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A stay of proceedings is a ruling by the court in civil and criminal procedure, halting further legal process in a trial. The court can subsequently lift the stay and resume proceedings. However, a stay is sometimes used as a device to postpone proceedings indefinitely.
A court in the United Kingdom may issue a stay in a winding-up upon the creation of an application for rescission, an order is made against a false or mistaken institution, the petition debt is paid in full, the pertaining institution ceases to exist, or if a winding-up order already exists.
In R v. Crawley a stay was given. The Ministry of Justice decided to cut the fees paid to barristers for Very High Cost Cases (VHCC)by 30% in November 2013. Due to the amount of papers involved this case was classed as a VHCC by the Legal Aid Authority (LAA) who pay the Defendant's costs (as free representation (legal aid) is required under the ECHR. Barristers in protest of the cuts refused the instructions to act on behalf of the Defendants at the reduced fees so no suitably qualified barristers could be found to represent the Defendants. As the Defendants would not be able to have a fair trial without suitable representation (in breach of their right to a fair trial) the case could not proceed and was stayed. An adjournment was found to be unlikely to resolve the case and excessive delay would contradict a further requirement of the ECHR (Article 6(1)) requiring timely handling of prosecution.
According to United States legal code, a stay of proceedings can be issued in a case "brought in any of the courts of the United States upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration" when the ruling on the case is pending, can be stayed "until such arbitration has been had in accordance with the terms of the agreement, providing the applicant for the stay is not in default in proceeding with such arbitration."
During the 2010s, as federal and state judges struck down same-sex marriage bans across the country, many judges stayed those rulings during the appeals process. Although a state's ban was struck down, the stay prevented implementation of their ruling pending a higher court decision, thus preventing same-sex couples from obtaining a marriage license.
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