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legal terms

Legal Terms

actual malice To win a defamation suit, public officials or prominent people
ADMINISTRATOR Person appointed to oversee the handling of an estate when there is no will.
affidavit A written statement made under oath.
alimony (maintenance or spousal support) the money paid by one spouse to the other in order to fulfill the financial obligation that comes with marriage.
amicus curiae (friend of the court) Refers to a party that is allowed to provide information to a court
annulment A legal decree that states that a marriage was never valid.
answer In a civil case, the defendant's written response to the plaintiff's complaint. It must be filed within a specified period of time, and it either admits to or (more typically) denies the factual or legal basis for liability.
appelant Party in a law suit who takes an appeal
appellee Party in a law suit against whom an appeal is taken
arraignment The initial appearance before a judge in a criminal case.
assignment The transfer of legal rights, such as the time left on a lease, from one person to another.
assumption of risk A defense raised in personal injury lawsuits. Asserts that the plaintiff knew that a particular activity was dangerous and thus bears all responsibility for any injury that resulted.
bail The money a defendant pays as a guarantee that he or she will show up in court at a later date.
bailment A legal relationship created when a person gives property to someone else for safekeeping. To create a bailment the other party must knowingly have exclusive control over the property. The receiver must use reasonable care to protect the property
bankruptcy Insolvency; a process governed by federal law to help when people cannot or will not pay their debts.
bench trial(court trial) A trial held before a judge & w/o a jury.
beneficiary Person named in a will or insurance policy to receive money or property; person who receives benefits from a trust.
beyond a reasonable doubt The highest level of proof required to win a case. Necessary to get a guilty verdict in criminal cases.
bifucation Splitting a trial into two parts: a liability phase and a penalty phase.
booking Part of the process of being arrested in which the details of who a person is and why he or she was arrested are recorded into the police records.
brief A written document that outlines a party's legal arguments in a case.
burden of proof The duty of a party in a lawsuit to persuade the judge or the jury that enough facts exist to prove the allegations of the case.
buy-sell agreement An agreement among business partners that specifies how shares in the business are to be transferred in the case of a co-owner's death
by-laws A corporation's rules and regulations.
case law(common law) The law created by judges when deciding individual disputes or cases
cause of action A point of controversy; basis of a legal action.
case of first impression A novel legal question that comes before a court.
caveat emptor(buyers beware) gives the buyer full responsibility for determining the quality of the goods in question.
certiorari(to be informed of) Refers to the order a court issues so that it can review the decision and proceedings in a lower court and determine whether there were any irregularities.
challenge for cause Ask that a potential juror be rejected if it is revealed that for some reason he or she is unable or unwilling to set aside preconceptions and pay attention only to the evidence.
change of venue a CHANGE in the LOCATION of a trial
clear and convincing evidence The level of proof sometimes required in a civil case for the plaintiff to prevail. Is more than a preponderance of the evidence but less than beyond a reasonable doubt.
codicil A supplement to a will.
collateral An asset that a borrower agrees to give up if he or she fails to repay a loan.
COMITY A code of etiquette that governs the interactions of courts in different states, localities and foreign countries.
common law The law created by judges when deciding individual disputes or cases
comparative neglience (COMPARATIVE FAULT) A system that allows a party to recover some portion of the damages caused by another party's negligence even if the original person was also partially negligent and responsible for causing the injury.
compensatory damages Money awarded to reimburse actual costs, such as medical bills, lost wages, and physical pain.
complaint The document that initiates a lawsuit. The complaint outlines the alleged facts of the case and the basis for which a legal remedy is sought.
contempt of court An action that interferes with a judge's ability to administer justice or that insults the dignity of the court.
contract An agreement between two or more parties in which an offer is made and accepted, and each party benefits.
corporation An independent entity created to conduct a business. It is owned by shareholders
defamation The publication of a statement that injures a person's reputation. Libel and slander are defamation
default The failure to fulfill a legal obligation, such as neglecting to pay back a loan on schedule.
duty to warn The legal obligation to warn people of a danger.
emancipation When a minor has achieved independence from his or her parents, often by getting married before reaching age 18 or by becoming fully self-supporting.
encumbrance Any claim or restriction on a property's title.
equal protection clause Portion of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits discrimination by state government institutions. The clause grants all people "equal protection of the laws," which means that the states must apply the law equally and cannot giv
escrow Money or documents, such as a deed or title, held by a third party until the conditions of an agreement are met.
exigent circumstance Emergency conditions.
fair use The use of a portion of copyrighted material in a way that does not infringe the owner's rights/the use of a portion of material for educational purposes, literary criticism or news reporting is often considered a fair use.
fiduciary duty An obligation to act in the best interest of another party.
fixtures All things that are attached to property, such as ceiling lights, awnings, window shades and doorknobs.
garnishment(wage execution) A court-ordered method of debt collection in which a portion of a person's salary is paid to a creditor. Often used to collect child support payments.
general partner One of two kinds of partners in a limited partnership. A general partner has the right to participate in the management of the partnership and has unlimited personal liability for its debts.
good faith Honestly and without deception. An agreement might be declared invalid if one of the parties entered with the intention of defrauding the other.
hearsay Secondhand information that a witness only heard about from someone else and did not see or hear himself. Hearsay is not admitted in court because it's not trustworthy, though there are many exceptions.
implied warranty A guarantee imposed by law in a sale. Even though the seller may not make any explicit promises, the buyer still gets some protection.
implied warranty of habitability Law which governs residential rentals and asserts that regardless of what a lease says, the landlord must provide premises that are safe and livable (habitable) at some basic level.
IMPLIED WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY Warranty that guarantees that goods are reasonably fit for their ordinary purpose.
indictment A formal accusation of a felony, issued by a grand jury after considering evidence presented by a prosecutor.
indigent Lacking in funds; poor
interlocutory order Temporary order issued during the course of litigation. Typically cannot be appealed because it is not final.
intestate to die without a will
irrevocable living trust a trust created during the maker's lifetime that does not allow the maker to change it.
limited partner is personally liable for the debts of the partnership only to the extent of his or her investment in it and has little to no voice in its management
malpractice improper or negligent behavior by a professional
motion a request asking a judge to issue a ruling or order on a legal matter
negligence a failure to use the degree of care that a reasonable person would use under the same circumstances
per curiam opinion opinion of the whole court as distinguished from an opinion written by a specific judge
peremptory challenges limited number of challenge each side in a trial can use to eliminate potential jurors without stating a reason
petition a written application to the court asking for specific action to be taken
piercing the corporate veil a legal concept through which a corporation's shareholders, who generally are shielded from liability for the corporation's activities, can be held responsible for certain actions
quash to nullify, void or declare invalid
quitclaim deed a deed that transfers the owner's interest to a buyer but does not guarantee that there are no other claims against the property
reasonable doubt the level of certainty a juror must have to find a defendant guilty of a crime
replevin repossession
res judicata the thing has been decided
spendthrift trust a trust designed to keep money out of the hands of creditors
standing the legal right to initiate a lawsuit
uniform commercial code a model statute covering things such as the sale of goods, credit, and bank transactions
united states code contains federal law passed by the united states annotated
writ a judicial order
Created by: sotcstephens