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DECRE´TUM seems to mean that which is determined in a particular case after examination or consideration. It is thus applied to a resolution of the senate.

A decretum of the senate would seem to differ from a senatusconsultum, in that it was limited to the special occasion and circumstances instead of being of general application. But this distinction in the use of the two words, as applied to an act of the senate, is not consistently observed.

Cicero (Cic. Fam. 13.56) opposes edictum to decretum, between which there is in this passage apparently the same analogy as between a consultum and decretum of the senate. [p. 1.603]

Decretum is the technical term for the decision and order which a magistrate gives in a particular case after an inquiry into its circumstances (causae cognitio). A judex is said condemnare not decernere; the latter word being appropriate in judicial proceedings to a magistrate who has jurisdictio. A decretum, as one of the kinds of imperial constitutions, was a judicial decision in a case before the emperor in his capacity of supreme magistrate; cases were brought into the imperial court (consistorium principis) by supplicationes or provocationes of suitors.

The interpretations of law laid down by the emperor in his decreta were, as a rule, binding on all courts in subsequent cases (tuis decretis, imperator, exempla publice valitura in perpetuum sanciuntur. . . . Tu, ubi quid in singulos decernis, ibi universos exemplo adstringis. . . . Quare si hoc decretum tibi proconsulis placuerit, formam dederis omnibus omnium provinciarum magistratibus, quid in ejusmodi causis decernant, Fronto ad M. Caesarem, 1.6). Thus the emperor by his decreta could make new laws. (Dig. 1, 4, 1.1.) Paulus wrote a work in six books on decreta, under the title “Imperiales Sententiae in cognitionibus prolatae.” (Savigny, Syst. 1, § § 23, 24; Puchta, Inst. 110-112; Mommsen, Staatsrecht, ii. pp. 867-873.)


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