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Law Dıctıonary

dictionary






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Please click the first letter of the word that you have been searching from the list above..
 

A
Abatement
A reduction in some amount that is owed, usually granted by the person to whom the debt is owed. –
Abbacinare
A barbaric form of corporal punishment meted out in the middle ages where persons would be permanently blinded by the pressing of hot irons to the open eyes. –
Abduction
To take someone away from a place without that person’s consent or by fraud. –
Abet
Encouraging another to commit a crime. –
Ab initio
Latin: from the start. –
Absolute
Final, perfected, complete and unconditional. –
Absolute Privilege
An absolute defence to an otherwise defamatory statement because of the venue or context which the statement was made. –
Acceleration clause
A clause in a contract that states that if a payment is missed, or some other default occurs (such as the debtor becoming insolvent), then the contract is fully due immediately. –
Acceptance
One of three requisites to a valid contract under common law (the other two being an offer and consideration). –
Accord and Satisfaction
A term of contract law by which one party, having complied with its obligation under a contract, accepts some type of compensation from the other party (usually money and of a lesser value) in lieu of enforcing the contract and holding the other party to their obligation. –
Accretion
The imperceptible and gradual addition to land by the slow action of water. –
Acquiescence
Action or inaction which binds a person legally even though it was not intended as such. –
Act
A bill which has passed through the various legislative steps required for it and which has become law –
Act of God
An event which is caused solely by the effect of nature or natural causes and without any interference by humans whatsoever. –
Actus reus
Actus reus: the prohibited act. –
Actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea
Conviction of a crime requires proof of a criminal act and intent. –
Ad colligendum bona
When a person dies and there is no apparent executor or administrator, a person can be appointed by Court order and for the limited and sole purpose of collecting, inventorizing and preserving the assets of the deceased until an appropriate full-fledged administrator can be found or appointed. –
Ad damnum
Latin: refers to the parts or sections of a petition that speaks to the damages that were suffered and claimed by the plaintiff. The ad damnum part of a petition will usually suggest an amount in dollars that the plaintiff asks the court to award. –
Addendum
An attachment to a written document. –
Ademption
When property identified in a will cannot be given to the beneficiary because it no longer belonged to the deceased at the time of death. –
Adhesion contract
A fine-print consumer form contract which is generally given to consumers at point-of-sale, with no opportunity for negotiation as to it’s terms, and which, typically, sets out the terms and conditions of the sale, usually to the advantage of the seller. –
Ad hoc
Latin: for this purpose; for a specific purpose. –
Ad infinitum
Latin: forever; without limit; indefinitely. –
Ad litem
Latin: for the suit –
Administrative law
Administrative law is that body of law which applies for hearings before quasi-judicial or quasi-judicial organizations or administrative tribunals supplement the rules of natural justice with their own detailed rules of procedure. –
Administrative tribunal
Hybrid adjudicating authorities which straddle the line between government and the courts. –
Administrator
A person who administers the estate of a person deceased. –
Adoption
To take as one’s own. –
ADR
Abbreviation for alternative dispute resolution. –
Adultery
Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not their married spouse. –
Adverse possession
The possession of land, without legal title, for a period of time sufficient to become recognized as legal owner. –
Affidavit
A statement which before being signed, the person signing takes an oath that the contents are, to the best of their knowledge, true. –
Agency Law
The law of agents and their principals as between themselves and third-parties. –
Agent
A person who has received the power to act on behalf of another, binding that other person as if he or she were themselves making the decisions. –
Aggravated damages
Damages awarded by a court to reflect the exceptional harm done to a plaintiff of a tort action. –
Alimony
An amount given to one spouse to another while they are separated. –
Alliance
A military treaty between two or more states, providing for a mutually-planned offensive, or for assistance in the case of attack on any member. –
Alienate
To sell or give completely and without reserve; to transfer title to somebody else. –
Allodial
A kind of land ownership that is unfetterred, outright and absolute. –
Allonge
A piece of paper which has been attached to a contract, a check or any promissory note, on which to add signatures because there is not enough room on the main document. –
Alternative dispute resolution
Also known as ‘ADR’; methods by which legal conflicts and disputes are resolved privately and other than through litigation in the public courts, usually through one of two forms: mediation or arbitration. –
Amalgamation
The merging of two things together to form one such as the amalgamation of different companies to form a single company. –
Ambassador
A citizen that has been officially asked by their country to live in another country in order to legally represent it. –
Ambulatory
something which is not cast in stone; which can be changed or revoked, such as a will. –
Amend
To change, to revise, usually to the wording of a written document such as legislation. –
Amicus curiae
Latin: friend of the court. –
Anarchy
Absence of law. –
And/Or
And/or means any combination of two options; one, the other (either), or both. –
Animus contrahendi
Latin: an intention to contract. –
Annulment
To make void; to cancel an event or judicial proceeding both retroactively and for the future. –
Antedate
To date back; retroactively. To date a document to a time before it was written. –
Antenuptial
An event or document which pre-dates a marriage. –
Anti-trust
(USA) ‘Anti-trust’ legislation is designed to prevent businesses from price-setting or other secret collaboration which circumvents the natural forces of a free market economy and gives those engaging in the anti-trust conduct, a covert competitive edge. –
Appeal
To ask a more senior court or person to review a decision of a subordinate court or person. –
Appearance
The act of showing up in court as either plaintiff, defendant, accused or any other party to a civil or criminal suit. –
Apportionment
The division and distribution of something into proportionate parts; to each according to their share. –
Appurtenance
Something that, although detached, stands as part of another thing. –
Arbitration
An agreement to submit a dispute for a hearing and binding decision by a third-party, an arbitrator(s), who is neither a judge or a Court –
Arraignment
In USA criminal law, the formal appearance of an accused person to hear, and to receive a copy of, the charge against him or her, in the presence of a judge, and to then enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. –
Arrears
A debt that is not paid on the due date adds up and accumulates as ‘arrears’. –
Arson
Some countries define ‘arson’ as the intentional setting of a fire to a building in which people live; others include as ‘arson’ the intentionally setting of a fire to any building. –
Assault
The touching of another person with an intent to harm, without that person’s consent. –
Assign
To give, to transfer responsibility, to another. –
Assumpsit
Medieval era action for breach of contract. –
Attorn or Attornment
To consent, implicitly or explicitly, to a transfer of a right. –
Attorney
An alternate word for lawyers or barrister and solicitor, used mostly in the USA. –
Audi alteram partem
Latin; literally ‘hear the other side’. –
Autrefois acquit
French word now part of English criminal law terminology. –
A vinculo matrimonii
Latin: of marriage. –
Avulsion
Land accretion that occurs by the erosion or addition of one’s land by the sudden and unexpected change in a river stream such as a flash flood. –
Avunculus
Latin: a mother’s brother. ‘Avuncular’ refers to an uncle. –

 

B

Bad Faith
Intent to deceive. A person who intentionally tries to deceive or mislead another in order to gain some advantage. –
Bail
Criminal law: a commitment made (and possibly secured by cash or property) to secure the release of a person being held in custody and suspected of a crime, to provide some kind of guarantee that the suspect will appear to answer the charges at some later date. –
Bailee
The person who receives property through a contract of bailment, from the bailor, and who may be committed to certain duties of care towards the property while it remains in his or her possession –
Bailment
The transfer of possession of something (by the bailor) to another person (called the bailee) for some temporary purpose (eg. repair or storage) after which the property is either returned to the bailor or otherwise disposed of in accordance with the contract of bailment. –
Bailor
The person who temporarily transfers possession of property to another, the bailee, under a contract of bailment. –
Bait and Switch
a deceptive marketing scheme resorted to by consumer good vendors when they advertise a genuine product and offer it in the store, but… –
Balance of Probabilities
Burden of proof in civil trials. –
Bankruptcy
The formal condition of an insolvent person being declared bankrupt under law. –
Bare trust
A trust that has become passive for the trustee because all the duties the settlor may have imposed upon the trustee have been performed or any conditions or terms have come to fruition, such as there is no longer any impediment to the transfer of the property to the beneficiary. –
Barrator
A person who, on more than one occasion, incites litigation or spreads false rumours. –
Barrister
A litigation specialist; a lawyer that restricts his or her practice to the court room. –
Bastard
An illegitimate child, born in a relationship between two persons that are not married (ie. not in wedlock) or who are not married at the time of the child’’s birth. –
Battery
Offensive and intentional contact, direct or indirect, which causes injury. –
Bawdy-house
Bawdy-House: a brothel; an establishment of ill repute – within which occur acts of prostitution or lewd sex. –
Bench
A judge in court session. –
Beneficiary
In a legal context, a ‘beneficiary’ usually refers to the person for whom a trust has been created. –
Bequeath or Bequests
Gift of personal property or chattels by will. –
Berne Convention
An international copyright treaty called the Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works signed at Berne, Switzerland in 1886 (amended several times and as late as 1971) and to which now subscribe 77 nations including all major trading countries including China, with the notable exception of Russia. It is based on the principle of national treatment. –
Bigamy
Being married to more than one person at the same time. This is a criminal offence in most countries. –
Bill
A proposed statute, not yet approved. –
Bill of Attainder
Conviction and sentence to death by statute, as opposed resulting from trial. –
Bill of exchange
A written order from one person (the payor) to another, signed by the person giving it, requiring the person to whom it is addressed to pay on demand or at some fixed future date, a certain sum of money, to either the person identified as payee or to any person presenting the bill of exchange. –
Bill of lading
A document that a transport company possesses acknowledging that it has received goods, and serves as title for the purpose of transportation. –
Binder
A formal statement or written certification of an insurance policy. –
Blind trust
A trust set up by a settlor who reserves the right to terminate the trust but other than that, agrees to assert no power over the trust, which is administered without account to the beneficiary/settlor or the retention of any other measure of control over the trust’s administration. –
Blue Sky Law
An American law term that refers to government controls, through statutes, of the sale of securities to the public. –
Blockbusting
Attempt to manipulate sale prices of real property by making representations as to crime rate or ethnic ratios. –
Bona vacantia
Property that belongs to no person, and which may be claimed by a finder. –
Born Alive
A child born and independently breathing or with a heart beat. –
Born out of wedlock
Born of parents who were not married at the time of birth. –
Breach of contract
A failure of a party to a contract to perform his or her obligations as agreed to within the contract. –
Breach of trust
Any act or omission on the part of the trustee which is inconsistent with the terms of the trust agreement or the law of trusts. –
Break and Enter
A burglary; to break and enter onto another’s premises, land or real property with the intent to there commit a crime, most typically theft –
Buggery
Synonymous with sodomy and referring to ‘unnatural’ sex acts, including copulation, either between two persons of the same sex or between a person and an animal (the latter act also known as ‘bestiality’). –
Burden of proof
A rule of evidence that makes a person prove a certain thing or the contrary will be assumed by the court. –
Burglary
Breaking and entering a residence for the intention of committing a crime or while lawfully within, commit a crime and to thereafter break out. –
But for
A test in tort law linking the tort and the damages (aka causation), which are stated as: but for the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff would not have been injured. –
By-law
A municipal, local or corporate rule or regulation. –

 

C

Canon law
The law of the Christian Church. Has little or no legal effect today. –
Capital punishment
The most severe of all sentences: that of death. –
Carrier’s Case
A monumental 1473 English case which extended the offence of theft (then called larceny) to include a carrier of goods who, initially lawfully in possession, converts goods to his own use. –
Case law
The entire collection of published legal decisions of the courts which, because of stare decisis, contributes a large part of the legal rules which apply in modern society. –
Causation
The but-for link between a harmful action and another’s injury. –
Caveat
Latin: let him beware. A formal warning. –
Caveat emptor
Caveat emptor means let the buyer beware or that the buyers should examine and check for themselves things which they intend to purchase and that they cannot later hold the vendor responsible for the broken condition of the thing bought. –
Certificate of Independent Legal Advice
A document that attests that a person has received legal advice on a proposed contract, from a lawyer not associated with the other contracting party. –
Certiorari
A writ of certiorari is a form of judicial review whereby a court is asked to consider a legal decision of an administrative tribunal, judicial office or organization (eg. government) and to decide if the decision has been regular and complete or if there has been an error of law. –
Cestui que trust or cestui que use
The formal Latin word for the beneficiary or donee of a trust. –
Ceteris paribus
Latin: all things being equal or unchanged. –
Champerty
When a person agrees to finance someone else’s lawsuit in exchange for a portion of the judicial award. –
Charterparty
A transportation contract which includes the full and exclusive use of the airplane, vehicle or vessel for the duration of the transportation of either goods or persons. –
Chaste
A person who has never voluntarily had sexual intercourse outside of marriage such as unmarried virgins. –
Chattel
Moveable items of property which are neither land nor permanently attached to land or a building, either directly or vicariously through attachment to real property. –
Chattel mortgage
When an interest is given on moveable property other than real property (in which case it is usually a ‘mortgage’), in writing, to guarantee the payment of a debt or the execution of some action. –
Check or cheque
A form of bill of exchange where the order to pay is given to a bank which is holding the payor’s money. –
Child Support
Periodic money payments payable by a non-custodial parent, to the custodial parent, for the care of his or her child. –
Chinese Wall
A screening barricade established within a law firm to prevent conflicts of interests between associates. –
Chose in action
A property right in something intangible, or which are not in one’s possession, but enforceable through legal or court action. –
Circumstantial evidence
Evidence which may allow a judge or jury to deduce a certain fact from other facts which have been proven –
Citation
An order of a court to either do a certain thing or to appear before it to answer charges. –
Citizen’s Arrest
Detainment of a person suspected of having committed a crime, by a person other than a police officer. –
Civil law
Law inspired by old Roman Law, the primary feature of which was that laws were written into a collection; codified, and not determined, as is common law, by judges. –
Clandestine
Something that is purposely kept from the view or knowledge of others either in violation of the law or to conduct or conceal some illegal purpose. –
Class action
When different persons combine their lawsuits because the facts and the defendant are so similar. –
Clayton’s Case
An English case which established a presumption that monies withdrawn from a money account are presumed to be debits from those monies first deposited; first in, first out. –
Clean hands
A maxim of the law to the effect that any person, individual or corporate, that wishes to ask or petition a court for judicial action, must be in a position free of fraud or other unfair conduct. –
Client-solicitor privilege
A right that belongs to the client of a lawyer that the latter keep any information or words spoken to him during the provision of the legal services to that client, strictly confidential. –
Codicil
An amendment to an existing will. Does not mean that the will is totally changed; just to the extent of the codicil. –
Collateral
Property which has been committed to guarantee a loan. –
Collateral descendant
A descendant that is not direct, such as a niece or a cousin. –
Collateral source rule
A rule of tort law which holds that the tortfeasor is not allowed to deduct from the amount he or she would be held to pay to the victim of the tort, any goods, services or money received by that victim from other ‘collateral’ sources as a result of the tort (eg. insurance benefits). –
Collusion
A secret agreement between two or more persons, who seem to have conflicting interests, to abuse the law or the legal system, deceive a court or to defraud a third party. –
Commission
A formal group of experts brought together on a regular or ad hoc basis to debate matters within that sphere of expertise, and with regulatory or quasi-judicial powers such as the ability to license activity in the sphere of activity or to subpoena witnesses –
Committee
A term of parliamentary law which refers to a body of one or more persons appointed by a larger assembly or society, to consider, investigate and/or take action on certain specific matters. –
Common law
Judge-made law. Law which exists and applies to a group on the basis of historical legal precedents developed over hundreds of years. –
Common share
The basic share in a corporation. –
Company
A legal entity, allowed by legislation, which permits a group of people, as shareholders, to apply to the government for an independent organization to be created, which can then focus on persuing set objectives, and empowered with legal rights which are usually only reserved for individuals, such as to sue and be sued, own property, hire employees or loan and borrow money. –
Comparative negligence
A principle of tort law which looks at the negligence of the victim and which may lead to either a reduction of the award against the defendant, proportionate to the contribution of the victim’s negligence, or which may even prevent an award altogether if the victim’s negligence, when compared with the defendant, is equal to or greater in terms or contributing to the situation which caused the injury or damage –
Condition precedent
A contractual condition that suspends the coming into effect of a contract unless or until a certain event takes place. –
Condition subsequent
A condition in a contract that causes the contract to become invalid if a certain event occurs. –
Condonation
Obvious or implied forgiveness. –
Cone of Silence
An oath by a solicitor or other employee in a law firm not to disclose any information in regards to a previous client otherwise placing that lawyer or employee in a conflict of interest with other clients of the same law firm. –
Confession
A statement made by a person suspected or charged with a crime, that he (or she) did, in fact, commit that crime. –
Consensus
A result achieved through negotiation whereby a hybrid solution is arrived at between parties to an issue, dispute or disagreement, comprising typically of concessions made by all parties, and to which all parties then subscribe unanimously as an acceptable resolution to the issue or disagreement. –
Consensus ad idem
Latin term meaning an agreement, a meeting of the minds between the parties where all understand the committments made by each. This is a basic requirement for each contract. –
Consideration
Under common law, there can be no binding contract without consideration, which was defined in an 1875 English decision as ‘some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to the one party, or some forbearance, detriment, loss or responsibility given, suffered or undertaken by the other’. –
Consign
To leave an item of property in the custody of another. –
Conspiracy
An agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal act. Those forming the conspiracy are called conspirators. –
Constitution
The basic law or laws of a nation or a state which sets out how that state will be organized by deciding the powers and authorities of government between different political units, and by stating and the basic principles of society –
Construction
The legal process of interpreting a phrase or document; of trying to find it’s meaning –
Constructive dismissal
Under the employment law of some states, judges will consider a situation where there has been a fundamental violation of the rights of an employee, by the employer, so severe that the employee would have the right to consider himself as dismissed, even though, in fact, there has been no act of dismissal on the part of the employer. –
Constructive trust
A trust which a court declares or imposes onto participants of very specific circumstances such as those giving rise to an action for unjust enrichment, and notwithstanding the lack of any willing settlor to declare the trust (contrast with express trusts and resulting trusts). –
Contempt of Court
Conduct that is disobedient, obstructive or contemptuous to the Court. –
Contingency fee
A method of payment of legal fees represented by a percentage of an award. –
Contract
An agreement between persons which obliges each party to do or not to do a certain thing. –
Contract law
That body of law which regulates the enforcement of contracts. –
Contributory negligence
The negligence of a person which, while not being the primary cause of a tort, nevertheless combined with the act or omission of the primary defendant to cause the tort, and without which the tort would not have occurred. –
Conversion
An action against a person who found and converted someone else property to his own use. –
Conveyance
A written document which transfers property from one person to another. –
Conviction
The formal decision of a criminal trial which finds the accused guilty. –
Co-operative
A group of people formed as a separate organization and which has as a stated purpose either in regards to the public at-large or in regards to the common interests of the members. –
Coparcenary
An obsolete co-ownership mechanism of English law where property, if there was no will, always went to the eldest son. –
Copyright
The exclusive right to produce or reproduce (copy), to perform in public or to publish an original literary or artistic work, pursuant to a statute usually called the Copyright Act, or some similar name. –
Coroner
A public official who holds an inquiry into violent or suspicious deaths. –
Corporal punishment
A punishment for some violation of conduct which involves the infliction of pain on, or harm to the body –
Corporate secretary
Officer of a corporation responsible for the official documents of the corporation such as the official seal, records of shares issued, and minutes of all board or committee meetings. –
Corporation
A legal entity, allowed by legislation, which permits a group of people, as shareholders, to apply to the government for an independent organization to be created, which can then focus on persuing set objectives, and empowered with legal rights which are usually only reserved for individuals, such as to sue and be sued, own property, hire employees or loan and borrow money. –
Costs
When a person is condemned to ‘costs’ it means that he has to pay all the court costs such as the fees for bringing the action, witness fees and other fees paid out by the other side in bringing the action to justice. –
Council
A formal group of experts brought together on a regular basis to debate matters within that sphere of expertise, and with advisory powers to government –
Counterclaim
A defendant’s claim against a plaintiff. –
Court martial
A military court set up to try and punish offenses taken by members of the army, navy or air force. –
Court of admiralty
A rather archaic term used to denote the court which has the right to hear shipping, ocean and sea legal cases. Also known as ‘maritime law’. –
Covenant
A written document in which signatories either commit themselves to do a certain thing, to not do a certain thing or in which they agree on a certain set of facts. –
Creditor
A person to whom money, goods or services are owed by the debtor. –
Crime
An act or omission which is prohibited by criminal law. Each state sets out a limited series of acts (crimes) which are prohibited and punishes the commission of these acts by a fine, imprisonment or some other form of punishment. –
Crimes against humanity
An international criminal justice offence; the perpetration of acts of war upon a civilian, non-soldier population. –
Criminal conversation
Criminal conversation: synonymous with adultery. –
Criminal law
That body of the law that deals with conduct considered so harmful to society as a whole that it is prohibited by statute, prosecuted and punished by the government. –
Criminal Negligence
Reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons. –
Cross-examination
In trials, each party calls witnesses. Each party may also question the other’s witness(es). When you ask questions of the other party’s witness(es), it is called a ‘cross-examination’ and you are allowed considerably more latitude in cross-examination then when you question your own witnesses (called an ‘examination-in-chief’). –
Crown
The word refers specifically to the British Monarch, where she is the head of state of Commonwealth countries. –
Crumbling Skull Rule
A legal theory, companion to the thin skull rule, which limits a tort defendant’s exposure to a plaintiff’s injuries to the plaintiff’s condition at the time of the tort. –
Cuius est solum, ejus est usque ad caelum et ad in
Latin: who owns the land, owns down to the center of the earth and up to the heavens. –
Culpa lata
Latin for gross negligence. It is more than just simple negligence and includes any action or an omission in reckless disregard of the consequences to the safety or property of another. –
Curtesy
Curtesy: widower’s right to an interest in his deceased wife’s real property. –
Curtilage
The yard surrounding a residence or dwelling house which is reserved for or used by the occupants for their enjoyment or work. Curtilage may or may not be inclosed by fencing and includes any outhouses such as stand-alone garages or workshops. –
Custody
Charge and control of a person or item of property. –
Cy-pres
‘As near as may be’: a technical word used in the law of trusts or of wills to refer to a power that the courts have to, rather than void the document, to literal construction would give the document illegal, impracticable or impossible effect. –

 

D

Damages
A cash compensation ordered by a court to offset losses or suffering caused by another’s fault or negligence. –
Dangerous offender
A person convicted of serious crimes and who is likely to re-offend. –
Death
Irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions and irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem. –
Death penalty
Also known as capital punishment, this is the most severe form of corporal punishment as it is requires law enforcement officers to kill the offender. –
de bonis non
Latin and short for de bonis non administratis. A word used exclusively in estate matters and refers to situations where an estate is abandonoed by an administrator only partially administered and someone must be appointed to complete the administration of the residue of the estate; those assets not yet administered. –
Debtor
A person who owes money, goods or services to another, the latter being referred to as the creditor. –
Decapitation
The act of beheading a person, usually instantly such as with a large and heavy knife or by guillotine, as a form of capital punishment. –
Decedent
An individual who has died. –
Decree absolute
The name given to the final and conclusive court order after the condition of a decree nisi is met. –
Decree nisi
A provisional decision of a court which does not have force or effect until a certain condition is met such as another petition brought before the court or after the passage of a period time, after which it is called a decree absolute. –
Deed
A written and signed document which sets out the things that have to be done or recognitions of the parties towards a certain object. –
Deem
To accept a document or an event as conclusive of a certain status in the absence of evidence or facts which would normally be required to prove that status. –
De facto
Latin: as a matter of fact; something which, while not necessarily lawful or legally sanctified, exists in fact. –
Defalcation
1. Defaulting on a debt or other obligation such to account for public or trust funds. Usually used in the context of public officials. 2. Defalcation has another legal meaning referring to the setting-off of two debts owed between two people by the agreement to a new amount representing the balance. –
Defamation
An attack on the good reputation of a person, by slander or libel. –
Defeasance
A side-contract which contains a condition which, if realized, could defeat the main contract. –
Defendant
The person, company or organization who defends a legal action taken by a plaintiff and against whom the court has been asked to order damages or specific corrective action redress some type of unlawful or improper action alleged by the plaintiff. –
Defense Attorney or Defence Counsel
Lawyers who represent persons facing criminal charges. –
Dehors
French for outside. In the context of legal proceedings, it refers to that which is irrelevant or outside the scope of the debate. –
De jure
Latin: ‘of the law.’ The term has come to describe a total adherence of the law. –
Delegatus non potest delegare
One of the pivotal principles of administrative law: that a delegate cannot delegate. –
Demand letter
A letter from a lawyer, on behalf of a client, that demands payment or some other action, which is in default. –
Demarche
A word coined by the diplomatic community and referring to a strongly worded warning by one country to another and often, either explicitly or implicitly, with the threat of military consequence. –
De minimis non curat lex
Latin: a common law principle whereby judges will not sit in judgement of extremely minor transgressions of the law. –
Demurrer
This is a motion put to a trial judge after the plaintiff has completed his or her case, in which the defendant, while not objecting to the facts presented, and rather than responding by a full defence, asks the court to reject the petition right then and there because of a lack of basis in law or insufficiency of the evidence. –
De novo
Latin: new. This term is used to refer to a trial which starts over, which wipes the slate clean and begins all over again, as if any previous partial or complete hearing had not occurred. –
Deportation
The removal of a foreign national under immigration laws for reasons such as illegal entry or conduct dangerous to the public welfare. –
Deposition
The official statement by a witness taken in writing (as opposed to testimony which where a witnesses give their perception of the facts verbally). –
Descendant
Those person who are born of, or from children of, another are called that person’s descendants. –
Detinue
A common law action similar to conversion and also involving the possession of property by the plaintiff may also ask for damages for the duration of the possession. –
Devastavit
Latin for ‘he has wasted.’ This is the technical word referring to a personal representative who has mismanaged the estate and allowed an avoidable loss to occur. –
Devise
The transfer or conveyance of real property by will. –
Dicta or dictum
Latin: an observation by a judge on a matter not specifically before the court or not necessary in determining the issue before the court; a side opinion which does not form part of the judgment for the purposes of stare decisis. May also be called ‘obiter dictum.’ –
Diplomacy
Peaceful representations between states. –
Diplomat
An official representative of a state, present in another state for the purposes of general representation of the state-of-origin or for the purpose of specific international negotiations on behalf of the diplomat’s state-of-origin. –
Diplomatic Immunity
Immunity extended to diplomat officers from criminal and civil jurisdiction of their host state. –
Directed Verdict
When the Court stops a trial determining that an essential fact has not been proven. –
Direct Evidence
Evidence tendered in trial in the form of recounting of personal observations or a document which directly establishes a fact sought to be proven. –
Disability Insurance
An insurance contract in which the insurer agrees to pay money or to other benefits in the event that the person insured becomes disabled. –
Disbursement
Miscellaneous expenses other than lawyer fees and court costs (i.e. filing fees) which paid on behalf of another person and for which reimbursement will eventually be demanded of that person. –
Discretionary trust
A trust in which the settlor has given the trustee full discretion to decide which (and when) members of a group of beneficiaries is to receive either the income or the capital of the trust. –
Disrate
A term of maritime law where an officer or other seaman is either demoted in rank or deprived of a promotion. –
Dissent
To disagree. The word is used in legal circles to refer to the minority opinion of a judge which runs contrary to the conclusions of the majority. –
Dissolution
The act of ending, terminating or winding-up a company or state of affairs. –
Distraint
The right of a landlord to seize the property of a tenant which is in the premises being rented, as collateral against a tenant that has not paid the rent or has otherwise defaulted on the lease, such as wanton disrepair or destruction of the premises. –
District Attorney
A lawyer in the USA charged with prosecution of criminal charges on behalf of the government. –
Diversity Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction of a US federal court to dispose of a matter meeting a monetary threshold and between residents of different states. –
Dividend
A proportionate distribution of profits made in the form of a money payment to shareholders, by a for-profit corporation. Dividends are declared by a company’s board of directors. –
Divorce
The final, legal ending of a marriage, by Court order. –
DNA
Abbreviation for deoxyribonucleic acid. A chromosome molecule which carries genetic coding unique to each person with the only exception of identical twins (that is why it is also called ‘DNA fingerprinting’). –
Docket
An official court record book which lists all the cases before the court and which may also note the status or action required for each case. –
Doctrine
A rule or principle or the law established through the repeated application of legal precedents. –
Domicile
The permanent residence of a person; a place to which, even if he or she were temporary absent, they intend to return. –
Dominant tenement
Used when referring to easements to specify that property (i.e. tenement) or piece of land that benefits from, or has the advantage of, an easement. –
Dominion directum
Latin: the qualified ownership of a landlord, not having possession or use of property but retaining ownership. –
Dominion utile
Latin: the property rights of a tenant. While not owning the property in a legal sense, the tenant, as having dominion utile, enjoys full and exclusive possession and use of the property. –
Donatio mortis causa
A death-bed gift, made by a dying person, with the intent that the person receiving the gift shall keep the thing if death ensues. –
Donee
Another word to describe the beneficiary of a trust. –
Donor
The person who donates property to the benefit of another, usually through the legal mechanism of a trust. –
Double Jeopardy
A prohibition against being tried or sentenced twice for the same offense. –
Dower
Dower: a widow’s life estate interest in an intestate’s real property –
Duces tecum
Latin: bring with you. Used most frequently for a species of subpoena (as in subpoena duces tecum) which seeks not so much the appearance of a person before a court of law, but the surrender of a thing (eg. a document or some other evidence) by its holder, to the court, to serve as evidence in a trial. –
Due process
A term of US law which refers to fundamental procedural legal safeguards of which every citizen has an absolute right when a state or court purports to take a decision that could affect any right of that citizen. –
Dum casta
Latin: for so long as she remains chaste. Separation agreements years ago used to contain dum casta clauses which said that if the women were to start another relationship, she forfeited her entitlement to maintenance. –
Dum sola
Latin: for so long as she remains unmarried. –
Dum vidua
Latin: for so long as she remains a widow. –
Duplex
A house which has separate but complete facilities to accommodate two families as either adjacent units or one on top of the other. –
Duress
Where a person is prevented from acting (or not acting) according to their free will, by threats or force of another, it is said to be ‘under duress’. –

 

E

Easement
A right of passage over a neighbor’s land or waterway. –
Ecclesiastical law
Synonymous to canon law. –
Eggshell Skull Doctrine
A tort-feasor or a wrongdoer takes his victim as he finds him. –
Eighth Amendment
US constitutional amendment that prohibits excessive bail, …excessive fines (and) cruel and unusual punishment…. –
Ejusdem Generis
Ejusdem Generis –
Emancipation
Term used to describe the act of freeing a person who was under the legal authority of another (such as a child before the age of majority) from that control (such as child reaching the age of majority). –
Embargo
This is an act of international military aggression where an order is made prohibiting ships or goods from leaving a certain port, city or territory and may be enforced by military threat of destroying any vehicle that attempts to break it or by trade penalties. –
Embezzle
The illegal transfer of money or property that, although possessed legally by the embezzler, is diverted to the embezzler personally by his or her fraudulent action. –
Embracery
Improper influence on a juror. –
Eminent domain
USA: The legal power to expropriate private land for the sake of public necessity. –
Emolument
A legal word which refers to all wages, benefits or other benefit received as compensation for holding some office or employment. –
Emphyteusis
Civil law: a long-term (many years or in perpetuity) rental of land or buildings including the exclusive enjoyment of all product of that land and the exercise of all property rights typically reserved for the property owner such as mortgaging the property for the term of the emphyteusis or permitting a right of way. –
Emptio or emtio
Latin for ‘purchase’ or the contract in which something is bought. –
Enactment
A law or a statute; a document which is published as an enforceable set of written rules is said to be enacted. –
Endorsement
something written on the back of a document. An alternate spelling, in some English jurisdictions, is ‘indorsement’. –
Endowment
The transfer of money or property (usually as a gift) to a public organization for a specific purpose, such as medical research or scholarships. –
Enduring or Continuing Power of Attorney
A POA that continues even if and after a donor becomes incapacitated. –
Entrapment
The inducement, by law enforcement officers or their agents, of another person to commit a crime for the purposes of bringing charges for the commission of that artificially-provoked crime. –
Equity
A branch of English law which developed hundreds of years ago when litigants would go to the King and complain of harsh or inflexible rules of common law which prevented justice from prevailing. –
Escheat
Where property is returned to the government upon the death of the owner, because there is nobody to inherit the property –
Escrow
When the performance of something is outstanding and a third party holds onto money or a written document (such as shares or a deed) until a certain condition is met between the two contracting parties. –
Estate law
A term used by the law to decribe that part of the law which regulates wills, probate and other subjects related to the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. –
Estoppel
A rule of law that when person A, by act or words, gives person B reason to believe a certain set of facts upon which person B takes action, person A cannot later, to his (or her) benefit, deny those facts or say that his (or her) earlier act was improper. –
Euthanasia
The putting to death, by painless method, of a terminally-ill or severely debilitated person through the omission (intentionally withholding a life-saving medical procedure, also known as ‘passive euthanasia’) or commission of an act (‘active euthanasia’). –
Evidence
Proof of fact(s) presented at a trial. –
Ex aequo et bono
Latin for ‘in justice and fairness’. –
Examination for Discovery
An oral examination under oath. –
Examination-in-chief
The questioning of your own witness under oath. –
Exculpate
Something that excuses or justifies a wrong action. –
Executor
A person specifically appointed by a testator to administer the will ensuring that final wishes are respected (i.e. that the will is properly executed). –
Exhibit
A document or object shown to the court as evidence in a trial. –
Ex parte
Latin: for one party only. –
Ex patriate
A person who has abandoned his or her country of origin and citizenship and has become a subject or citizen of another country. –
Ex post facto
Latin: after the fact. –
Expropriation
Canada: the forced sale of land to a public authority. Synonymous to the USA doctrine of ‘eminent domain’. –
Express trust
A trust which is clearly created by the settlor, usually in the form of a document (eg. a will), although they can be oral. –
Expunge
To physically erase; to white or strike out. –
Ex rel
An abbreviation of ‘ex relatione’, Latin for ‘on the relation of.’ –
Extortion
Forcing a person to give up property in a thing through the use of violence, fear or under pretense of authority. –
Extradition
The arrest and delivery of a fugitive wanted for a crime committed in another country, usually under the terms of a extradition treaty. –
Ex turpi causa non oritur actio
Latin: ‘Of an illegal cause there can be no lawsuit.’ –

 

F

Fair market value
The hypothetical most probable price that could be obtained for a property by average, informed purchasers. –
Falsa Demonstratio Non Nacet
A wrong description of an item in a legal document (such as a will) will not necessarily void the gift if it can be determined from other facts. –
Fee simple
The most extensive tenure allowed under the intestate. In modern law, almost all land is held in fee simple and this is as close as one can get to absolute ownership in common law. –
Fee tail
A form of tenure under the lineal descendants upon the death of the tenant, the land reverted back to the lord. –
Felony
A serious crime for which the punishment is prison for more than a year or death. –
Feudal system
A social structure that existed throughout much of Europe between 800 and 1400 and that revolved around a multi-level hierarchy between lords (who held land granted under tenure from the king), and their tenants (also called ‘vassals’). –
Fiat
A shortly-worded and short-form, often truncated, Court order. –
Fiduciary
Normally, the term is synonymous to a trustee, which is the classic form of a fiduciary relationship. –
Fieri facias
A writ of fieri facias commands a sheriff to take and sell enough property from the person who lost the law suit, to pay the debt owed by the judgment. –
Fifth Amendment
A US Constitution article which provides fundamental rights in regards to legal process such as the immunity in regards to self incrimination. –
First Amendment
The amendment to the US Constitution which sets out freedom of expression. –
Flesch reading ease test
A legalese test against which insurance contracts are assessed. –
Force majeure
French for an act of God; an inevitable, unpredictable act of nature, not dependent on an act of man. Used in insurance contracts to refer to acts of nature such as earthquakes or lightning. –
Foreclosure
The technical meaning of the word is to wipe out a right of redemption on a property. Generally, this is what happens when someone does not pay their mortgage. Even though there has been no payments, the borrower retains a equitable right of redemption if, some day, he or she were able to find the money and try to exercise their right of redemption. –
Forfeiture
Seizure of private property because it was illegally obtained, is an illegal substance or the legal basis for possession has ended. –
Fourth Amendment
US constitutional protection against unreasonable search or arrest. –
Frankpledge
A community pledge in medieval England whereby a defined number of people, for example 10 households, were jointly held responsible for the denunciation of any crime within their group. –
Fraud
Deceitful conduct designed to manipulate another person to give something of value by (1) lying, (2) by repeating something that is or ought to have been known by the fraudulent party as false or suspect or (3) by concealing a fact from the other party which may have saved that party from being cheated. –
Fraudulent Conveyance
A transfer of an interest in property done with intent to defeat creditors or others of their just and lawful entitlements. –
Freehold
Use of real estate for an indeterminate time. –
Freight
The money paid by a person for the transportation of goods. –
Friendly Society
A form of corporate structure in the United Kingdom for the conduct of life or health insurance, pension fund or education-related business. –
Fugitive
One who runs away to avoid arrest, prosecution or imprisonment. –
Functus officio
Latin: an officer or agency whose mandate has expired either because of the arrival of an expiry date or because an agency has accomplished the purpose for which it was created. –
Fungibles
Goods which are comprised of many identical parts such as a bushel of grain or a barrel of apples or oil, and which can be easily replaced by other, identical goods. If the goods are sold by weight or number, this is a good sign that they are fungible. –
Furiosi nulla voluntas est
A Latin expression that mentally impaired persons cannot validly sign a will –

 

G

Garnishment
The seizing of a person’s property, credit or salary, on the basis of a law which allows it, and for the purposes of paying off a debt. –
Gavel
A wooden mallet used by a judge to bring proceedings to a start or to an end or to command attention in his or her court. –
Multilateral international treaty first created in 1947 and frequently amended (most recently in 1994) to which 125 countries subscribe. –
General counsel
The senior lawyer of a corporation. This is normally a full-time employee of the corporation although some corporations contract this position out to a lawyer with a private firm. –
Genocide
Systematic killing of persons because of their ethnicity. –
Gerrymander
The intentional setting of electoral boundaries taking into account traditional voting patterns, so as to attempt to influence the taking of an elected office. –
Gift
A transfer of property with nothing given in return. –
Gift over
A device used in wills and trusts to provide for the gift of property to a second recipient if a certain event occurs, such as the death of the first recipient. –
Golden Rule
A rule of statutory or legal document interpretation which allows a shift from the ordinary sense of as word(s) if the overall content of the document demands it. –
Goodwill
An intangible business asset which includes a cultivated reputation and consequential attraction and confidence of repeat customers and connections. –
Grand Jury
An American criminal justice procedure whereby, in each court district, a group of 16-23 citizens hold an inquiry on criminal complaints brought by the prosecutor and decide if a trial is warranted, in which case an indictment is issued. –
Gross negligence
Any action or an omission in reckless disregard of the consequences to the safety or property of another. Sometimes referred to as ‘very great negligence’ and it is more then just neglect of ordinary care towards others or just inadvertence. –
Guarantee or guaranty
A back-up debtor who steps in if the primary debtor defaults. –
Guarantor
A person who pledges payment or performance of a contract of another, but separately, as part of an independently contract with the obligee of the original contract. –
Guardian
An individual who, by legal appointment or by the effect of a written law, is given custodyof both the property and the person of one who is unable to manage their own affairs, such as a child or mentally-disabled person. –
Guardian ad litem
A guardian appointed to direct litigation on behalf and in the interests of a person otherwise incapable of managing their affairs. –
Guillotine
A machine designed to inflict capital punishment by dropping a blade onto the neck, thus quickly severing of the head from the body. –

 

H

Habeas corpus
Latin: a court petition which orders that a person being detained be produced before a judge for a hearing to decide whether the detention is lawful. –
Habitual offender
A person who is convicted and sentenced for crimes over a period of time and even after serving sentences of incarceration, such as demonstrates a propensity towards criminal conduct. –
Habitual residence
Ordinary residence. –
Halliday Order
A special Court order in regards to document disclosure where, in special cases, a lawyer for a litigant, as an officer of the Court, first review documents from specified sources, or at large, and identifies and proposes to set aside and distinguish documents weighed relevancy, for reasons of privilege, privacy, confidentiality, or the potential personal embarrassment of the party given the personal nature of the information in a document. –
Hand, Learned
A judge’s judge, American judge who stood up for unpopular but right causes. –
Harassment
Unsolicited words or conduct which tend to annoy, alarm or abuse another person. –
Hatch Act
An American statute which controls political activity of government employees. –
Hearsay
Any evidence that is offered by a witness of which they do not have direct knowledge but, rather, their testimony is based on what others have said to them. –
Heir
A beneficiary of wlll. –
Hodge’s Case
A rule in regards to the use of circumstantial evidence in the conviction of a criminal offence. –
Holograph will
A will written entirely in the testator’s handwriting and not witnessed. –
Home Invasion
A break and enter of occupied residential premises with forced confinement, assault or battery of occupants. –
Homicide
The word includes all occasions where one human being, by act or omission, takes away the life of another. –
Homosexuality
Homosexuality –
Hostile witness
During an examination-in-chief, a lawyer is not allowed to ask leading questions of their own witness. But, if that witness openly shows hostility against the interests (or the person) that the lawyer represents, the lawyer may ask the court to declare the witness ‘hostile’, after which, as an exception of the examination-in-chief rules, the lawyer may ask their own witness leading questions. –
Hotchpot
The mixing of property for the purposing of effecting an proportionate division. –
Hue and Cry
A community fugitive containment strategy of medieval England where a yell went up denouncing the offender and all within earshot took up the chase. –
Hung jury
A jury is required to make a unanimous or near unanimous verdict. –
Husband-wife privilege
A special right that married persons have to keep communications between them secret and even inaccessible to a court of law. –

 

I

Immunity
An exemption that a person (individual or corporate) enjoys from the normal operation of the law such as a legal duty or liability, either criminal or civil. -
In Camera
A closed and private session of Court or some other deliberating body. -
Incorporeal
Legal rights which are intangible such as copyrights or patents. -
Incorporeal hereditament
An incorporeal right which is attached to property and which is inheritable. Easements and profits ` prendre are examples of incorporeal hereditaments as are hereditary titles such as those common in the United Kingdom. -
Indefeasible
A right or title in property that cannot be made void, defeated or canceled by any past event, error or omission in the title. -
Indemnity
Contract with a third-party to perform another’s obligations if called upon to do so by the third-party, whether the other has defaulted or not. -
Indictable offence
An offence which, in Canada, is more serious than those which can proceed by summary conviction. -
Indictment
USA: a formal accusation returned by a Grand Jury, that charges a person with a serious crime. It is on the basis of an indictment that an accused person must stand trial. -
Indigenous
Native to a particular territory. -
Indigent
A poor person; not penniless but in need and who has no financial support from any other. -
Infanticide
Murder of an infant soon after its birth. -
Injunction
A court order that prohibits a party from doing something (restrictive injunction) or compels them to do something (mandatory injunction). -
In limine
Latin: at the beginning or on the threshold. -
Innocent Passage
A term of international maritime law referring to a ship’s right to enter and pass through a coastal state’s territorial waters so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state. -
In pari delicto
Latin: both parties are equally at fault. -
In personam
Latin: All legal rights are either in personam or in rem. An in personam right is a personal right attached to a specific person. In rem rights are property rights and enforceable against the entire world. -
In rem
Latin: All legal rights are either in personam or in rem. In rem rights are proprietary in nature; related to the ownership of property and not based on any personal relationship, as is the case with in personam rights. -
Insanity
Disorder which impairs the human mind and prevents a person from awareness that his act was wrong. -
Insider Trading
Participation by corporate officers, directors or employees in the trade of a stock based on confidential or privileged corporate information, knowing that information to be confidential, and seeking thereby to acquire profits or avoid losses on the stock market. -
Insolence
Insulting a supervisor at the workplace or within an employment contract. -
Insolvent
A person not able to pay his or her debts as they become due. ‘Insolvency’ is a prerequisite to bankruptcy. -
Insubordination
Willful failure to obey a supervisor’s lawful orders. -
Insurance
Where a persons agrees, for consideration, to pay a certain amount on the occurrence of a specified event. -
Intellectual Property
As a type of property, intellectual property has that unique characteristic of being ethereal; of the mind, intangible, with no corporeal existence; hence, ‘intellectual property’. -
Inter alia
Latin: ‘among other things’, ‘for example’ or ‘including’. -
Interim order
A temporary court order; intended to be of limited duration, usually just until the court has had an opportunity of hearing the full case and make a final order. -
Interlineation
An addition of something to a document after it has been signed. Such additions are ignored unless they are initialed by the signatories and, if applicable, witnesses (eg. wills). -
Interlocutory
Proceedings taken during the course of, and incidental to a trial. -
Interlocutory injunction
An injunction which lasts only until the end of the trial during which the injunction was sought. -
Interloper
A person who, without legal right, runs a business (eg. without mandatory licenses), or who wrongfully interferes or intercepts another’s business. -
International law
A combination of treaties and customs which regulates the conduct of states amongst themselves. The highest judicial authority of international law is the International Court of Justice and the administrative authority is the United Nations. -
Internet
A global computer network. -
Inter partes
Latin: between parties. -
Inter se
Inter se – as between or amongst themselves. As between the parties. -
Inter vivos
Latin: from one living person to another living person. -
Intestate
Dying without a will. -
Inure
To take effect, to result; to come into operation. -
Islamic law
The law according to the Muslim faith and as interpreted from the Koran. -

 

j

Jactitation
A false boast designed to increase standing at the expense of another. –
J. D.
Abbreviation for ‘juris doctor’ or ‘doctor of ‘jurisprudence’ and the formal name given to the university law degree in the United States. It is a prerequisite to most bar admission exams. –
Joint and several liability
Liability of more than one person for which each person may be sued for the entire amount of damages done by all. –
Joint custody
A child custody decision which means that both parents share joint legal custody and joint physical custody. –
Joint tenancy
When two or more persons are equally owners of some property. –
Joyce Model of Joint Guardianship
A British Columbia model of joint guardianship in respect to children as between separated parents. –
Judicial review
In many cases, the ‘appeal’ from administrative agencies is known as ‘judicial review’ which is essentially a process where a court of law is asked to rule on the appropriateness of the administrative agency or tribunal’s decision. –
Jure
Latin, from Roman law: by right, under legal authority or by the authority of the law. A variation, juris means of right or of the law. See jurisprudence below which means science of the law. –
Jurisdiction
Refers to a court’s authority to judge over a situation usually acquired in one of three ways: over acts committed in a defined territory (eg. the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Australia is limited to acts committed or originating in Australia), over certain types of cases (the jurisdiction of a bankruptcy court is limited to bankruptcy cases), or over certain persons (a military court has jurisdiction limited to actions of enlisted personnel). –
Jurisprudence
Thus, jurisprudence has come to refer to case law, or the legal decisions which have developed and which accompany statutes in applying the law against situations of fact. –
Jury
A group of citizens randomly selected from the general population and brought together to assist justice by deciding which version, in their opinion, constitutes ‘the truth’ given different evidence by opposing parties. –
Jus
Latin: word which, in Roman law, meant the law or a right. –
Jus spatiandi et manendi
Latin: referring to a legal right of way, and to enjoyment, granted to the public but only for the purposes of recreation or education, such as upon parks or public squares. –
Justice
A state of affairs in which conduct or action is both fair and right, given the circumstances. –

 

K

Kidnap
Every person commits an offence who kidnaps a person with intent to cause the person to be confined or imprisoned against the person’s will to cause the person to be unlawfully sent or transported out of Canada against the person’s will; or to hold the person for ransom or to service against the person’s will. –
Kin
A blood or marriage relative; as in ‘next of kin’ refers to the closest relative –
Kangaroo Court
A judicial proceeding or trial which has a predetermined outcome or where the basic legal rights of a party are jumped over. –

 

L

A legal doctrine whereby those who take too long to assert a legal right, lose their entitlement to compensation. –
Landed Immigrant
An immigration law term; an individual who has relocated and changed his permanent residence to a state where he does not have citizenship but does limited rights associated with residency. –
Landlord
A land or building owner who has leased the land, the building or a part of the land or building, to another person. –
Larceny
An old English criminal and common law offence covering the unlawful or fraudulent removal of another’s property without the owner’s consent. –
Law
All the rules of conduct that have been approved by the government and which are in force over a certain territory and which must be obeyed by all persons on that territory (eg. the ‘laws’ of Australia). –
Lawyer
A person that has been trained in the law and that has been certified to give legal advice or to represent others in attorney. –
Leading question
A question which suggests an answer; usually answerable by yes or no. –
Lease
A special kind of contract between a property owner and a person wanting temporary enjoyment and use of the property, in exchange for rent paid to the property owner. –
Leasehold
Real property held under a lease. –
Legacy
A gift of a chattel by will. –
Legal Aid
No-cost legal services to economically disfavoured litigants. –
Legal custody
A child custody decision which entails the right to make, or participate in, the significant decisions affecting a child’s health and welfare (compare with physical custody and joint custody). –
Legalese
English words combined with others in long-winded sentences, or varied or with permutations, with the initial design of legal or drafting precision but which otherwise add unnecessary complexity and inadvertently resulting in confusion. –
Legislation
Written and approved laws. Also known as statutes or acts. –
Liability
Any legal obligation, either due now or at some time in the future. It could be a debt or a promise to do something. –
Libel
Defamation by writing such as in a newspaper or a letter. –
Liberal construction
A form of construction which allows a judge to consider other factors when deciding the meaning of a phrase or document. –
License
A special permission to do something on, or with, somebody else’s property which, were it not for the license, could be legally prevented or give rise to legal action in tort or trespass. –
Lien
A property right which remains attached to an object that has been sold, but not totally paid for, until complete payment has been made. –
Life estate
A right to use and to enjoy land and/or structures on land only for the life of the life tenant. –
Life tenant
The beneficiary of a life estate. –
Limitations or Statute of Limitations
Loss of a cause of action because of the passage of time. –
Limited partner
A unique colleague in a partnership relationship who has agreed to be liable only to the extent of his (or her) investment. –
Limited Power of Attorney
A POA limited by a condition or term or in regards to a specific item of property. –
Limitrophe
Adjacent, bordering or contiguous. –
Lineal descendant
A person who is a direct descendant such as a child to his or her natural parent. –
Liquidated damages
Pre-determined damages. –
Liquidation
The selling of all the assets of a debtor and the use of the cash proceeds of the sale to pay off creditors. –
Lis pendens
Latin: a dispute or matter which is the subject of ongoing or pending litigation. –
Literal construction
A form of construction which does not allow evidence extrapolated beyond the actual words of a phrase or document but, rather, takes a phrase or document at face value, giving effect only to the actual words used. –
Litigation
A dispute is in ‘litigation’ ( or being ‘litigated’) when it has become the subject of a formal court action or law suit. –
Livery
Delivery. An archaic legal word from the feudal system referring to the actual legal transmission of possession of an object to another. –
Living will
A document that sets out guidelines for dealing with life-sustaining medical procedures in the eventuality of the signatory’s sudden debilitation. –
LL.B., L.M. or LL.D.
Latin for ‘the place.’ For example, lawyers talk of the ‘locus delicti’ as the pace where a criminal offense was commited or ‘loco parentis’ to refer to a person who stands in the place of a parent such as a step-parent in a common law relationship. –
Lockout
An employer’s decision to bar unionized employees entry to the workplace until such time as they accept to work on the employer’s terms and conditions or based on a lapsed collective bargaining agreement. –
Locus
Latin for the place. –
Locus Standi
A right to address the Court on a matter before it. –
Loitering
Loitering: to waste time idling. –
Long arm statutes
Each court is bound to a territorial jurisdiction and does not normally have jurisdiction over persons that reside outside of that jurisdiction. –
Long-term offender
A convicted person for whom who a court states there is a substantial risk of re-offending. –
Lunatic
An individual of unsound mind. –
Lycurgus
Sparta(n) legal innovator circa 700BCE. –

 

M

Magna Carta
Charter to which subscribed King John of England on June 12, 1215 in which a basic set of limits were set on the King’s powers. –
Mailbox Rule
A contract law exception that makes a mailed acceptance of an offer valid as of posting. –
Maintenance
Refers to the obligation of one person to contribute, in part or in whole, to the cost of living of another person. –
Malfeasance
Doing something which is illegal. Compare with misfeasance and nonfeasance. –
Malice
Spite or ill-will. –
Malicious Prosecution
A tort which compensates a person for the malicious, unfounded and unsuccesful institution of criminal or disciplinary proceedings. –
Mandamus
A writ which commands an individual, organization (eg. government), administrative tribunal or court to perform a certain action, usually to correct a prior illegal action or a failure to act in the first place. –
Manslaughter
Unlawful killing of a human being without malice. –
Mareva Injunction
A temporary injunction that freezes the assets of a party pending further order or final resolution by the Court. –
Maritime law
A very specific body of law peculiar to transportation by water, seamen and harbors. –
Marriage
The voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. –
Martial Law
The suspension of regular government and habeas corpus or the reliance of military law enforcement. –
Mary Carter Agreement
Where some defendants settle with a plaintiff a term of which is a loan by the settling defendant to the plaintiff, to be repaid by any monies recovered from the remaining defendant(s). –
Massachusetts trust
A unique way to organize a business where the property is bought by, or transferred to, a trustee (such as a trust company) and the trustee issues trust units, which the investors, or their designates, hold as beneficiaries. –
Matrimony
The legal state of being married. –
Mediation
The most popular form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), mediation involves the appointment of a mediator who acts as a facilitator assisting the parties in communicating, essentially negotiating a settlement. –
Melton’s Case
A mid-1500s English case, never brought to Court because the king and his Parliament defeated the otherwise meritorious claim by retroactive statute. –
Mens rea
Mens rea: Latin for guilty mind; guilty knowledge or intention to commit a prohibited act. –
Minor
A person who is legally underage. It varies between 21 and 18 years of age. –
Minutes
The official record of a meeting. –
Miranda warning
Also known as the Miranda Rule, this is the name given to the requirement that police officers, in the U.S.A., must warn suspects upon arrest that they have the right to remain silent, that any statement that they make could be used against them in a court of law, that they have the right to contact a lawyer and that if they cannot afford a lawyer, that one will be provided before any questioning is so desired. –
Misdemeanor
(USA) A crime of lesser seriousness than a felony where the punishment might be a fine or prison for less than one year. –
Misfeasance
Improperly doing something which a person has the legal right to do. Compare with malfeasance and nonfeasance. –
Mis-joinder
When a person has been named as a party to a law suit when that person should not have been added. –
Misrepresentation
A false and material statement which induces a party to enter into a contract. This is a ground for rescission of the contract. –
Mistrial
A partial or complete trial which is found to be null and void and of no effect because of some irregularity. –
Mitigating circumstances
These are facts that, while not negating an offence or wrongful action, tend to show that the defendant may have had some grounds for acting the way he/she did. –
M’Naghten Rules
A defence to criminal law liability developed in England in if at the time of the offence, the accused had a disease of the mind such that he was unable to know that his act was wrong. –
Mitigation of damages
A person who sues another for damages has a responsibility to minimize those damages, as far as reasonable. –
Modus operandi
Latin: method of operation. Used by law enforcement officials to refer to a criminal’s preferred method of committing crime. –
Moiety
Half of something. For example, it can be said that joint tenants hold a moiety in property. –
Monopoly
A commercial advantage enjoyed by only one or a select few companies in which only those companies can trade in a certain area. –
Moot
a side issue, problem or question which does not have to be decided to resolve the main issues in a dispute. also called a moot point –
Moot court
Fictional or hypothetical trial, usually hosted by law schools, as training for future barristers or litigators. –
Moratorium
The temporary suspension of legal action against a person. –
Mortgage
An interest given on a piece of land, in writing, to guarantee the payment of a debt or the execution of some action. It automatically becomes void when the debt is paid or the action is executed. –
MOU
Abbreviation fo Memorandum of Understanding. A document which, if meeting the other criteria, can be, in law, a contract. –
Murder
Intentional homicide (the taking of another person’s life), without legal justification or provocation. –

 

N

Nation
A group or race of people that share history, traditions and culture. –
National treatment
A tenet of international trade agreements whereby nations must afford imported goods the same treatment that they afford domestic or national products (no discrimination). –
Natural justice
A word used to refer to situations where audi alteram partem (the right to be heard) and quasi-judicial or judicial decisions. –
NCND Agreement
An international trade instrument; non circumvention/non disclosure agreement used in the preliminary stages of a business transaction where the Seller and Buyer do not know each other, but are brought into contact with each other by one or more intermediaries (also known as brokers or middlemen), to fulfill the transaction. –
Negligence
Not only are people responsible for the intentional harm they cause, but their failure to act as a reasonable person would be expected to act in similar circumstances (i.e. negligence) will also give rise to compensation. –
Negotiate
To communicate on a matter of disagreement between two parties, with a view to first listen to the other party’s perspective and to then attempt to arrive at a resolution by consensus. –
Nemo judex in parte sua
Latin, and a fundamental principle of natural justice which states that no person can judge a case in which he or she is party or in which he/she has an interest. –
Next of kin
The nearest blood relative of a deceased. –
Nolo contendere
Latin for I will not defend it. Used primarily in criminal proceedings whereby the defendant declines to refute the evidence of the prosecution. –
Non compos mentis
Not of sound mind (Latin). –
Non est factum
Latin for not his deed and a special defense in contract law to allow a person to avoid having to respect a contract that she or he signed because of certain reasons such as a mistake as to the kind of contract. –
Nonfeasance
Not doing something that a person should be doing. Compare with malfeasance and misfeasance. –
Non-joinder
When a person who should have been made a party to a legal proceedings has been forgotten or omitted. –
Non-profit
Operated as nearly as possible at cost; an organization not seeking profit and which does not disgorge excess income to its members, in the form of dividends or otherwise. –
Noscitur a sociis
That the meaning of a word may be known from accompanying words. –
Notary
Also known as notary public: a legal officer with specific judicial authority to attest to legal documents usually with an official seal. –
Not For Profit
Operated as nearly as possible at cost; on a cost-recovery basis; an organization not seeking profit and which does not disgorge excess income to its members, in the form of dividends or otherwise. –
Notwithstanding
In spite of, even if, without regard to or impediment by other things. –
Novation
substitute a new debt for an old debt cancelling the old debt. –
Nudum pactum
A contract-law term which stands for those agreements which are without consideration, such as a unilateral undertaking, which may bind a person morally, but not under contract law, in those jurisdictions which still require consideration. –
Nuisance
Excessive or unlawful use of one’s property to the extent of unreasonable annoyance or inconvenience to a neighbor or to the public. Nuisance is a tort. –
Nunc pro tunc
Deemed retroactive –

 

O

Oath
A religious or solemn affirmation to tell the truth or to take a certain action. –
Obiter dictum
Latin: an observation by a judge on a matter not specifically before the court or not necessary in determining the issue before the court; a side opinion which does not form part of the judgment for the purposes of stare decisis –
Obligee
The person who is to receive the benefit of someone elses obligation; that someone else being the promisee. Some countries refer to the recipient of family support as an obligee. –
Obligor
A person who is contractually or legally, committed or obliged, to providing something to another person; the recipient of the benefit being called the promisor. –
Obscenity
An elusive concept used in the context of criminal law to describe a publication which is illegal because it is morally corruptive. –
Obstructing justice
An act which tends to impede or thwart the administration of justice. –
Offense
A crime; any act which contravenes the criminal law of the state in which it occurs. Spelled offence in Commonwealth countries. –
Offer
A explicit proposal to contract which, if accepted, completes the contract and binds both the person that made the offer and the person accepting the offer to the terms of the contract. –
Ombudsman
A person whose occupation consists of investigating customer complaints against his or her employer. Many governments have ombudsmen who will investigate citizen complaints against government services. –
Omnibus bill
A draft law before a legislature which contains more than one substantive matter, or several minor matters which have been combined into one bill, ostensibly for the sake of convenience. –
Onus
Latin: the burden. It is usually used in the context of evidence. –
Open-ended agreement
An agreement or contract which does not have an ending date but which will continue for as long as certain conditions, identified in the agreement, exist. –
Order
A formal written direction given by a member of the judiciary; a court decision without reasons. –
Ordinance
An executive decision of a government which has not been subjected to a legislative assembly (contrary to a statute). It is often detailed and not, as would be a statute, of general wording or application. –
Orphan
A person who has lost one or both of his or her natural parents. –
Out-of-court settlement
An agreement between two litigants to settle a matter privately before the Court has rendered its decision. –

P

Paralegal
A person who is not a lawyer or is not acting in that capacity but who provides a limited number of legal services. –
Pardon
A pardon is a government decision to allow a person who has been convicted of a crime, to be free and absolved of that conviction, as if never convicted. –
Parens patriae
Parens patriae (Latin): A British common law creation whereby the courts have the right to make unfettered decisions concerning people who are not able to take care of themselves. –
Pari delicto
Latin for of equal fault. –
Pari passu
Latin: Equitably and without preference. –
Parole
An early release from incarceration in which the prisoner promises to heed certain conditions (usually set by a parole board) and under the supervision of a parole officer. –
Parol Evidence Rule
Verbal evidence is inadmissible to vary or contradict the terms of a written agreement. –
Parricide
Killing one’s father or another a family member or close relative. –
Partnership
A business organization in which two or more persons carry on a business together. –
Par value shares
Shares issued by a company which have a minimum price. –
Passing-Off
The Tort of Passing-Off –
Patent
An exclusive privilege granted to an inventor to make, use or sale an invention for a set number of years (eg. in Canada, 17 years). –
Patentee
Patentee: a person to whom a patent has been granted; who appears on the official government registry of patent owners. –
Paternity
Being a father. Paternity suits are launched when a man denies paternity of a child born out of wedlock. –
Pauper’s Oath
An affidavit of indigence, of poverty. –
Payee
The person to whom payment is addressed or given. –
Payor
The person who is making the payment(s). –
Pedophile
A person afflicted with pedophilia, a sexual perversion in which children are preferred as sexual partner. –
Pen register
An electronic surveillance device which attaches to a phone line and which registers every number dialed from a specific telephone. This surveillance device is not as effective as wire-tapping. –
Pendente lite
Latin: during litigation. For example, if the validity of a will is challenged, a court might appoint an administrator pendente lite with limited powers to do such things as may be necessary to preserve the assets of the deceased until a hearing can be convened on the validity of the will. –
Percolating water
Water which seeps or filters through the ground without any definite channel and not part of the flow of any waterway. The best example is rain water. –
Peremptory
Final or absolute or not open to challenge. –
Perjury
An intentional lie given while under oath or in a sworn affidavit. –
Permanent Resident
An individual who has status in a country usually less than citizenship but more than just a visitor. –
Perpetuating testimony
The recording of evidence when it is feared that the person with that evidence may soon die or disappear and that this person’s evidence, if recorded, could then be used in the future to prevent a possible injustice or to support a future claim of property. –
Perpetuity
Forever; of unlimited duration. There is a strong bias in the law against things that are to last in perpetuity. –
Person
An entity with legal rights and existence including the ability to sue and be sued, to sign contracts, to receive gifts, to appear in court either by themselves or by lawyer and, generally, other powers incidental to the full expression of the entity in law. –
Personal representative
In the law of wills, this is the general name given to the person who administers the estate of a deceased person. –
Petition
The formal, written document submitted to a court, and which asks for the court to redress what is described in the petition as being an injustice of some kind. –
Pettifogger
A petty or underhanded lawyer or an attorney who sustains a professional livelihood on disreputable or dishonorable business. –
Petty offense
A minor crime and for which the punishment is usually just a small fine or short term of imprisonment. –
Physical custody
A child custody decision which grants the right to organize and administer the day to day residential care of a child. –
Picket
To object publicly, on or adjacent to the employer’s premises, to an employer’s labor practices, goods or services. The most common form of picketing is patrolling with signs. –
Pillory
A medieval punishment and restraining device made of moveable and adjustable boards through which a prisoner’s head or limbs were pinned. –
Plaintiff
The person who brings an case to court; who sues. –
Plea bargaining
Negotiations during a criminal trial, between an accused person and a prosecutor in which the accused agrees to admit to a crime (sometimes a lesser crime than the one set out in the original charge), avoiding the expense of a public trial, in exchange for which the prosecutor agrees to ask for a more lenient sentence than would have been recommended if the case had of proceeded to full trial. –
Pleadings
That part of a party’s case in which he or she formally sets out the facts and legal arguments which support that party’s position. –
Poach
To kill or take an animal or fish from the property of another. –
Polygamy
Being married to more than one person. Illegal in most countries. –
Polygraph
A lie-detector machine which records even the slightest variation in blood pressure, body temperature and respiration as questions are put to, and answers elicited from a subject. –
Pornography
The portrayal of sexual acts solely for the purpose of sexual arousal. –
Postal rule
A rule of contract law that makes an exception to the general rule that an acceptance is only created when communicated directly to the offeror. –
Postnuptial agreement
A separation agreement. –
Power of attorney
A document which gives a person the right to make binding decisions for another, as an agent. –
Præcipe or precipe
Latin: used to refer to the actual writ that would be presented to a court clerk to be officially issued on behalf of the court but now mostly refers to the covering letter from the lawyer (or plaintiff) which accompanies and formally asks for the writ to be issued by the court officer. –
Praemunire
An offence against the King or Parliament, in old English law, which led to serious penalties but not capital punishment. –
Precatory words
Words that express a wish or a desire rather than a clear command. –
Precedent
A case which establishes legal principles to a certain set of facts, coming to a certain conclusion, and which is to be followed from that point on when similar or identical facts are before a court. –
Preferred shares
A share in a company that has some kind of special right or privilege attached to it, such as that it is distinguished from the company’s common shares. –
Preponderance
A word describing evidence that persuades a judge or jury to lean to one side as opposed to the other during the course of litigation. –
Prescription
A method of acquiring rights through the silence of the legal owner. –
Presumption of Advancement
A presumption in trust, contract and family law which suggests that property transferred from a parent to a child, or spouse to spouse, is a gift and would defeat any presumption of a resulting trust. –
Presumption of Death
A presumption such that after a number of years, or events, an individual is presumed dead and his estate managed accordingly. –
Presumption of Fact
A conclusion of fact constructed logically from other proven facts. –
Presumption of Innocence
A legal presumption that benefits a defendant in a criminal case and which results in acquittal in the event that the prosecutor does not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. –
Prima facie
(Latin) A legal presumption which means on the face of it or at first sight. Law-makers will often use this device to establish that if a certain set of facts are proven, then another fact is established prima facie. –
Primogeniture
Primogeniture – oldest son inherits. –
Principal
An agent’s master; the person for whom an agent has received instruction and to whose benefit the agent is expected to perform and make decisions. –
Private law
Law which regulates the relationships between individuals. Family, commercial and labor law are examples of private law because the focus of those kinds of laws is the relationships between individuals or between corporations or organizations and individual, with the government a bystander. –
Privilege
A special and exclusive legal advantage or right such as a benefit, exemption, power or immunity. –
Probate
The formal certificate given by a court that certifies that a will has been proven, validated and registered and which, from that point on, gives the executor the legal authority to execute the will. –
Probation
A kind of punishment given out as part of a sentence which means that instead of jailing a person convicted of a crime, a judge will order that the person reports to a probation officer regularly and according to a set schedule. –
Pro bono
Provided for free. Pro bono publico means for the public good. –
Profit à prendre
A servitude which resembles an easement and which allows the holder to enter the land of another and to take some natural produce such as mineral deposits, fish or game, timber, crops or pasture. –
Pro forma
As a matter of form; in keeping with a form or practice. Something done pro forma may not be essential but it facilitates future dealings. –
Prohibition
A legal restriction against the use of something or against certain conduct. For example, in the 1920s, both the USA and Canada enacted liquor prohibitions, outlawing the manufacture or use of alcoholic beverages. –
Promisee
A person whom is to be the beneficiary of a promise, an obligation or a contract. –
Promisor
The person who has become obliged through a promise (usually expressed in a contract) towards another, the intended beneficiary of the promise being referred to as the obligor –
Promissory Estoppel
A promise made to another party to a contract that the contract will not be enforced in whole or in part and which, once acted upon, prevents subsequent proceedings to enforce the contract as against the person who relied on the promise. –
Promissory note
An unconditional, written and signed promise to pay a certain amount of money, on demand or at a certain defined date in the future. –
Property
Property is commonly thought of as a thing which belongs to someone and over which a person has total control. But, legally, it is more properly defined as a collection of legal rights over a thing. –
Propinquity
Nearness in place; close-by. Also used to describe relationships as synonymous for kin. –
Pro possessore
As a possessor. For example, a person may exercise certain rights over a thing not as owner but pro possessore: as a person who possesses, but does not own, the thing. –
Propound
To offer a document as being authentic or valid. –
Pro rata
Latin: to divide proportionate to a certain rate or interest. –
Proprietor
Owner. –
Pro se
Latin: in one’s personal behalf. Contrast with pro socio. –
Pro socio
Latin: on behalf of a partner; not on one’s personal behalf. –
Prosecute
To bring judicial proceedings against a person and to administer them until the conclusion of the court proceedings. Lawyers are hired by the government to administer the prosecution of criminal charges in the courts. –
Prospectus
A document in which a corporation sets out the material details of a share or bond issue and inviting the public to invest by purchasing these financial instruments. –
Prostitute
Prostitute: A person who engages in prostitution; who offers lewd acts for the gratification of the customer and in exchange for payment. –
Pro tempore
Latin: something done temporarily only and not intended to be permanent. –
Proxy
A right which is signed-over to an agent. Proxies are used frequently at annual meetings of corporations where the right to exercise a vote is ‘proxied’ from the shareholder to the agent. –
Public Defender
An attorney in the USA paid for by the state but representing an indigent individual in a criminal matter. –
Public domain
A term of American copyright law referring to works that are not copyright protected, free for all to use without permission. –
Public law
Those laws which regulate (1) the structure and administration of the government, (2) the conduct of the government in its relations with its citizens, (3) the responsibilities of government employees and (4) the relationships with foreign governments. –
Puisne
Junior or lower in rank, as opposed to the chief justice. For example, there are 8 puisne judges on the Supreme Court of Canada and a chief justice. –
Punitive damages
special and highly exceptional damages ordered by a court against a defendant where the act or omission which caused the suit, was of a particularly heinous, malicious or highhanded nature. –

 

Q

Quaere
Latin for query as in an issue on which some doubt or question exists. –
Qualified Privilege
A defence in defamation actions that defeats the claim when that defamation issues from specified occasions. –
Quantum
Latin: amount or extent. –
Quantum meruit
Latin for as much as is deserved. This is a legal principle under which a person should not be obliged to pay, nor should another be allowed to receive, more than the value of the goods or services exchanged. –
Quash
To set aside. –
Quasi-judicial
Refers to decisions made by administrative tribunals or government officials to which the rules of natural justice apply. –
Queen’s Counsel
An archaic designation of a barrister, phased out in most jurisdiction, indicating of its title holder faithfulness to the Crown, but more recently, contribution to the profession of lawyers. –
Quid pro quo
Latin: something for something. The giving of something in exchange for another thing of equal value. –
Qui facit per alium facit per se
He who acts through another, acts himself. –
Quorum
The number of people who must be present at a meeting before business can be conducted. –
Quo warranto
Latin and referring to a special legal procedure taken to stop a person or organization from doing something for which it may not have the legal authority, by demanding to know by what right they exercise the controversial authority. –
Quia Emptores
A 1290 English statute that held that notwithstanding the subdivision (subinfeudation) of a feeholding; the new tenant owed feudal rights and obligations not to the seller but to the Land Lord. –

 

R

Ransom
Money paid to have a kidnapped person released. –
Rape
sex with a woman, other than a wife, without her consent. But many states have changed this basic definition to include sex with a minor (with or without consent; also known as statutory rape), sex with a man without his consent, or exempting men who force their wives to have sex. –
Real property
Immoveable property such as land or a building or an object that, though at one time a chattel, has become permanently affixed to land or a building. –
Reasonable Doubt
A threshold of proof in criminal cases in most modern criminal law systems which requires the trier of fact to be sure, not certain, of the accused guilt, before convicting. –
Rebuttable presumption
Usually, every element of a case must be proven to a judge or a jury. –
Redemption
Buying back. When a vendor later buys the property back. –
Refugee
A person who is outside his state of origin or of residence, cannot return without exposure to human-rights related persecution. –
Relator
An informer; a person who has supplied the facts required for a criminal prosecution or a civil suit. –
Remainder
A right to future enjoyment or ownership of real property. –
REMO
Abbreviation for reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders and the name of the international system of recognition, registration and enforcement of child and spousal support orders between countries which have agreed, between themselves, to enforce each other’s maintenance orders. –
Rent
This is the consideration paid by a tenant to a landlord in exchange for the exclusive use and enjoyment of land, a building or a part of a building. –
Replevin
A legal action taken to reclaim goods which have been distrained. –
Rescind
To abrogate or cancel a contract putting the parties in the same position they would have been in had there been no contract. –
Res gestae
Latin for things done. A peculiar rule, used mostly in criminal cases, which allows hearsay if the statement is made during the excitement of the litigated event. –
Res ipsa loquitur
Latin for the thing speaks for itself. Generally, in tort, the mere fact of an accident is not proof of negligence. But in some cases, negligence is presumed on the defendant since the object causing injury was in his or her control. This is the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. –
Res judicata
Latin: A matter which has already been conclusively decided by a court. –
Respondeat superior
Let the principal answer. –
Respondent
The party that responds to a claim filed in court against them by a plaintiff. –
Restitutio in integrum
Latin for restitution to the original position. In contract law, upon breach of contract, the injured party may ask the court to reverse the contract and revert the parties to their respective positions before the contract was accepted. –
Restitution
Under ancient English common law, when a party enforced a court judgement and then that judgement was overturned on appeal, the appellant could ask the appeal court for restitution, or financial compensation placing that appellant in the same position as if the original legal decision had not been enforced. –
Restrictive Covenant
A contract to be limited in some regards as to future conduct. –
Resulting trust
A trust that is presumed by the court from certain situations. –
Retainer
A contract between a lawyer and his (or her) client, wherein the lawyer agrees to represent and provide legal advice to the client, in exchange for money. –
Reversion
A future interest left in a transferror or his (or her) heirs. A reservation in a real property conveyance that the property reverts back to the original owner upon the occurence of a certain event. –
Rider
A written amendment as to the coverage of an existing life or health insurance policy. –
Right of first refusal
A right given to a person to be the first person allowed to purchase a certain object if it is ever offered for sale. –
Riparian rights
Special rights of people who own land that runs into a river bank (a riparian owner is a person who owns land that runs into a river). –
Robbery
Theft under threat or use of force. –
Rota Court
Medieval Papal and Roman Catholic court. –
Rule against perpetuities
A common law rule that prevents suspending the transfer of property for more then 21 years or a lifetime plus 21 years. –

S

Sanction
To sanction can mean to ratify or to approve but it can also mean to punish. The sanction of a crime refers to the actual punishment, usually expressed as a fine or jail term. –
Sanctuary
A special criminal law option available in Medieval times to persons who had just committed a crime, allowing them to seek refuge in a church or monastery. –
Sarbanes-Oxley Act
An American federal law, 2002, which substantially revised and strengthened securities laws and their administration. –
Satisfaction guaranteed
A condition in a sales contract that leaves final approval of the product with the purchaser. –
School Law
The law as it relates to education. –
Scienter
Latin for knowledge. In legal situations, the word is usually used to refer to guilty knowledge. –
Search warrant
A court order (i.e. signed by a judge) that gives a police the permission to enter private property and to search for evidence of the commission of a crime, for the proceeds of crime or property that the police suspect may be used to commit a crime. –
Seisin
The legal possession of property. In law, the term refers more specifically to the possession of land by a freeholder. –
Semayne’s Case
A 1604 English case which established that in law, every man’s house is his castle yields to a warrant. –
Sentence
The punishment given to a person who has been convicted (i.e. found to be guilty) of a crime. It may be time in jail, community service or a period of probation. –
Separation Agreement
A contract between separating spouses resolving issues of joint or family assets, support and child responsibilities. –
Sequestration
The taking of someones property, voluntarily (by deposit) or involuntarily (by seizure), by court officers or into the possession of a third party, awaiting the outcome of a trial in which ownership of that property is at issue. –
Servient tenement
The land which suffers or has the burden of an easement. The beneficiary of the easement is called a dominant tenement. –
Servitude
From Roman law, referring to rights of use over the property of another; a burden on a piece of land causing the owner to suffer access by another. –
Settlor
The person who actually creates a trust by donating property to be managed and administered by a trustee but from which all profits would go to a beneficiary. –
Sex
Sex: gender, as in male or female. Also refers to sexual intercourse. –
Sexual harassment
A term used in human rights legislation and referring primarily to harassment in employment situations, related to sex or gender, which detrimentally affects the working environment. –
Sexual intercourse
Penetration of a man’s penis into a woman’s vagina. –
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation is commonly understood to mean an individual’s orientation or preference in terms of sexual relationship with others – whether homosexual or heterosexual. –
Share
A portion of a company bought by a transfer of cash in exchange for a certificate, the certificate constituting proof of share ownership. –
Shared custody
A family law support or maintenance term referring to a situation where a child spends about an equal amount of time in the care and home of each of the two separated or divorced parents, and the parents share the legal rights in regards to the child. –
Shareholder
A person who owns shares in a corporation. –
Shareholder agreement
A contract between the shareholders of the company and the company itself, in which certain things, usually the purview of the board of directors, are detailed. –
Silent partner
A person who invests in a company or partnership but does not take part in administering or directing the organization; he or she just shares in the profits or losses. –
Sine die
Adjourned without giving any future date of meeting or hearing. –
Slander
Verbal or spoken defamation. –
Slander of title
Intentionally casting aspersion on someones property including real property, a business or goods (the latter might also be called slander of goods). –
Slavery
When a person (called master) has absolute power over another (called slave) including life and liberty. –
Small claims
A regular court but which has simplified rules of procedure and process to deal with claims of a lesser value. –
Socage
A term of the feudal system which referred to the tenure which was exchanged for certain goods or services which were not military in nature. –
Society
A group of people formed as a separate organization and which has as a stated purpose some charitable or benevolent purpose either in regards to the public at-large or in regards to the common interests of the members, and which operates as nearly as possible at cost. –
Sodomy
synonymous with buggery and referring to unnatural sex acts, including copulation, either between two persons of the same sex or between a person and an animal (the latter act is known as bestiality). –
Solicitor
A lawyer that restricts his or her practice to the giving of legal advice and does not normally litigate. –
Solicitor’s Lien
A lawyer’s right to retain client’s document and property pending payment of the lawyer’s bill. –
Sovereign
Has two meanings. The first one is a technical word for the monarch (king or queen) of a particular country as in the Sovereign of England is Queen Elizabeth. The other meaning of the word is to describe the supreme legislative powers of a state: that they are totally independent and free from any outside political control or authority over their decisions. –
Specific Performance
An order that a person in breach of contract perform his specific duty as set out in that contract. –
Split custody
A child custody decision which means that legal custody goes back and forth between parents like a ping-pong ball, as they, in turn, take care of the child. –
Springing power of attorney
A POA that takes effect only upon the occurrence of a specified event. –
Sprinkling trust
Discretion given to a trustee to distribute income from a trust fund disproportionately between beneficiaries. –
Spy / Spies
A person who acts clandestinely or on false pretences to endeavour to obtain information of or within another state with the intention of communicating or selling it to others. –
Standing committee
A term of parliamentary law which refers to those committees which have a continued existence; that are not related to the accomplishment of a specific, once-only task as are ad hoc or special committees. –
Stare decisis
A basic principle of the law whereby once a decision (a precedent) on a certain set of facts has been made, the courts will apply that decision in cases which subsequently come before it embodying the same set of facts. –
State
A term of international law: those groups of people which have acquired international recognition as an independent country and which have four characteristics; permanent and large population with, generally, a common language; a defined and distinct territory; a nations to refer to what international law calls states. –
Statement of Claim
The document which initiates the judicial process culminating in trial. –
Statement of Defence
The defendant’s document that answers a statement of claim. –
Statutes
The written laws approved by legislatures, parliaments or houses of assembly (i.e., politicians). Also known as legislation. –
Statutory rape
The common law definition of rape has not proven adequate to reflect modern values. It is limited to sex without consent and with a woman, and only where the victim is not the wife of the rapist. Many states have enacted laws which include under the charge of rape, sex with a minor even if done with the minor’s consent, sex without consent regardless of whether the victim is male or female, and sex without consent regardless of the matrimonial bond between victim and rapist. –
Statutory trust
A trust created by the effect of a statute. –
Stirpes
Latin: the offspring of a person; his or her descendants. For example, inheriting per stirpes means having a right to a deceaseds estate because you happen to be a descendant of the deceased. –
Strict liability
Tort liability which is set upon the defendant without need to prove intent, negligence or fault; as long as you can prove that it was the defendant’s object that caused the damage. –
Subinfeudation
The process whereby, under the feudal system of tenure, a person receiving a grant of land from a lord, could himself become a lord by subdividing and subletting that land to others. –
Sub judice
A matter that is still under consideration by a court. –
Subordination
To be subject to the orders or direction of another; of lower rank. –
Subpoena
Latin: an order of a court which requires a person to be present at a certain time and place or suffer a penalty (subpoena means, literally, under penalty). –
Subrogation
When you pay off someone’s debt and then try to get the money from the debtor yourself. –
Subservient tenement
The real property that supports or endures an easement. The real property benefitting from an easement is called the dominant tenement. –
Substituted service
If a party appears to be avoiding service of court documents, a request may be made with the court to, instead of personal service (i.e. giving the document directly to the person), that the document be published in a local newspaper, served on a person believed to frequent the person or mailed to his (or her) last known address. –
Successor
A person who takes over the rights of another. –
Sui juris
A person who possesses full civil rights and is not under any legal incapacity such as being bankrupt, of minor age or mental incapacity. Most adults are sui juris. –
Summary conviction offence
In Canada, a less serious offence than indictable offences for which both the procedure and punishment tends to be less onerous. –
Summary Judgment
A court order dismissing a claim summarily, upon application, and based on the allegation that there is no claim or defence with a reasonable prospect of success. –
Summary Trial
A disposition of litigation by way of affidavit evidence only or by use of truncated process. –
Summons
In the USA, this is one of the initial documents issued in a civil suit; giving the defendant notice of the claim and an opportunity to defend it. –
Surety
The person who has pledged him or herself to pay back money or perform a certain action if the principal to a contract fails, as collateral, and as part of the original contract. –
Synallagmatic contract
A civil law term for a reciprocal or bilateral contract: one in which both parties provide consideration. A contract of sale is a classic example, where one party provides money and the other, goods or services. A gift is not a synallagmatic contract. –

 

T

Taft-Hartley
The name of an American federal labor law which was passed in 1947, and which sought to equalize legal responsibilities of labor organizations and employers; ie. balance the Wagner Act, which, it was felt, may have gone to far in protecting union rights. –
Tamper
To interfere improperly or in violation of the law such as to tamper with a document. –
Tax Amnesty
An opportunity afforded to a tax payer to rectify errors or omissions in past tax years or returns. –
Tax Avoidance
To avoid taxes by arranging one’s affairs so as not to incur tax. –
Tax Evasion
Prohibited or illegal act or omission which is designed to reduce a person’s tax liability. –
Tenancy by the entireties
A form of co-ownership in English law where, when a husband transferred land to his wife, the property could not be sold unless both spouses agreed nor could it be severed except by ending the marriage. –
Tenant
A person to whom a landlord grants temporary and exclusive use of land or a part of a building, usually in exchange for rent. –
Tenants in common
similar to joints tenants. All tenants in common share equal property rights except that, upon the death of a tenant in common, that share does not go to the surviving tenants but is transferred to the estate of the deceased tenant. –
Tender
An unconditional offer of a party to a contract to perform their part of the bargain. –
Tenement
Property that could be subject to easements. –
Tenure
A right of holding or occupying land or a position for a certain amount of time. –
Testamentary trust
A will. inter vivos trusts. –
Testator
A person who dies with a valid will. –
Testimony
The verbal presentation of a witness in a judicial proceeding. –
Theft
To steal an item of property. –
Thin Skull Rule
Exposure in tort liability towards persons who are particularly vulnerable or more fragile than the norm, who may have inherent weaknesses or a pre-existing vulnerability or condition. –
Torrens land registration system
A land registration system invented by Robert Torrens and in which the government is the keeper of the master record of all land and their owners. –
Tort
Derived from the Latin word tortus which meant wrong. In French, tort means a wrong. Tort refers to that body of the law which will allow an injured person to obtain compensation from the person who caused the injury. –
Tort-feasor
Name given to a person or persons who have committed a tort. –
Tracing
This is a procedure frequently used by a beneficiary to recover misappropriated trust property. –
Trademark
trademark or trade-mark defined –
Transferee
A person who receives property being transferred (the person from whom the property is moving is the transferor). –
Transferor
The person from whom title or ownership to property moves; who effects the tranfer; he/she who transfers title (eg. sells their home or other property); so, usually the vendor or seller. –
Treaty
A formal agreement between two states signed by official representatives of each state. –
Trespass
Unlawful interference with another’s person, property or rights. –
Trial
The resolution of a dispute by a Court. –
Trial by Battle
An ancient dispute resolution method: fighting it out. –
Trial by Ordeal
The trial of a criminal or civil action, in medieval England, by torture or drowning. –
Trover
An old English and common law legal proceeding against a person who had found someone else’s property and has converted that property to their own purposes. –
Trust
Property given by a person called the donor or settlor, to a fiduciary; can be used to describe the responsibilities of the beneficiary. –
Trustee
The person who holds property rights for the benefit of another through the legal mechanism of the beneficiary of the same property. –
Trustee de son tort
a person who is not a regularly appointed trustee but because of his or her intermeddling with the trust and the exercise of some control over the trust property, can be held by a court as constructive trustee which entails liability for losses to the trust. –

 

U

UIFSA
The American uniform child and spousal support legislation, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act already adopted and implemented by most states and expected to be law throughout the USA soon. –
Ultra vires
Without authority. An act which is beyond the powers or authority of the person or organization which took it. –
Unfavourable Witness
When a witness called by a party merely gives unfavorable answers to questions posed during examination in chief, that party may not cross examine the witness but may still lead evidence in contradiction –
United States Code
Codified collection of federal legislation in the United States. –
Unjust enrichment
A legal procedure whereby you can seek reimbursement from another who benefitted from your action or property without legal justification. –
URESA
Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act of the United States, as created in 1950 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. –
Usufruct
From ancient Roman law (and now a part of many civil law systems), usufruct means the rights to the product of another’s property. –
Usury
Excessive or illegal interest rate. –

 

V

Vagrant
A tramp or homeless person. –
Vendor
The seller; the person selling. –
Venue
This has the same meaning as in everyday English except that in a legal context it usually refers specifically to the location of a judicial hearing. –
Vehicle
Any thing that is designed to transport persons or objects. –
Verba fortius accipiuntur contra proferentem
Latin: a principle of construction whereby if words of a contract are ambiguous, of two equally possible meanings, they should be interpreted against the author of the words and not against the other party. –
Verdict
The decision of a jury. –
Vessel
Watercraft used for transportation on water. –
Vicarious liability
Being held responsible for another. –
Videlicet
Latin for to wit or that is to say. –
Vir
Latin for man or husband. –
Viz
An abbreviation of the Latin word videlicet. –
Voidable
The law distinguishes between contracts which are void and those which are voidable. –
Void or void ab initio
Not legally binding. A document that is void is useless and worthless –
Voir dire
A mini-hearing held during a trial on the admissibility of contested evidence. –
Volenti non fit injuria
Latin: to one who is willing, no harm is done. –

 

W

Wagner Act
A 1935 American federal statute which recognized employee rights to collective bargaining, protected the right to belong to a union, prohibited many anti-union tactics then used by employers, and set up the National Labor Relations Board. –
Waiver
When a person disclaims or renounces to a right that they may have otherwise had. –
War crimes
Excessive brutality during war, in contravention of an international treaty or convention. –
Warranty
A guarantee given on the performance of a product or the doing of a certain thing. –
Waste
The abuse, destruction or permanent change to property by one who is merely in possesion of it as in the case of a tenant or a life tenant. –
Wedlock
Being married. –
Wild Horse Annie Act
An American law limiting the use of a vehicle while rounding-up wild horses on non-private land. –
Will
A written and signed statement, made by an individual, which provides for the disposition of their property when they die. –
Wire-tapping
An electronic surveillance device which secretly listens in and records conversations held over a phone line. –
Without prejudice
A statements set onto a written document which qualifies the signatory as exempted from it’s content to the extent that they may be interpreted as containing admissions or other interpretations which could later be used against the person signing; or as otherwise affecting any legal rights of the person signing. –
Witness
The regular definition of this word is a person who perceives an event (by seeing, hearing, smelling or other sensory perception). –
Words of limitation
Words in a conveyance or in a will which set the duration of an estate. –
Words of purchase
Words which specifically name the person to whom land is being conveyed. –
Writ
An official court document, signed by a judge or bearing an official court seal, which commands the person to whom it is addressed, to do something specific. –
Wrongful death
An American tort law action which claims damages from any person who, through negligence or direct act or omission, caused the death of certain relatives (eg. spouse, children or parent). –
Wrongful dismissal
Being fired from a job without an adequate reason or without any reason whatsoever. –

 

X

A form of signature upon contracts by persons illiterate

 

Y

Yellow dog contract
A name given in American labor law to contract of employment by which the employee promises not to join a union or agrees to forfeit employment if he/she joins a union during the period of employment. –
Young offender
Young persons who, in many states, are treated differently than adult criminals and are tried in special youth courts. –

Z

Zebra Crossing
Lines painted on a street to show a pedestrian crossing. –
Zipper
Two opposite series of members adapted to be attached one on each side of an aperture and to interlock. –
Zombi
A mechanically driven human corpse. –
Zone or zoning
A territorial restriction as to land use. –



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