A stay of execution is a court order to temporarily suspend the execution of a court judgment or other court order. The word “execution” does not necessarily mean the death penalty; it refers to the imposition of whatever judgment is being stayed.
A stay can be granted automatically by operation of law or, when the parties in a civil or criminal case agree that no execution shall occur for a certain period. If a party appeals a decision, any judgment issued by the original court may be stayed until the appeal is resolved.
NOTE: The phrase “by operation of law” is a legal term that indicates that a right or liability has been created for a party, irrespective of the intent of that party, because it is dictated by existing legal principles. For example, if a person dies without a will, his heirs are determined by operation of law. Similarly, if a person marries or has a child after his or her will has been executed, the law writes this pretermitted spouse or pretermitted heir into the will if no provision for this situation was specifically included. Adverse possession, in which title to land passes because non-owners have occupied it for a certain period of time, is another important right that vests by operation of law.
Below is from “Rules of the Supreme Court of The United States” on SupremeCourt.gov
Rule 23. Stays
1. A stay may be granted by a Justice as permitted by law.
2. A party to a judgment sought to be reviewed may present to a Justice an application to stay the enforcement of that judgment. See 28 U. S. C. §2101(f).
3. An application for a stay shall set out with particularity why the relief sought is not available from any other court or judge. Except in the most extraordinary circumstances,
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28 SUPREME COURT RULE 24
an application for a stay will not be entertained unless the relief requested was first sought in the appropriate court or courts below or from a judge or judges thereof. An application for a stay shall identify the judgment sought to be reviewed & have appended thereto a copy of the order and opinion, if any, & a copy of the order, if any, of the court or judge below denying the relief sought, & shall set out specific reasons why a stay is justified. The form & content of an application for a stay are governed by Rules 22 and 33.2.
4. A judge, court, or Justice granting an application for a stay pending review by this Court may condition the stay on the filing of a supersedeas bond having an approved surety or sureties. The bond will be conditioned on the satisfaction of the judgment in full, together with any costs, interest, and damages for delay that may be awarded. If a part of the judgment sought to be reviewed has already been satisfied, or is otherwise secured, the bond may be conditioned on the satisfaction of the part of the judgment not otherwise se cured or satisfied, together with costs, interest, and damages.
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Wikipedia on “Stay of Execution”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stay_of_execution
Wikipedia on “Operation of Law”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_of_law