List of legal terms
From LawGuru Wiki
This is a list of legal terms with short definitions. Items having a separate article of its own are marked as a link in the item's title listed in this article. Those that are in a foreign language are italicized in their title, and the italicized word or phrase is in Latin unless its definition indicates the italicized term is from some other language. There is also a much longer list of legal Latin terms consisting simply of a list of links in Wikipedia (without definitions) to legal terms in Latin.
 A mensa et thoro
- from bed and board. A divorce a mensa et thoro, is rather a separation of the parties by act of law, than a dissolution of the marriage. It may be granted for the causes of extreme cruelty or desertion of the wife by the husband. 2 Eccl. Rep. 208. This kind of divorce does not affect the legitimacy of children, nor authorize a second marriage. V. A vinculo matrimonii; Cruelty Divorce.
 A vinculo matrimonii
- from the bond of marriage. A marriage may be dissolved a vinculo, in many states, as in Pennsylvania, on the ground of canonical disabilities before marriage, as that one of the parties was legally married to a person who was then living; impotence, (q. v.,) and the like adultery cruelty and malicious desertion for two years or more. In New York a sentence of imprisonment for life is also a ground for a divorce a vinculo. When the marriage is dissolved a vinculo, the parties may marry again but when the cause is adultery, the guilty party cannot marry his or her paramour.
- Latin for "from the beginning."
- When an agreement is for legal reasons void ab initio, it is void for all purposes throughout the period of its purported existence, and not merely from the moment that it is declared to have been void by the Court.
- When a man enters upon lands or into the house of another by authority of law, and afterwards abuses that authority, he becomes a trespasser ab initio. Bac. Ab. Trespass, B.; 8 Coke, 146 2 Bl. Rep. 1218 Clayt. 44. And if an officer neglects to remove goods attached within a reasonable time and continue in possession, his entry becomes a trespass ab initio. 2 Bl. Rep. 1218. See also as to other cases, 2 Stra. 717 1 H. Bl. 13 11 East, 395 2 Camp. 115 2 Johns. 191; 10 Johns. 253; ibid. 369.
- but in case of an authority in fact, to enter, an abuse of such authority will not, in general, subject the party to an action of trespass, Lane, 90 ; Bae. Ab. Trespass, B ; 2 T. It. 166. See generally 1 Chit. PI. 146. 169. 180.
- obsolete: an apparent, plain, or downright murder. It was used to distinguish a wilful murder, from a chance-medley, or manslaughter. Spelman; Cowell; Blount.
- to encourage or set another on to commit a crime. This word is always taken in a bad sense. To abet another to commit a murder, is to command, procure, or counsel him to commit it. Old Nat. Brev 21; Col Litt. 475.
- one who encourages or incites, persuades or sets another on to commit a crime. Such a person is either a principal or, an accessory to the crime. When present, aiding, where a felony is committed, he is guilty as principal in the second degree ; when absent, "he is merely an accessory." 1. Russell, 21; 1 Leach 66; Foster 428. Source: Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, Revised, 1856.
- to travel covertly out of the jurisdiction of the of the courts, or to conceal oneself in order to avoid their process.
- an accessory is one who knows of, and assists in, the commission of a crime, but is not present when the crime is committed. In this an accessory is different from an accomplice. A person may be an accessory either before or after the fact; that is, before or after the crime is actually committed. A person cannot be an accessory unless a crime is eventually committed.
- a "friend of the court". When an important or difficult point is being argued in an adversarial system of law (such as the common law of England and the United States), but one part of the argument is inadequately represented (perhaps because a party is not interested in arguing it, or does not have the resources to argue it properly), the Court may appoint an Amicus curiae, to ensure that that part of the argument is sufficiently explored and is fully argued independently of the party upon whom the burden of that argument would ordinarily fall. One, who as a stander by, when a judge is doubtful or mistaken in a matter of law, may inform the court. 2 Inst. 178; 2 Vin. Abr. 475; and any one, as amicus curia, may make an application to the court in favor of an infant, though he be no relation. 1 Ves. Sen. 313. AMITA. A paternal aunt; the sister of one's father. Inst. 3, 6, 3.
- to be found not guilty of a violation of law.Dawsey
- "for purposes of argument", as in "assuming 'arguendo' that my opponent's contentions are correct." [In Latin, in this context, "arguendo" would mean "for the sake of arguing concerning another thing."]
- The term is most often used in the following logical context:
- P1 argues "X is a result of Y"
- P2 responds "While you may or may not be correct that X is a result of Y, assuming 'arguendo,' that you are correct, you still fail to account for the existence of Z, which makes null your contention."
- to be found by a judge or jury to have violated a law. Note that a conviction does not necessarily mean the person has committed a crime. A person who receives a parking ticket or a traffic ticket only punishable by a fine and is found guilty stands convicted of the charge even though traffic and parking offenses are not crimes.
- a violation of law which is an offense against the state and generally punishable by some form of penalty which could include prison or jail time. Crimes are defined as serious felonies or less serious misdemeanors. A violation of law which only has a monetary penalty is not a crime per se., but an infraction.
- a change of venue is a legal term that means that a case before a court will be heard in another jurisdiction versus the one where the said crime took place. This is done when there is a reason to think that a defendant will not receive a fair trial, for whatever the reason.
- termination of a legal proceeding prior to finding. A dismissal can be with or without prejudice.
- a writ claiming previously unknown facts amounting to extraordinary error.
- A principle of equity whereby a person is not allowed (is, therefore, estopped) from maintaining or relying upon the existence of a certain state of affairs. It is often said to be a shield not a sword, i.e., to afford a defence to a claim rather than the basis for a claim, but in certain cases the effect of an estoppel is to confer actionable legal rights. If, for example, a promise is made which is not legally enforceable because there has been no consideration provided for it, and it would be inequitable for the promise to be broken, the promisor may be estopped from reneging on the promise.
- by or for one party without notification of nor representation on behalf of other parties. A variant is ex parte on notice where the other party has received informal or short notice, but not formal or full notice. When an application is made ex parte the other side is not heard, and there is therefore an obligation of full and frank disclosure on the part of the applicant in order to present a fair picture to the Court being asked to make any decision.
- a serious crime, which is punishable by imprisonment of at least one year and one day, or by execution, or by fine or both fine and imprisonment or execution. It is distinguished from a misdemeanor as the maximum imprisonment for a misdemeanor is one year.
- A grantee is a person to whom something is granted. In a franchise agreement, for example, the party buying the franchise is the grantee.
- A grantor is a person who grants something (typically, rights or real property). In a franchise agreement, for example, the party selling the franchise is the grantor.
- The implied ability of a person to make a legally binding contract on the behalf of a business or organization, by way of uniform or interaction with the public on behalf of said business/organization.
- an essentially minor violation of law where the penalty upon conviction only consists of monetary forfeiture. A violation of law which could include imprisonment is a crime. It is distinguished from a misdemeanor or a felony in that the penalty for an infraction cannot include any imprisonment.
 In loco parentis
- a person who has custodial/parental responsibility and authority although not actually being a parent (literally: "in place of the parents"). Although this can be established by written contract it is often assumed in common situations; thus a sibling or babysitter may have limited rights to act in loco parentis until the legal custodial parties (parents etc.) can be contacted.
- Literally, "in the midst of things".
- any court order prohibiting some parties from specific actions and/or activities (for example, working for a competitor in breach of duty to an existing employer) on penalty of contempt of court. It is, in exceptional cases, possible to obtain a mandatory injunction, which is a court order compelling a certain course of action (for example, demolition of an illegal structure) on penalty of contempt of court.
- "among other things." Used in pleadings before a court or opinons of a court. ie. "The defendant claims, inter alia, that the plaintiff fails to establish . . ."
 Jus tertii
- Literally meaning "rights of a third [person]", is a defense in tort law against claims of possession such as detinue, or conversion. It is the acknowledgement of a third party who has better possession than the claimant seeking the action.
- a less serious crime which is punishable by a fine, by imprisonment of one year or less, or by both. Some jurisdictions classify all violations of law which are less than felonies as misdemeanors, however generally a violation of law which is only punishable by a fine, and which cannot be punished by imprisonment, is considered an infraction (and not a crime), rather than a misdemeanor.
 Non est factum
- "it is not (his) deed". A plea that a person who has signed up to a deed or a contract lacked the necessary understanding or intent, and is therefore not bound by the document. A successful plea would void the contract.
- any accusation of violation of law, whether it is a criminal violation (such as murder) or a non-criminal infraction (such as a parking ticket).
- Latin for "At first sight." Self-evident; obvious. A prima facie case is where the plaintiff presents enough evidence to win outright barring any defenses or additional evidence presented by the defendant.
- the ability of a party whose case has been dismissed to refile it with the court, usually after overcoming the issue that led to its dismissal. If a case is dismissed with prejudice it may not be refiled; if it is dismissed without prejudice, the plaintiff (civil) or prosecutor (criminal) is permitted to refile if they so wish.
 Pro hac vice
- "for this occasion", application by an out-of-state lawyer to represent his or her client. Since lawyers are licensed by each state independently they must ask for permission of the court to appear in matters before any other state courts. Permission is generally granted though the details can vary from one jurisdiction to another.
 Rule Nisi
- an order from a superior court to show cause. That is, the rule is absolute unless one can "show cause" to otherwise. Same as Decree nisi
- (French) a doctrine in copyright law which excludes some elements from copyright protection on the basis of their being necessitated by external factors or being customary to a given genre.
 Sine die
- indefinitely; literally, "without a day". Use in relation to adjournments of the Court or of a particular case for an indefinite period.
- also meaning "But for", generally refers to the test used to establish causation in fact. If the result would not have occurred 'but for' the actions taken by the defendant, then there exist causation.
 Sua Sponte
- literally: "of its own accord" indicates that the court is addressing an issue that was not raised by any litigants; most often to defer to another jurisdiction regardless of the litigants' choice. (Also the motto of the U.S. Army Rangers)
- Coming from the Latin for "under penalty" (sub poena), a subpoena is a court process used to cause a witness to appear and give testimony, commanding him or her to appear before the court or magistrate therein named, at a time therein mentioned, to testify for the party named, under a penalty therein mentioned. This is formally called a subpoena ad testificandum, to differentiate it from a subpoena duces tecum, which refers to documents.
- On proof of service of a subpoena upon the witness, and that he is material, a citation may be issued against him or her for contempt, or (conceivably) a bench warrant for his or her arrest may be issued, if he or she neglects to attend as commanded. The equivalent command to a defendant is a summons.
- a court order specifying items that a witness or other party is to bring (duces) in hand (tecum) or suffer penalty (sub poena)
- A civil wrong (as opposed to a criminal wrong), which may be either intentional or accidental. If someone is driving and hits an unoccupied parked car, they commit a tort in that they have caused a wrong to another party which does not rise to the level of a crime. If they fail to stop at the scene of the accident, they also commit a crime, which is a criminal wrong in addition to, and separate from the tort.
- a person who commits a tort.
 Under Seal
- A procedure allowing sensitive or confidential information to be filed with a court without becoming a matter of public record. The court generally must give permission for the material to remain under seal.