Getting Around the Rules

Getting Around the Rules

Suspend the Rules

J. Lochrie, B.Sc., CPP-T




Purpose and Use


The purpose of the motion to suspend the rules is to permit a time-limited deviation from a rule of procedure that is interfering with an action the assembly wishes to take.  It may be applied to Rules of Order ( RONR pp. 15-17) and to Standing Rules (p. 18)


From time to time a situation may arise in a meeting such that dispensing with a procedural rule will permit the meeting to proceed more efficiently.  It may be as simple as deviating from the normal order of business or it may be that the parliamentary situation is so complex or confusing that taking a procedural short-cut may reduce the complexity or reduce the confusion.


When stating the motion the member need not specify the rule to be suspended but must state the specific activity allowed under the suspension.  If no time is specified, which is the usual circumstance, the suspension applies only once and to the specific parliamentary situation at the time. For rules of order the suspension may be applied only to the current parliamentary situation.  It is general moved as an incidental motion.


For standing rules the suspension of the rule is allowable over a series of motions or for the whole meeting.  When a suspension of a standing rule is required over a time period the motion must be made as a main motion when no other business is pending.




Rules That May Not Be Suspended (RONR pp. 254-256)


The following types of rules may not be suspended:


  1. Those rules in Bylaws, Constitutions and Letters Patent cannot be suspended unless the rule contains a clause that permits its own suspension
  2. Notwithstanding 1 above, a rule in the bylaws if it is in the nature of a rule of order may be suspended (RONR p. 17, l. 22-24). 
  3. Rules that embody fundamental principles of parliamentary law
  4. Rules that protect absentees or a basic right of an individual member


Vote Required to Suspend the Rules (p. 256)


To suspend the rules:


  1. The vote required is a 2/3 vote to suspend a rule of order contained in the parliamentary authority or any special rules of order adopted by the organization.
  2. Ordinary standing rules may be suspended by a majority vote. (a standing rule does not relate to parliamentary procedure). 


Note:  No rule protecting a minority of a particular size can be suspended in the face of a negative vote as large as the minority protected by the rule. (RONR p. 253, l. 8-10)




Vote Required to Amend the Rules (pp. 256-257)


To amend a rule:


  1. To amend a rule of order requires notice and a 2/3 vote or a majority vote of the entire membership
  2. To amend a standing rule requires notice and a majority vote or a 2/3 vote without notice.




Differences of RONR and TSC (TSC p. 84-87)


The major difference between RONR and the Standard Code is that TSC does not allow the suspension of rules of order contained in the Bylaws (unless the rule allows for its own suspension), whereas RONR does allow for the suspension of rules of order in the bylaws, even if the rule does not allow for its own suspension.


TSC also uses the term to Cut the Gordian Knot which is a form of suspension.  When the parliamentary situation has become complicated and confusing a member may move to “Cut the Gordian Knot” and start over again.  It is essentially a motion to suspend the rules and start over and should be handled as such.

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