Definition of parens patriae in US English:

parens patriae


  • 1The government, or any other authority, regarded as the legal protector of citizens unable to protect themselves.

    as modifier ‘parens patriae jurisdiction’
    • ‘In Western Australia the Supreme Court could always exercise the parens patriae jurisdiction subject to any statutes dealing with children on the grounds of nationality and ordinary residence.’
    • ‘It was for this reason that liberal reformers established a system where the courts became the parens patriae, the parents of last resort for troubled children.’
    • ‘That is the other aspect of it, your Honour, that the parens patriae jurisdiction, of course, was confined to citizens or non-aliens, if one likes.’
    • ‘Their Lordships confirmed the view that the court had no power under its parens patriae jurisdiction to make the order, but the extracts are concerned with the common law basis on which the order was made.’
    • ‘We have now reached a position where the court is prepared in an appropriate case to fill much of the lacuna left by the disappearance of the parens patriae jurisdiction by granting something approaching an advisory declaration.’
    1. 1.1 The principle that political authority carries with it the responsibility for protection of citizens.
      • ‘But in fact the Family Court also has a broader welfare power, known as parens patriae, which essentially gives the court the power to care for those who can't help themselves.’
      • ‘Under the doctrine of parens patriae, Pennsylvania, through its juvenile court system, administers rehabilitative rather than punitive measures to children adjudicated delinquent.’
      • ‘In the Gault case, the Court further weakened the principle of parens patriae when it found that the juvenile court in Arizona had violated fifteen-year-old old Gerald Gault's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.’
      • ‘Under the doctrine of parens patriae, or ‘the state as parent,’ juvenile court judges had wide latitude to address everything from robbery and assault to truancy and playing ball in the street.’
      • ‘There is a sense here of a return to parens patriae.’


Modern Latin, literally ‘parent of the country’.


parens patriae

/ˈparənz ˈpatri-ē/