Abatement is the act of reducing or nullifying something. Multiple subjects throughout law are subject to abatement and the term appears in many locations.
In property law, abatement refers to a reduction in property taxes a person has to pay on any given property. Abatements of taxes are often granted to incentivize economic development. Abatement in property law can also refer to an available remedy for public nuisance which requires either the government or the responsible individual to reduce the nuisance.
In civil procedure, an abatement refers to an old common law method for defendants to challenge the propriety of the plaintiff’s pleadings. With the adoption of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a pleading for abatement no longer formally exists, although the same result is achievable through the federal rules.
Abatement can also act as a shorthand to refer to the specific process of abatement ab initio. Abatement ab initio refers to the rule stating, if a defendant dies while appealing their conviction, that conviction is vacated. This rule comes from the principle that a party who dies during the appeal process has unwillingly been stripped of their appellate rights and therefore abatement of the conviction preserves those rights.
Abatement ab initio has far-reaching effects on victims of wrongdoing who, due to the vacated conviction, are no longer entitled to whatever damages or compensation they were initially awarded. For example, in United States v. Estates of Parson, plaintiffs could not collect on the $1.3 million they were awarded due to defendant’s fraud because the defendant passed away while appealing. As a result, the continued existence of abatement ab initio is controversial.
[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]