A person who is neither a lawyer nor is not acting in that capacity but who
provides a limited number of legal services. Each state differs in the authority
it gives paralegals in exercising what traditionally would be lawyers' work.
A pardon is a government decision to allow a person who has been convicted of a
crime, to be and absolved of that conviction, as if never convicted.
Typically used to remove a criminal record against a good citizen for a small
crime that may have been committed during adolescence or young adulthood. The
procedures vary from one state to another, but the request for a pardon usually
involves a lengthy period of time of impeccable behavior and a reference check.
Generally speaking, the more serious the crime, the longer the time requirement
for excellent behavior. In the USA, the power to pardon for federal offenses
belongs to the President.
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. For example, a court can make custody decisions regarding a child or
an insane person, even without statute law to allow them to do so, based on
their residual, common law-based parens patriae jurisdiction.
Latin for "of equal fault." If two parties complain to a judge of the
non-performance of a contract by the other, and the judge finds that they were
equally at fault in causing the contract's breach, the judge could refuse to
provide a remedy to either of them because of "pari delicto".
Latin: Equitably and without preference. A term often used in bankruptcy
proceedings where creditors are said to be "pari passu" meaning that they are
all equal and that distribution of the assets will occur without preference
An early release from incarceration in which the prisoner promises to heed
certain conditions. The conditions are usually set by a parole board and under
the supervision of a parole officer. Violation of any of those conditions would
result in the return of the person to prison.
Killing one's father or another family member or close relative.
A business organization of two or more persons carrying out business together.
Each partner is fully liable for all the debts of the enterprise but they also
share the profits exclusively. Many states have laws regulating partnerships and
may, for example, require some form of registration and allow partnership
agreements. One of the basic advantages of partnerships is that they tend to
allow business losses to be deducted from personal income for tax purposes (see
also limited partner).
Par value shares
Shares issued by a company which have a minimum price. Contrast with shares
which are without par value or "non par value shares" which may be sold at
whatever price the company's board of directors decides.
An exclusive privilege granted to an inventor to make, use, or sale an invention
for a set number of years. In effect, the state grants a temporary monopoly to
an inventor through the issuance of a patent, as a financial incentive to
Being a father. "Paternity suits" are launched when a man denies being the
father of a child born out of wedlock. The new technology of DNA testing can
establish paternity, thus obliging the father to provide child support.
The person to whom payment is addressed or given. In family law, the term
usually refers to the person who receives or to whom support or maintenance is
owed. In commercial law, the term refers to the person to whom a bill of
exchange is made payable. On a regular check, the space after the words "pay to
the order of" identifies the payee.
The person who is making the payment(s). Again, in the context of family law,
the word would typically refer to the person who is paying support or
maintenance. In commercial law, the word refers to the person who makes the
payment on a check or bill of exchange.
One who suffers from a sexual perversion, pedophilia, in which children are
preferred as sexual partners.
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.
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. Another example is an
injunction pendente lite, to last only during the litigation and, again,
designed simply to preserve something until the decisive court order is issued.
Water which seeps or filters through the ground without any definite channel and
is not part of the flow of any waterway. The best example is rain water.
An intentional lie given while under oath or in a sworn affidavit.
Testimony or evidence taken 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.
Forever; of unlimited duration. Rights that are to last forever are said to
hinder commerce as an impediment to the circulation of property. There is a
strong bias in the law against things that are to last in perpetuity.
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. This definition includes not only individuals,
who are "persons" in law unless they are minors or under some kind of other
incapacity such as a court finding of mental incapacity but also includes
business organizations that have been formally registered, such as partnerships,
corporations or associations.
In the law of wills, the general name given to the person who administers the
estate of a deceased person. There are two kinds of personal representatives: an
administrator who is appointed by a court if a person dies without a will
(intestate) and an executor if a personal representative is named in a will.
Petit Jury (or trial jury)
A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented by both sides at trial and
determine the facts in dispute. Federal criminal juries consist of 12 persons.
Federal civil juries consist of at least six persons.
The formal, written document submitted to a court, which describes an injustice
of some kind and asks the court for redress. Petitions set out the facts,
identify the law under which the court is being asked to intervene, and end with
a suggested course of action for the court to consider (e.g. payment of damages
to the plaintiff). Because of the complexity of most legal forms, petitions are
normally filed by lawyers but most states will allow citizens to file petitions
provided they conform to the court's form. Some states do not use the word
"petition" and, instead, might refer to an "application", a "complaint" or the
A petty or underhanded lawyer; an attorney who sustains a professional
livelihood on disreputable or dishonorable business. The word has also taken on
a common usage definition referring to anyone prone to quibbling over details.
A minor crime for which the punishment is usually just a small fine or short
term of imprisonment. See also misdemeanor and felony.
A child custody decision granting the right to organize and administer the day
to day residential care of a child. This is usually combined with legal custody.
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.
The person who brings a case to court; who sues. May also be called "claimant",
"petitioner" or "applicant". The person being sued is generally called the
"defendant" or the "respondent."
In a criminal case, the defendant's statement pleading "guilty" or "not guilty"
in answer to the charges.
Negotiations during a criminal trial between an accused person and a prosecutor.
The accused agrees to admit to a crime (sometimes a lesser crime than the one
set out in the original charge), thus avoiding the expense of a public trial, in
exchange for which the prosecutor agrees to ask for a sentence more lenient than
would have been recommended if the case had proceeded to full trial. Judges are
not bound by plea bargains, although, as past lawyers themselves, they are
generally aware of plea bargains and a reasonable recommendation of a prosecutor
on sentencing is always heavily considered.
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. Pleadings can be in writing
or they can be made verbally to a court, during the trial.
To kill or take an animal or fish from the property of another without
permission. Hunting with permission on another's land is not poaching.
Being married to more than one person at the same time. Illegal in most
A lie-detector machine. It works by recording variations in blood pressure, body
temperature and respiration of a subject as he answers questions.
A rule of contract law making an exception to the general rule that an
acceptance is only created when communicated directly to the offeror. When the
acceptor places the acceptance in the mail box for return mail the acceptance is
binding and the contract is said to be perfected even if, in fact, it never
reaches the offeror.
Power of attorney
A document which gives a person the right to make binding decisions for another,
as an agent. A power of attorney may be specific to a certain kind of decision
or general, in which the agent makes all major decisions for the person who is
the subject of the power of attorney. The person signing the power of attorney
is usually referred to, in law, as the donor and the person that would exercise
the power of attorney, the donee.
Præcipe or precipe
A Latin term which used to refer to the actual writ that would be presented to a
court clerk to be officially issued on behalf of the court. Now the term 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. The precipe is
kept on the court file, but does not accompany the writ when the latter is
served on the defendant.
Words that express a wish or a desire rather than a clear command. They are
often found in trusts or wills and cause great difficulties when courts try to
find the real intention of the settlor or testator.
A case establishing 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. Precedents form the basis of the theory
of stare decisis, which prevents "reinventing the wheel" and allows citizens to
have a reasonable expectation of the legal solutions which apply in a given
A share in a company having a special right or privilege attached to it,
distinguishing it from the company's common shares. Most commonly that special
right is a preference over holders of common shares when dividends are declared.
Another possible right is for the preferred shares to be redeemable at the
option of either the holder or the company. Still another might be to disallow
voting rights to preferred shareholders. Depending on the laws in each state,
there may be no limit to the qualifications a company can attach to preferred
A word describing the strength or weight of evidence such that it persuades a
judge or jury to lean toward one side as opposed to the other during the course
of litigation. In many states, criminal trials require evidence beyond a
reasonable doubt, but civil trials require only a preponderance of the evidence.
The judge or jury will perceive the evidence of one side as outweighing the
other based on which side has the most persuasive or impressive evidence. The
strength or "weight" of evidence is not decided by the sheer number of witnesses
but by their credibility, and their testimony is given weight accordingly. The
side with the preponderance of evidence wins the case.
A report prepared by a court's probation officer, after a person has been
convicted of an offense, summarizing for the court the background information
needed to determine the appropriate sentence.
A method of acquiring rights through the silence of the legal owner and known in
common law jurisdiction as "statute of limitations." When used in a real
property context, the term refers to the acquisition of property rights, such as
an easement, by long and continued use or enjoyment. The required duration of
continued use or enjoyment, before legal rights are enforceable, is usually
written into a state's law known as "statute of limitations."
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.
A meeting of the judge and lawyers to plan the trial, to discuss which matters
should be presented to the jury, to review proposed evidence and witnesses, and
to set a trial schedule. Typically, the judge and the parties also discuss the
possibility of settlement of the case.
A department of the district court that conducts an investigation of a criminal
defendant's background in order to help a judge decide whether to release the
defendant into the community before trial.
A Latin term which means "on the face of it" or "at first sight". Law-makers
will often use this as a device to establish that if a certain set of facts are
proven, then another fact is established "prima facie". For example, proof that
a letter was mailed is prima facie proof that it was received by the person to
whom it was addressed, and such prima facie evidence will be accepted as such by
a court unless proven otherwise.
An agent's master; the person from whom an agent has received instruction and to
whose benefit the agent is expected to perform and make decisions.
Law which regulates the relationships between individuals. Examples include
family, commercial and labor law because the focus of these kinds of law is the
relationships between individuals, or between corporations or organizations and
individual, with the government as a bystander. They are the counterpart to
A special and exclusive legal advantage or right, such as a benefit, exemption,
power or immunity. An example would be the special privileges that some persons
have in a bankruptcy to recoup their debts from the bankrupt's estate before
other, non-privileged creditors.
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. A "probate court" is a name
given to the court that has this power to ratify wills.
A form of punishment given out as part of a sentence. Instead of jailing a
person convicted of a crime, a judge will order that the person report to a
probation officer regularly and according to a set schedule. Disobedience of the
probate order is a criminal offence and is cause for being immediately jailed.
Someone "on probation" is presently under such a court order. The probation
orders may have special conditions attached to them, such as not to leave the
city, drink alcohol, consume drugs, not to go to a specific place or contact a
Officers of the probation office of a court. Probation officer duties include
conducting presentence investigations, preparing presentence reports on
convicted defendants, and supervising released defendants.
Provided for . Pro bono publico means "for the public good."
Profit à prendre
A servitude which resembles an easement and 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.
As a matter of form; in keeping with a form or practice. Something is done "pro
forma" because it facilitates future dealings, even if it is not essential. For
example, an invoice might be sent to a purchaser even before the goods are
delivered as a matter of business practices.
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.
A person who is to be the beneficiary of a promise, an obligation or a contract.
Synonymous to "obligee."
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 promisee. Also sometimes referred to an "obligor."
An unconditional written and signed promise from the payor to a payee. It
promises to pay a certain amount of money, on demand or at a certain defined
date in the future. It differs from a bill of exchange, in that a promissory
note is not drawn on any third party holding the payor's money;
Legally, property is properly defined as a collection of legal rights over a
thing, rather than a thing which belongs to someone and over which a person has
total control. These rights are usually total and fully enforceable by the state
or the owner against others. It has been said that "property and law were born
and die together. Before laws were made there was no property. Take away laws
and property ceases." Property had no relevance before laws were written and
enforced, possession was all that mattered. Property differences can be
classified in many ways, the most common being between "real property" or
"immoveable property" (real estate such as land or buildings) and "chattel", or
"moveable" (things which are not attached to the land such as a bicycle, a car
or a hammer); and between public (property belonging to everybody or to the
state) and private property.
Nearness in place; close by. Also used to describe relationships as synonymous
Latin: As a possessor. For example, a person may possess a thing but not own it,
and still may exercise certain rights over it "pro
To offer a document as being authentic or valid. Used mostly in the law of
wills; to propound a will means to take legal action, as part of probate,
including a formal inspection of the will, by the court.
Latin: to divide proportionate to a certain rate or interest. For example, in a
company with 400 shareholders, 100 with 25% and 300 with 75% of the shares, if
the company received a gift of $10,000 and desired to split it "pro rata" among
the shareholders, the shareholders with 25% of the shares would receive $25 and
the 75% shareholders, $75.
Latin: in one's personal behalf. Contrast with pro socio.
Latin: on behalf of a partner; not on one's personal behalf.
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.
A document by a corporation setting out the material details of a share or bond
issue and inviting the public to invest by purchasing these financial
A person who offers sexual intercourse for hire.
Latin: something done temporarily only and not intended to be permanent.
A right 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.
Works in any medium that are not copyright protected under copyright law and are
therefore for all to use without permission. This can include works that
were originally non-copyrightable (such as ideas, facts or names); copyrights
that have been lost or expired; copyright owned or authored by the federal
government (federal documents and publications are not copyrighted and so are
public freedomain); and any works which have been specifically granted to the public
Laws regulating (1) how the government is structured and administrated; (2) how
the government conducts itself in its relations with its citizens; (3) the
responsibilities of government employees; and (4) the government's relationships
with foreign governments. Criminal and constitutional law are both examples of
public law. Private law is law which regulates the private conduct between
individuals, without direct involvement of the government. The line between
public and private law is sometimes very hard to draw. For example, an
unsolicited attack on one's person would constitute a crime for which the
government would prosecute under criminal law, which is public law. However,
under private law it would also be a situation in which there would be a private
legal action possible by the injured party under tort law.
Special and highly exceptional damages which are an exception to the rule that
damages are to compensate not to punish. They are ordered by a court against a
defendant when the act or omission which caused the suit, was of a particularly
heinous, malicious or highhanded nature. Each jurisdiction sets its own
threshold for the amount allowable. Generally, punitive damages are used in
intentional torts such as rape, battery or defamation. In some countries, and in
certain circumstances, punitive damages might even be available for breach of
contract cases but, again, only for the exceptional cases where the court wants
to give a strong message to the community that similar conduct will be severely
punished. The term "exemplary damages" is used in some jurisdictions, and there
is an ongoing legal debate whether there is a distinction to be made between the
two and even with the concept of aggravated damages.
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