Robert's Rules for Privileged Motions - dummies

Robert’s Rules for Privileged Motions

By C. Alan Jennings, PRP, PRP

Privileged motions deal with any or all issues specifically related to a meeting or to the comfort of members in attendance. They’re called privileged because, even when other business is pending, the real needs (regarding time, comfort, or other special needs) of the people in the meeting are considered important enough to be dealt with immediately.

The privileged motions (listed in order of rank, from lowest to highest) are as follows:

  • Call for Orders of the Day

  • Raise a Question of Privilege

  • Recess

  • Adjourn

  • Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn

This table shows the most common use for each privileged motion.

Common Uses for Privileged Motions
If You Want To . . . Then Use . . .
Get the meeting back on schedule Call for Orders of the Day
Deal with something that affects the comfort of the group or
even a single member
Raise a Question of Privilege
Take a short break Recess
End the meeting Adjourn
Continue the current meeting on another day Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn

Each privileged motion has a specific purpose, and each has a rank or specific order in which they can be used. Privileged motions outrank subsidiary motions.

The established ranking of privileged motions is logical. For example, it doesn’t make any sense to move to Recess (take a short break) when a privileged motion to Adjourn (end the meeting) is under consideration. Yet if the motion to Adjourn is on the floor, it’s possible that members may want to establish a continuation of the current meeting rather than just end everything until the next regular meeting.

Robert’s Rules provides you with an orderly approach to handling the privileged motions by assigning them a relative rank, or order of precedence. Each of the privileged motions is shown in order from highest rank to lowest. As you can see, these motions outrank even the subsidiary motions.


When a motion is being considered, the motions below it on the list are out of order until the assembly has disposed of the one being considered. However, motions above the motion in question can be moved and considered no matter what’s pending in the lower ranks.

Note that none of the privileged motions is debatable, and only two of these motions are amendable (because you have to decide times and dates). These motions are all about making an informed decision without wasting time.