Legal Terms

Term
Meaning
Abstract of Title
A concise statement or memorandum, usually prepared for a purchaser or mortgagee of real property, summarizing all documents, such as deeds or wills, and facts that appear on public records affecting the title.
Accessory (Before and After the Fact)
An accessory before the fact is one who is not present at the time a felony is committed, but who instigates, plans, advises, contrives, or persuades another to perpetrate it. An accessory after the fact is one who, knowing that a felony has been committed, shelters, receives, relieves, comforts, or assists the felon.
Affidavit
A written statement of fact made voluntarily by one who is not subjected to cross-examination. It is sworn to, or affirmed, before an officer duly authorized to administer an oath, or affirmation.
Agency
A legal relationship created by mutual consent between one party, the principal, and another, the agent, wherein the principal authorizes the agent to represent him in business dealings with others.
Aid and Abet
To assist knowingly in the perpetration of a crime by supporting or supplementing the efforts of the actual perpetrator or by encouraging, counseling, inciting, or instigating the commission of tie crime,
Amicus Curiae
One who acts as a "friend of the court" by offering, with its permission, legal advice and useful suggestions about a cause of action pending before it, even though he is not a party to the proceedings.
Amnesty
An act of general forgiveness that a government may grant to certain classes of persons who would otherwise be subject to punishment for past criminal acts, such as rebellion. Amnesty is distinguishable from a pardon, which is given to individuals only after judgment or conviction.
Amortization
The gradual reduction of an existing debt or claim by partial payments, of principal and accrued interest, at stated intervals over a definite period of time.
Annulment of Marriage
The setting aside, by judicial decree, of a purported marriage that was void at its inception. Grounds are mental incompetence, lack of age of legal consent, physical cause, and duress, as well as fraud, such as bigamy, on the part of one of the parties.
Appeal
A proceeding to review the merits of a decision of an inferior court by one of superior, appellate jurisdiction. The decision of the lower court is suspended pending the appellate court's determination. An appeal is distinguishable from certiorari, which reviews only the regularity of the proceedings manifest on the record.
Arraignment
A formal, preliminary stage in a criminal proceeding, in which the charges in an indictment are read in open court to the accused, who is given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.
Assault
Simple assault is an unlawful act threatening, with force or violence, to harm the person of another. When bodily harm is inflicted as a result of an assault, it is called battery. If there is intent to commit an additional crime, such as rape, murder, or robbery, it is called an aggravated, or felonious, assault.
Attachment
A proceeding whereby either the defendant in an action at law, or his property, is taken into legal custody as security. The purpose is to satisfy the judgment of the court in the event the plaintiff prevails, as in cases of possible evasion or fraud.
Attractive Nuisance Doctrine
The principle that an owner is responsible for damages if he maintains on his premises an inherently dangerous condition or instrumentality attractive to children, such as a pond or explosives, and fails to prevent injury to them from such danger.
Bad Debt
A debt existing in fact that has not been collectible. Such a debt may be deductible for income tax purposes.
Bankruptcy
A state or condition in which the property of a debtor who is unwilling or unable to pay his debts is distributed to his creditors under court supervision. In return, an honest debtor is discharged from his indebtedness.
Battery
See Assault.
Beneficiary
One who receives a benefit or proceeds from another person's estate or property, sometimes as an heir under a will or sometimes under the provisions of a trust. Such a beneficiary is also known as a cestui que trust. A beneficiary is also the person to whom the face amount of an insurance policy is payable.
Bill of Sale
A formal written document passing title to goods and other personal property from a seller to a buyer.
Blackmail
See Extortion.
Bona Fide
In good faith, without fraud and deceit. A bona fide purchase of property is a real or valid purchase as distinguished from a fraudulent conveyance.
Breach of the Peace
A disturbance of public order by an act of violence or by an act likely to incite violence. It is also called disturbing the peace.
Breaking and Entering
The use of force to enter a dwelling house or place of business for the purpose of committing a felony on the premises.
Brief
A concise written statement of the essential facts, legal propositions, and questions that are in controversy, usually in a case on appeal. A brief also includes the arguments and authorities submitted in support of the position that counsel seeks to establish and to persuade the court to follow.
Burden of Proof
The obligation of a party in a trial to establish by preponderance of evidence a proposition, or the existence of material facts in dispute, that is essential to a decision or a verdict.
Burglary
Unlawful entry, with or without force, into a dwelling or other building, with the intent to commit a felony.
Caveat Emptor
Let the buyer beware, meaning that purchasers buy at their own risk.
Certificate of Title
A written instrument indicating ownership of property�for example, a motor vehicle� and identifying liens and encumbrances upon the property. Such a certificate is required in those states that provide a system of registering the title to motor vehicles as a condition for their transfers or sale. The purpose of the certificate is to protect the public against fraud or theft.
Certiorari
A writ, or legal document, whereby the record of a specific case is brought up to an appellate court of superior jurisdiction for the purpose of reviewing and correcting the errors of law that are manifest on the record. Known also as a writ of error, the writ is a discretionary one and is issued only on the showing of sufficient cause.
Challenge
A right given to parties to a trial to reject a juror, citing some cause or reason such as bias or prejudice. See also Peremptory Challenge.
Charge
An accusation of a wrong or offense, as a preliminary step in the prosecution of a crime. In this sense it means a formal complaint, information, or indictment filed against the accused. In the TJ. S. Constitution it is used interchangeably with indictment and presentment. A charge is also a judge's instructions to a jury.
Chattel
See Real Property.
Chattel Mortgage
A conditional transfer by written agreement of personal property as security for the payment of a debt or for the performance of some other act that is subject to reversion of title to transferor or mortgagor on subsequent payment or performance. The transfer is a mortgage on chattels.
Circumstantial Evidence
Indirect evidence, or proof of facts from \vhich other facts can be logically inferred.
Citation
A court summons or order for a person to appear and answer, or to perform a specified act. Also, a reference to an authoritative case, previously decided, or to a pertinent statute.
Civil Action
A proceeding that is brought in a court of justice for the enforcement or protection of some private or civil right. A civil action is also brought for the redress or prevention of some wrong that is not a crime or misdemeanor.
Civil Law
One of the two great systems of jurisprudence of the Western world. Civil law was derived from early Roman Law and was adopted by many modern nations. See also Common Law.
Claim
The assertion of an existing right. The term is also used to identify the right itself.
Codicil
A testamentary writing that amends, alters, qualifies, or revokes specific provisions of an existing, duly executed will.
Codification
The process of compiling, arranging, and revising the laws of a country or other specific jurisdiction into a systematically ordered code.
Collusion
A corrupt agreement between two or more persons having apparent conflicting interests in order to defraud another or to deceive a court. One example is a conspiracy between husband and wife to obtain a divorce by suppressing or manufacturing evidence.
Commercial Law
The branch of law that governs property rights and relations of persons engaged in commercial transactions.
Common Law
One of the two great legal systems of the Western world. Its legal principles and forms, "commonly" applicable to the people of England, grew out of their general, immemorial customs and habits. These were applied and modified by the courts of the United States in the developmnt of American judicial or decisional law. See also Civil Law.
Common-Law Marriage
A marriage without ceremony or formalities entered into by express mutual agreement of the parties for the purpose of establishing the relationship of husband and wife. It is legally recognized in some jurisdictions if followed by cohabitation and public recognition of marital duties and obligations.
Community Property
Property that is acquired by husband and wife during marriage. In some states of the United States, such property is considered jointly owned by husband and wife, on the legal assumption that both spouses have worked for mutual benefit. Gifts and inheritances are excluded.
Condemnation Proceeding
A proceeding to compel the sale of property for a public use by right of eminent domain. See Eminent Domain.
Consideration
Something given or promised by one party to a contract, such as some right or benefit or loss or forbearance, and accepted by the other party in exchange for that act or promise. Consideration is an essential element of a contract. A promise, to be legally enforceable, must be supported by consideration.
Conspiracy
A combination or agreement of two or more persons to accomplish an illegal purpose or to achieve a legal end illegally.
Contempt
An intentional act or conduct in defiance of the authority and dignity of a court or legislative body. Because such conduct tends to embarrass, hinder, or obstruct the proceedings of such bodies or impair the respect due them, it is subject to punishment.
Conveyance
A transfer of the legal title to land, or some estate or interest therein, from one living person or legal entity to another, by means of an instrument in writing under seal, such as a deed.
Corporation
An artificial body created under authority of law for designated purposes defined by its certificate of incorporation or charter. A corporation acts through its legally constituted officers and agents.
Corpus Delicti
The body or essential elements of a crime. It refers to proof that the crime charged in a prosecution has been actually committed.
Corpus Juris
A body of law. The term has been used since the Middle Ages to denote a collection of laws. Two notable examples are the Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of the Civil Law) and Corpus Juris Canonici (Body of the Canon Law).
Cosigner
A term synonymous with comaker, it refers to one who writes his signature on a commercial instrument, such as a promissory note, along with the maker. The cosigner thus becomes bound to meet the obligations of the maker if the maker should default.
Cross Action
An independent action brought by a defendant against the plaintiff in the same case.
Cross-Examination
The examination of a witness during a trial by the attorney of the adverse party, to test the accuracy of the testimony given by the witness on direct examination. The purpose is to disclose omissions in answers previously made and to reveal possible bias or prejudice of the witness.
Damages
Monetary compensation awarded by law to a party injured by the wrongful act of another.
Decision
The findings of fact and conclusions of law determined by a court. Decision is used interchangeably with judgment. The statement by the court of its reasons in arriving at a decision is called an opinion.
Declaration
A statement of the facts and circumstances of a plaintiff's cause of action in a lawsuit. The statement must be sufficiently clear and explicit to allow the opposing party to answer it.
Declaratory Judgment
A judgment or decree of a court that declares the rights of the parties to a controversy or expresses the court's opinion on a question of law involved, before any wrong has been committed or actual litigation instituted. The declaratory judgment is binding on the parties but does not include an order for any specific action or relief.
Decree
The judgment of a court of equity, a probate or divorce court, or an admiralty court in a litigated cause.
Deed
A signed writing that passes title to land, or an interest therein, from a grantor to a grantee. Deed and conveyance are often used interchangeably.
De Facto
Actually existing, in reality, or in fact. A de facto officer is one who, owing to a defect in his appointment, holds his office under a color of right or title although not legally entitled to it. A de facto corporation is one that was defectively organized through inadvertence and is transacting business in good faith under its corporate name.
Default
Failure to do what is required by law, such as the nonappearance of a party to court action within the time prescribed.
Defendant
The party against whom a charge is made in a criminal case or against whom an action is brought in a civil suit.
De Jure
Lawful, or by right. A de jure officer, for example, is one whose authority rests on his having been lawfully and properly elected or appointed to office.
Demurrer
A pleading by which one party claims that there are no grounds for continuance of a legal case. He asserts that even if the allegations of fact stated in the preceding pleading by the adverse party were true, they are still insufficient in law to be a cause of action or defense.
Deposition
The written testimony under oath of a witness, during the course of a judicial proceeding, in answer to oral or written interrogatories. A deposition is made on notice to the adverse party for the purpose of giving him the opportunity to attend and cross-examine.
Desertion
A willful abandonment without justification, and without consent of the party abandoned, of a relationship or service in which a duty is owed by the deserting party.
Dictum
A declaration of law or language expressed extraueously in a judicial opinion on an issue that has not been raised and therefore is unnecessary to the decision in a case before the court. Dictum, more precisely called obiter dictum, has the force of persuasive authority only and is not controlling as a binding precedent.
Direct Examination
In practice, the first interrogation of a witness in court by the party calling him to testify. It is also known as examination in chief.
Directed Verdict
A decision by a trial judge, upon motion by either party to a civil or criminal case, that the evidence submitted is not sufficiently in doubt to go to the jury. The judge orders the jury to bring in, or the clerk of the court to enter in the court records, the verdict he directs.
District Attorney
In the United States, the officer who represents the federal government or a state as a prose-^cuting attorney in criminal proceedings.
Disturbing the Peace
See Breach of the Peace.
Domicile
The place of residence where a person intends to maintain his fixed and permanent home.
Double Jeopardy
The trial or prosecution of an individual more than once for the same offense. Constitutional provisions generally bar such an action.
Due Process of Law
A constitutional provision of fundamental importance that guarantees a defendant a fair and impartial trial according to applicable procedures and that requires that the law shall not be unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious.
Duress
Actual or threatened violence, intimidation, or force�physical, economic, or psychological�that is intended to compel an individual to perform an act that he is otherwise unwilling to perform.
Easement
A permanent right, created by deed or prescription, that permits one person to make limited use of the land of another for a specific purpose, such as a right of way, or that requires an owner to refrain from some act. An easement is a right without profit, distinct from ownership of the land.
Eminent Domain
The right or power of the state to take private property for public use, without the owner's consent, on payment of just compensation for value of the property or for damages to the owner.
Equity
A complex system of remedial justice based on natural justice or right and administered by a court of equity. It has been defined by the 17th century Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius as "the correction of deficiencies in the law . . . wherein the law, by reason of its universality, is deficient.
Escheat
A procedure, originating in English feudal practice, whereby the title to property reverts to the state when there is no legal owner to claim it.
Escrow
A formal written document or a sum of money that is irrevocably delivered by a grantor to a third party. It is kept by him until the performance of certain conditions and is then to be delivered to the grantee.
Estate
Broadly, everything owned by a person. In probate proceedings, it is all of the property left by a deceased person. It is also the right or interest anyone has in real or personal property.
Evidence
Testimony that is admissible during a trial to prove or disprove allegations that are in dispute.
Ex Parte
From one side only, a legal application or proceeding brought for the benefit or relief of one party only, without notice to and in the absence of any other party adversely affected.
Ex Post Facto Law
A law that has retrospective effect, punishing acts that were not punishable when committed. Such legislation is prohibited by the U. S. Constitution.
Executor or Administrator
An officer approved or appointed by a probate or surrogate court to administer and settle the estate of a decedent. An executor is named in the testator's will by the testator himself. If a decedent has not left a last will or testament, the court appoints an administrator to dispose of his estate. Both officers must account to the court on their administration and final settlement of the estate.
Expropriation
See Eminent Domain.
Extortion
The unlawful obtaining of money or other property from a person with his consent by threats of violence, accusation, exposure, or similar undue exercise of power.
Extradition
The surrender by one national state to another, or by one state of the United States to another, of a person duly accused or convicted of a crime in the latter state.
Felony
Any of certain serious crimes that are punishable by death or by incarceration in a state penitentiary. These include murder, manslaughter, larceny, robbery, burglary, and arson. Minor offenses are called misdemeanors.
Freehold
An estate in real property, or the length of time for which it is held. That is, an estate for life that is transferable and inheritable.
Full Faith and Credit Clause
A U. S. constitutional guaranty that obligates a state of the United States to give force and effect to the public laws, records, and judgments of a sister state.
Garnishment
A statutory legal remedy whereby a judgment creditor, a creditor in whose favor the court has ruled, may attach the property, goods, or money of the judgment debtor that are in the possession of another, and may apply them in satisfaction of the judgment.
Grand Jury
An inquisitorial and accusatorial body, varying in size, that is a constituent part of a court that has general criminal jurisdiction. The jury's purpose is to investigate, in secret, acts of crime committed within its jurisdiction and to determine which persons should be required to stand trial on suspicion of the perpetration of those crimes.
Guaranty
A contract or undertaking by which a person, the guarantor, becomes answerable for the payment of some debt or performance owed by another person, the principal debtor, to a third person, the creditor or obligee, in the event the principal defaults.
Habeas Corpus
Have (that is, bring") the body," a writ in the nature of a remedial civil proceeding, whereby a person in custody questions the legality of his imprisonment and demands of a court that he be immediately released or bailed.
Hearing
A proceeding that is conducted before a competent tribunal with the purpose of examining witnesses, determining facts, considering proof and arguments presented, and resolving issues raised between adversary parties. A hearing is also the examination of a prisoner and of witnesses for the accused.
Hostile Witness
A witness who surprises the party calling him by giving evidence against that party's interest. Such a witness may be cross-examined and treated by the party calling him as if he had testified for the adverse party.
Indemnity
The obligation of one person to reimburse or compensate for an injury, loss, or damage caused to another by a specified event. The term is sometimes used synonymously with guaranty.
Indictment
A formal accusation made by a grand jury, at the instance of the public prosecutor, that reasonable grounds exist to charge a person with commission of a crime and that he should stand trial.
Information
A formal accusation of a minor criminal charge against a person by a public prosecutor solely in his official capacity. It is similar in form to an indictment but does not require grand jury action.
Infringement
In copyright law, an unauthorized copying, beyond fair use, of a copyrighted work. In patent law, it refers to the unlawful use of a patented invention. It also describes unauthorized use of an appropriated trademark or name.
Injunction
A remedial writ that is issued by a court of equity to prevent future wrongful acts by ordering a person to refrain from acting in a certain way. It is issued only if there is no adequate remedy at law.
Intestacy
The condition that exists when a person dies without having made a will disposing of his estate.
Ipso Facto
By the very act itself, signifying a result that automatically follows from the existence of a fact or the doing of an act. For example, the adjudication of bankruptcy of a lessee terminates his lease ipso facto.
Jurisdiction
The scope of authority or power by which courts hear and determine justiciable controversies and render and enforce their judgments. It also applies to governmental authority.
Jury
A body of citizens, duly selected and empaneled after questioning by counsel, who decide on the facts in issue at a trial presided over by a judge.
Justice of the Peace
A judicial officer of limited jurisdiction. In the United States he may be limited to the trying of misdemeanors or of small civil suits.
Larceny
The fraudulent and unauthorized taking of the personal property of another, with the felonious intent of depriving or defrauding the owner.
Legal Signature
A person's name or mark written on a formal document, such as a lease, for the purpose of authenticating it.
Liability
An obligation to do or to refrain from doing something, which arises out of the law of contracts or the law of torts. It is synonymous with the term "responsibility.
Libel and Slander
A malicious and unjustified publication of false and defamatory words or statements in order to degrade, ridicule, or injure someone's character and reputation. When printed or written, it is libel. When oral or spoken, it is slander.
Lien
A charge or encumbrance imposed on specific property of a debtor, with his consent, as security for payment of debts and obligations to his creditor. The term also embraces mortgages. A mechanic's lien may be imposed on a building for labor performed or materials furnished.
Limitations, Statute of
A period of time prescribed by law within which an action may be brought to enforce certain rights or claims. Beyond this period, the action is foreclosed or barred.
Loitering
Lingering aimlessly in or around a given public place with no legitimate reason for being there, regarded as a form of disorderly conduct.
Magistrate
A judicial officer authorized to order the arrest of persons charged with the commission of a public offense. A justice of the peace and other inferior judicial officers are also called magistrates.
Malfeasance
The doing of a wrongful and unlawful act by a public officer in his official capacity.
Malicious Mischief
The willful, wanton, or reckless destruction of property because of hatred or resentment toward its owner,
Mandamus
We command, a writ issued by a court in the name of the state ordering a corporation, officer, or inferior court to perform an official act or duty incumbent upon its office and clearly required of it by law.
Manslaughter
The unlawful killing of a person without malice. It may occur voluntarily during the sudden heat of passion, or unintentionally during the commission of an unlawful but not felonious act, or while performing a lawful act with gross negligence. See also Murder.
Misdemeanor
A minor crime or offense not amounting to a felony, such as simple assault. Under U. S. federal law a misdemeanor may be punished by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year. In state jurisdictions the term applies to crimes not punishable by death or by imprisonment in the state's penitentiary.
Mortgage
A pledge of property, as security for performance of an obligation or payment of a debt. It exists in the form of a conditional transfer of the property by the mortgagor, or debtor, to the mortgagee, or creditor.
Murder
Murder in the first degree is the premeditated, willful, deliberate, and malicious killing of another human being. The killing of a person during the commission of a certain type of felony, such as robbery, arson, burglary, and rape, is known as a felony murder. Murder in the second degree is killing without specific intent to kill. The murder is not willful, deliberate, and premeditated, but there is malice. Murder in the third degree in some states of the United States denotes killing without intent to commit murder. It may occur (1) during the perpetration of a felony other than those named above, or (2) in the heat of passion, but in a cruel and unusual manner. See also Manslaughter.
Negotiable Instrument
A commercial paper, such as a bill of exchange, promissory note, or bond, that is unconditionally payable in money for a definite sum to the bearer or to a specifically identified person. Payment is on demand, or within a certain period of time, or on the occurrence of a designated event.
Nolo Contendere
I do not wish to contend. A plea by an accused that he will not contest the prosecution of his case. In essence, it is an implied confession of guilt, usually made in the hope of a lenient sentence. If it is accepted by the court, a judgment of conviction may be entered.
Nonfeasance
The failure of a public officer to perform a duty that is legally required of him in his official capacity.
Note
A written instrument acknowledging the existence of a debt and expressing a promise to pay a certain sum of money to an identifiable person on a date specified.
Nuisance
A wrongful act that inconveniences, annoys, offends, or endangers life or health, or that damages or adversely affects the quiet enjoyment of property by its owner or tenant. At law, a nuisance is classified as a tort.
Obiter Dictum
See Dictum.
Objection
A means used during a trial to oppose the introduction of certain testimony, or to call to the attention of the court alleged improper action of the other party. The purpose is to obtain a ruling of the court for the record, and to register an exception to it if it is adverse, so that an appeal can be taken based on error committed during the trial.
Opinion
In the law of evidence, an inference or conclusion drawn by a witness from a factual situation. With some exceptions, it is generally inadmissible as testimony. An opinion of a court, however, is a statement expressing its reasons for arriving at its findings of facts and conclusions of law on which judgment is rendered.
Peremptory Challenge
An arbitrary challenge to a proposed juror in a criminal case for which no reason need be given, and based on which the court must exclude the juror from sitting on the jury. This challenge can be used only a limited number of times.
Perjury
A false statement under oath, deliberately and willfully made with reference to a definite material fact, and so punishable.
Plaintiff
The complaining party, or the one who initiates a law suit.
Power of Attorney
An instrument in writing by which one person, the principal, authorizes another, the agent, to act on his behalf for certain specified purposes.
Preliminary Hearing
A proceeding to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant holding the defendant for its perpetration.
Presentment
In criminal law, an accusation of crime that is made independently by a grand jury, and based on which the public prosecutor�who has not been involved�is directed to frame a bill of indictment. In commercial law, it is the presentation of a promissory note to its maker for payment on its due date.
Prima Facie
At first sight or on the face of it." Evidence that is considered to be sufficient in law to establish the presumption that a certain fact is true. A prima jade case means that there is sufficient evidence to establish this presumption, unless it should be disproved by subsequent evidence.
Probate
A term meaning to prove, used to denote the court. It also relates all matters pertaining to the administration, settlement, and distribution of a decedent's estate.
Process, Service of
A procedure whereby a court obtains jurisdiction over the parties to, or the subject matter of, an action at law. Its purpose is to notify a defendant of the allegations made against him and to force him to appear in court and answer. A summons is served personally on the defendant within the territorial jurisdiction of the court, or as otherwise directed by law.
Public Defender
A government officer with specified legal duties that pertain to the furnishing of constitutionally guaranteed counsel to indigent persons charged with crime.
Rape
The unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman extorted against her will by force or by threats of violence or death, which induce her to yield. Rape is a felony. The word rape implies an assault. Statutory rape is sexual intercourse with a female who is under the age of consent, usually 18 years. Whether done with or without her consent, the act is a felony.
Real Property
All interests in realty, such as the land itself, and all buildings or improvements erected on it or growing on or affixed to the land, as well as all other rights and privileges belonging to it. Also includes real things or real chattels.
Reasonable Doubt
The doubt that could arise in the mind of an ordinary, impartial, honest, reasonable, and cautious person with reference to an accused's guilt. By law the state must prove its case in a criminal prosecution by establishing an accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Reciprocity
An understanding or relationship between national states, or between states of the United States, by which they interchange certain advantages and privileges. An example is the interchange between citizens of states of the United States of the right to practice law.
Robbery
The felony of taking and carrying away money or other property belonging to or in the care of a person by means of force or the threat of harm.
Slander
See Libel and Slander.
Stare Decisis
To stand by the decided things. A term meaning that a principle of law established earlier by a court of competent jurisdiction is binding as a precedent. This applies to the same court or to inferior courts in the same jurisdiction in subsequent cases that involve substantially similar facts.
Statute of Limitations
See Limitations, Statute of.
Statutory Rape
See Rape.
Stay
A temporary suspension or arrest of legal proceedings in a lawsuit, such as an issuance of execution on a judgment, until a certain event or action takes place.
Subpoena
A court order or process that is usually issued and served by the attorney for one of the parties to a lawsuit. It directs a person to appear as a witness and give testimony or suffer punishment for contempt of court.
Summary Judgment
A motion to allow the court to determine whether an issue of material fact that is to be tried actually exists between the parties to a lawsuit, and if not, then to dispose of it summarily by entering a final judgment.
Summons
A court process, in the form of a notice issued by a plaintiff's attorney or sometimes by the court itself, that directs a defendant to appear in court and defend an action brought ag ainst him. The proper service of the summons subjects the defendant to the jurisdiction of the court in the matter involved. See also Process, Service of.
Surrogate
In some jurisdictions, a judicial officer who has general authority over the administration, settlement, and distribution of decedents' estates and who sometimes also appoints guardians of infants and incompetents.
Title
In real estate, a combination of legal rights that bestows complete ownership to property and the right to possession thereof.
Tort
An act of wrong, usually between private individuals, or breach of legal duty that results in actual or legal damage to the person or property of another.
Trial
The examination by a judge, with or without a jury, and the final adjudication of factual and legal issues raised between the parties in a civil or criminal case.
True Bill
An indictment endorsed by a grand jury indicating that a majority of the jurors found sufficient evidence to warrant the criminal prosecution directed in the indictment.
Trust
A fiduciary relationship pertaining to property by which legal title to the property is vested in, and accepted by, a trustee, either a natural person or an artificial one, such as a corporation, for the benefit of another.
Trustee
One who holds legal title in property for the benefit of and subject to the equitable rights of another. A trustee also is anyone in a fiduciary relationship to another, such as an agent or attorney.
Vagrancy
An unlawful status or conduct classified as an offense in criminal statutes. Types of persons usually classified as vagrants include prostitutes, professional gamblers, beggars, habitual drunkards, and fortune-tellers.
Waiver
The intentional surrender or relinquishment of some known and existing right, claim, or privilege either voluntarily in an affirmative act, or by failing to assert it.
Ward of the Court
An infant or a legal incompetent, such as a person of unsound mind, who is involved in a lawsuit pertaining to his property rights. The court scrutinizes any transaction that might result in financial loss to a ward of the court.
Warrant
A writ, or written order, issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, addressed to a proper police officer, that authorizes him to perform a certain act, A warrant of arrest permits the taking into custody of a person for the purpose of having him brought to court to answer charges preferred against him.
Will
A written instrument, duly executed and witnessed, by which a person of legal age and testamentary intent disposes of his estate, to take effect after his death. A will is ambulatory, or revocable, during the lifetime of the testator and is subject to codicils, or alterations, made by him.
Without Prejudice
A term usually used in an order or other decree of a court to the effect that the court's determination of an issue in litigation in a case was not on the merits, and that therefore the losing party is not barred from instituting further proceedings.
Witness
One who testifies or gives evidence under oath in a cause of action before a court, based on information that is personally known to him. In a technical sense, a witness is anyone who testifies, or offers to testify, under oath in a case.
Writ
A written order of a court directing an officer to do something or refrain from doing something.
Youthful Offender
A youth varying in age from about 16 to 19 who has committed "a crime not punishable by death or life imprisonment and has not previously been convicted of a felony. Such a youth, upon application, can be adjudged a youthful offender by the court. The purpose is to keep proceedings secret, to protect the youth's name, and to afford him rehabilitation. The adjudication is not considered a conviction.

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    The story of the lines of bottled fruit and tins of baked beans in your larder goes back to the year1795, in France. The French government maintained a vast army and navy; it was involved with foreign wars, and...

  • History of Juvenile Delinquency
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    In the history of the administration of criminal justice, among the early attempts to give differential treatment to persons of tender years, mention may be made of the 10th century monarch. King Athelstan of England,...


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