interlocutory order

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An interlocutory order, which exists in both civil law and criminal law, is a temporary order issued during litigation that refers to a ruling or decision made by a court that is not the final judgment or disposition of the case. Instead, it addresses a specific issue, matter, or request that arises during the litigation process. Unlike a final judgment, which resolves the entire case and typically determines the rights and obligations of the parties involved, an interlocutory order is provisional and does not definitively end the litigation. It is a temporary or interim decision that governs the proceedings until a final resolution is reached.


Because of the non-final nature of such orders, appeals from them (interlocutory appeals) are rare. The collateral order doctrine sets forth rules for such appeals. 28 U.S. Code § 1292 also deals specifically with how and when interlocutory decisions may be appealed. In the 5th Circuit case of Melancon v. Texaco Inc., the Court noted that "As long as a district court has jurisdiction over the case, then it possesses the inherent procedural power to reconsider, rescind, or modify an interlocutory order for cause seen by it to be sufficient." Furthermore, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated in the 2001 case of City of Los Angeles v. Santa Monica Baykeeper that “a district court's power to rescind, reconsider, or modify an interlocutory order is derived from the common law, not from the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”


Interlocutory orders come in a wide variety of contexts and can be issued at various stages of a lawsuit. They may address matters such as:

  • Preliminary injunctions or temporary restraining orders: These orders are designed to preserve the status quo or prevent irreparable harm until a full hearing can take place.
  • Discovery-related orders: Courts may issue orders regarding the scope, methods, or timing of discovery, including requests for documents, information, or depositions.
  • Motions to dismiss or motions for summary judgment: These orders determine whether certain claims or defenses should be dismissed or resolved without a full trial, based on the legal arguments and evidence presented.
  • Orders related to jurisdiction or venue: Courts may issue orders to determine whether they have the authority to hear a case or to transfer it to a different jurisdiction or venue.
  • Orders on procedural matters: This includes orders regarding the admissibility of evidence, the timing of filings, or the procedure for presenting arguments in court.

[Last updated in June of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]