sua sponte

Latin for "of one's own accord" - sua sponte is used to indicate that a court has taken notice of an issue on its own motion, without prompting or suggestion from either party.

As a general rule, where grounds for dismissal exist, an action is subject to dismissal on a court's own motion. A trial court has the power to dismiss an action sua sponte for want of prosecution, or failure to comply with the rules of civil procedure or a court's orders. A court may sua sponte enter a motion to dismiss for want of jurisdiction even though both parties have agreed to appear in the court. 

See e.g.; Carlisle v. United States, 517 US 416 (1996) and Trest v. Cain, 522 US 87 (1997).

[Last updated in June of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]