end, is enforcing a right to which they know themselves entitled. The exercise of this right might be prevented by the other party, who might be right or not to do so. This particular issue is what is determined in the end of a litigation process. However, while the process is substantiated, neither of the parties are allowed to forcibly exercise the right under dispute. Sometimes, this just means parties need to wait it out. In other cases, being prevented from the exercise of a determined right could cause some serious and irremediable consequences. In these cases, parties are allowed to make a request to the competent authority.


The granting of a request of this nature is called an "interim order" or "interim measure". It means that the court will issue an order either allowing one of the parties to continue to behave in a certain way, ordering them to fulfill a certain command, or refraining them from performing certain acts. For example, an interim order could be issued commanding a party to keep fulfilling a contract, while a lawsuit for breach of contract is being resolved. Interim orders are usually sustained until the case pending resolution is finalized. The purpose of interim orders is to ensure the enforceability of the final decision taken by a judge or jury.

A strong prima facie case

For granting an interim order, certain principles need to be taken into account. This is so, because an interim order usually already provides relief for one of the parties over the issue that's under dispute. An interim order should only be issued when (1) irreparable harm could be caused if the interim order is not issued, and (2) the party requesting the order presents a good arguable case, prima facie. Regarding (1), this prerequisite means that if an interim order is not issued, the exercise of the very right that is under dispute will be harmed, and, if a favorable decision is taken, said right will not be enforceable. A good example of this is the case of a property dispute where one of the parties has field of crops in danger of becoming damaged if said party is prevented from having access and using said property. On the second prerequisite, the party requesting an interim measure needs to be presenting a good arguable case. That is, their right should be, at least, plausible in the eyes of the court.

The way interim orders are granted will vary from legislation to legislation. In some countries, a third requisite is imposed, which is that the party should present sufficient guarantee (sometimes in the form of insurance or a bank guarantee) to cover whatever damage to the other party might suffer if it should turn out that the party that was granted the order ends up losing the lawsuit.

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