Acceptance. In contract law, the offeree,s compliance with the terms of an offer and the manifestation of such compliance.
Accessory. A person who contributes to or aids in the commission of a crime.
Accessory after the fact. A person who receives, relieves, comforts, or assists another knowing that he or she has committed a felony.
Actus reus. The "guilty act"; the forbidden act or omission which is an element of a crime.
Adjudication. The resolution or settlement of a dispute between two parties by a third party.
Administrative law. The law that governs the actions of administrative agencies.
Adverse possession. A method of acquiring title to land by possession.
Adverse witness. Also called a hostile witness, an adverse witness is one who provides prejudicial information against the party conducting the examination.
Age of majority. The age set by statute at which one loses the disabilities of minority and becomes able to enter legally binding contracts.
Answer. The defendant's response to allegations made by the plaintiff in the latter,s complaint.
Appellant. The party, usually the losing one, that seeks to overturn the decision of a trial court by appealing to a higher court.
Appellate court. A court that hears appeals on points of law from trial courts.
Appellee. The party, usually the winning one, against whom a case is appealed.
Arbitration. The submission of an argument to a neutral party for resolution under an agreement by the parties to be bound by the decision or under a court order.
Arraignment. The stage of the criminal justice process in which the defendant is formally informed of the charges and allowed to enter a plea.
Arrest warrant. A court order that allows the police to take a person accused of a crime into custody.
Artificial person. A corporation that is given certain human attributes by legal fiction in order that it may sue and be sued.
Assault. The apprehension of an offensive or unwanted contact from another person.
Assignment. The transfer of a present contractual interest to a third party.
Battery. Harmful or offensive contact with another person.
Bench trial. A trial conducted without a jury in which the judge serves as the trier of fact.
Bilateral contract. A contract in which the parties exchange promises to do some future act.
Bond. Something of value, either money or property, posted by a criminal defendant to ensure the defendant's appearance in court.
Bound over. If, at the preliminary hearing, the judge believes that sufficient probable cause exists to hold a criminal defendant, the accused is said to be bound over for trial.
Breach of contract. Failure to perform any aspect of a contract.
Brief. A legal document in which an attorney outlines the facts, alleged errors, and precedents in a case appealed to a higher court.
Canon law. A system of church law.
Capacity. The ability of an individual who is not under some legal disqualification, such as infancy or insanity, to enter into legally binding agreements.
Case law. A law that develops through the interpretation of statutes, constitutions, treaties, and other forms of written law.
Caveat employ. Literally, "Tet the buyer beware". At common law the doctrine that purchasers of goods must inspect them to avoid being cheated by merchants.
Certification. One method of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court by which the lower court formally identifies questions of law for decision.
Challenge for cause. One method of striking a potential juror because of specified reasons such as bias or prejudgment.
Charge to the jury. The instructions given to the jury by the judge in which the judge outlines what the jury must find in order to rule for the plaintiff and what they must find to rule for the defendant.
Chattel. An item of tangible property other than realty.
Choice-of-law question. In conflict of laws, determining which state law will be applied when some or all of the operative elements occurred in a jurisdiction other than the forum state.
Circumstantial evidence. An indirect method of proving the material facts of the case. Testimony that is not based on the witness's personal observation of the material events.
Civil action. A civil lawsuit brought by one person or corporation against another.
Civil disobedience. The theory that a person may disobey human laws that conflict with natural law or God's law.
Civil law. A system of laws in which the legislature is the ultimate lawmaker that relies on codes rather than court precedent as the basis of decisions; the dominant system in Europe and South America.
Closing statement. The address made by an attorney at the end of the presentation of evidence in which the attorney summarizes the case for the jury.
Codicil. A formal modification of the terms of a will.
Comity. In conflict of laws, a willingness to accept judgments of foreign courts as a matter of courtesy or respect.
Common law. Laws developed, mainly in England, by judges who made legal decisions in the absence of written law. Such decisions served as precedents and became "common" to all of England.
Community property. Property gained during marriage that belongs to each spouse equally unless it is a gift or inheritance as defined by the marital property laws in community property states.
Comparative negligence. A theory that allocates negligence between the plaintiff and the defendant and that allows the plaintiff to recover even if she contributed to her own injury.
Complaining witness. In criminal law, the person, often the victim, who swears out a complaint against another, leading to an arrest warrant being issued against the latter.
Complaint. In civil law, a legal document in which the plaintiff makes certain allegations of injury and liability against the defendant. In criminal law, the written accusation of a criminal act against a criminal defendant.
Concurring opinion. An opinion by an appellate court judge in which the judge agrees with the decision of the majority, but not for the same reasons given in the majority opinion.
Consideration. The inducement to contract, which may include money, mutual exchange of promises, or the agreement of parties to do or refrain from doing some act which they are not obligated to do.
Constitutional court. A type of federal court created by Congress under its power under Article III of the Constitution to create courts inferior to the Supreme Court.
Constitutional law. Law that consists of court decisions that interpret and expand the meaning of a written constitution.
Contingency fee. The normal fee arrangement in a civil suit in which the attorney receives a percentage of any award won by the plaintiff.
Contributory negligence. A legal theory that totally bars the plaintiff who contributed, even slightly, to his own injury from recovering damages.
Conversion. The deprivation of an owner of possession of tangible property.
Copyright. Exclusive legal right to sell, reproduce, or publish a literary, artistic, or musical work.
Corporation. A business organization in which the owners are the stockholders who have limited liability and management responsibilities based on the pro rata share of ownership.
Corpus. The principal of atrust as opposed to the interest or income.
Court of last resort. At the state level, the highest court with jurisdiction over a particular case. At the national level, the U.S. Supreme Court.
Court of record. A court in which a record of the proceedings are kept, usually in the form of atranscript made by acourt reporter.
Court of general jurisdiction. Trial court responsible for major criminal and civil cases.
Court of limited jurisdiction. Lower-level state court, such as a justice of the peace court, whose jurisdiction is limited to minor civil disputes or misdemeanors.
Criminal law. Laws passed by government that define and prohibit antisocial behavior.
Cross-examination. At trial, the questions of one attorney put to a witness called by the opposing attorney.
Culpability. In law, a person who is blameworthy or responsible in whole or in part for the commission of a crime.
Damages. Pecuniary or monetary compensation paid by the wrongdoer in a civil case.
Defamation. The injury to one's reputation in the community by defamatory comments.
Default judgment. A judgment awarded to the plaintiff because the defendant has failed to answer the complaint.
Defendant. The person against whom a lawsuit is brought.
Delegation. In administrative law, the theory that allows a legislative body to delegate its lawmaking power to administrative agencies.
Delegates non potest delegare. Literally, "a delegate cannot delegate." A person who has been empowered by another to do something may not redelegate that power to another.
Demurrer. A motion by the defendant asking for dismissal of a case on the grounds that the plaintiff has insufficient grounds to proceed.
Deposition. A form of discovery that involves taking the sworn testimony of a witness outside open court.
Determinate sentencing. A sentencing structure in which a flat or straight sentence is imposed, generally without possibility of parole.
Direct causation. The causing or bringing about of an effect without the interference of an intervening variable or factor.
Direct evidence. Evidence derived from one or more of the five senses.
Direct examination. At trial, the questions asked of a witness by the attorney who called the witness to the stand.
Directed verdict. An order from a judge to the jury ordering the latter to decide the case in favor of one of the parties for failure of the other party to prove its case.
Discovery. A pretrial procedure in which parties to a lawsuit ask for and receive information such as testimony, records, or other evidence from each other.
Dissenting opinion. A written opinion of an appellate court judge in which the judge states his or her reasons for disagreeing with the decision of the majority.
Diversity of citizenship suit. A specific type of federal lawsuit between citizens of two different states in which the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
Divine right of king. The medieval theory that the king was chosen by God to rule, thereby establishing the king's legitimacy.
Domicile. A person's legal home.
Donee. One who receives a gift.
Donor. One who gives a gift.
Due process of law. A term used in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to refer to the process that is due before government may deprive a person of life, liberty, or property.
Easement. The right to use someone else's property.
Emancipation. The removal of one's legal disability of being a minor, either by reaching the age of majority or by other statutory reasons such as marriage or court order.
Eminent domain. The power of the government to take private property for public use.
En banc. A situation in which all of the members of an appellate court participate in the disposition of a case.
Environmental law. Field of law that emphasizes the protection of wildlife and the environment in the public interest.
Equity. A branch of law that provides for remedies other than damages and is therefore more flexible than common law.
Estate in fee tail. A freehold estate that limits the succession to the "heirs of the body" or descendants of the donee or devisee.
Estate pur autre vie. An estate that is held during the lifetime of another.
Exclusionary rule. A judicially created rule that holds that evidence obtained through violations of the constitutional rights of the criminal defendant must be excluded from the trial.
Executed contract. A contract in which all the terms have been met or all action completed.
Executive privilege. The doctrine that permits the president to withhold information sought by Congress or the courts.
Executory contract. A contract in which some or all of the terms remain to be completed.
Exhaustion of administrative remedies doctrine. In administrative law, the doctrine that requires persons aggrieved to avail themselves of a-11 administrative remedies before seeking judicial relief.
Express contract. An oral or written contract that explicitly states the contract terms.
Express warranty. An explicit statement or promise that a certain fact in relation to the subject of the contract is true or accurate.
Federalism. A political system in which governmental powers are divided between a central government and regional and/or state governments.
Fee simple estate. An absolute interest in property; the fullest amount of control over property possible.
Fee tail female. An estate in fee tail that may only pass through the female line.
Fee tail male. An estate in fee tail that may only pass through the male line.
Feudalism. The social system of the Middle Ages that involved aseries of reciprocal responsibilities from the king through the lords to the serfs.
Forum non conveniens. A legal doctrine that allows a court to refuse to accept jurisdiction over a case.
Foundation. Also known as "laying a predicate". Preliminary questions that establish the relevancy and admissibility of evidence.
Garnishment. Process whereby money owed to one person as a result of a court judgment may be withheld from the wages of another person known as the gar-nishee.
General damages. Damages, such as payment of medical bills, awarded to the plaintiff to restore him to the condition he was in before he was injured by the defendant.
General intent. In criminal law, a general showing that the prohibited act was performed voluntarily, whether or not the person meant to do it.
General verdict. A verdict in which the jury finds the defendant liable and awards the plaintiff the monetary damages he sought, less than what he sought, or more than what he sought.
Gift. A voluntary transfer of property without consideration.
Grand jury. A group of citizens who decide if persons accused of crimes should be indicted (true billed) or not (no billed).
Grantee. The person to whom property is being conveyed.
Grantor. The person who is conveying property.
Habeas corpus. Literally, "you have the body". In criminal law, a judicial writ ordering a law enforcement official to bring a person before the court and show cause as to why the person is being detained.
Harmless error. An error made during a trial that an appellate court feels is insufficient grounds for reversing a judgment.
Hearsay. An out-of-court assertion or statement, made by someone other than the testifying witness, that is being offered to prove the truth of the matter stated. Hearsay evidence is excluded from trials unless it falls within one of the recognized exceptions.
Heir. Generally, one who inherits property under a will or by intestate succession; technically, a person who receives a property interest through intestate succession.
Holographic will. A will that is written entirely in the handwriting of the testator.
Hung jury. A jury that is unable to reach a verdict. Especially significant in criminal trials if a unanimous verdict is required.
Impanelled. After jurors are sworn in, the jury is said to be impanelled and the defendant is placed in "jeopardy".
Implied contract. A contract that is inferred from the conduct of the parties.
Implied warranty of merchantibility. The warranty imposed on merchants that the goods are merchantible as defined in the UCC; the warranty is imposed even though the merchants do not actually make such claims.
Incorporation. The theory that the Bill of Rights has been incorporated or absorbed into the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, thereby making it applicable to the states.
Indictment. A formal accusation of a criminal offense made against a person handed down by a grand jury.
In forma pauperis. Literally, "in the manner of a pauper". Permission of the court for a poor person to seek judicial relief without having to pay the usual court fees.
Information. A formal accusation charging someone with the commission of a crime, signed by a prosecuting attorney, that has the effect of bringing the person to trial.
Initial appearance. During the initial appearance, the accused is informed of the charges against him, given his constitutional rights, informed of the amount of his bail, and given a date for a preliminary hearing.
Injunction. A court order directing a person to refrain from doing certain acts or carrying out certain activities.
In personum jurisdiction. Judicial jurisdiction of a court to enter a personal judgment or decree against the person.
In rent jurisdiction. Judicial jurisdiction of a court to enter a decree affecting property interests.
Intangible property. Those items of property that are not capable of being touched such as debts owed to someone.
Interpretivism. The doctrine that judges should decide new constitutional issues in light of the underlying constitutional principles, as well as the literal meaning of the written provisions.
Interrogatory. A form of discovery in which written questions about a lawsuit are submitted to one party by the other party.
Inter vivos. During life.
Intestate. To die without a will.
Invitee. In tort law, a business visitor on one's premises.
Jeopardy. The point in the criminal justice process where the accused is in danger of criminal liability. Once in jeopardy, the accused must either be acquitted or convicted and may not be placed again in jeopardy.
Joint tenancy. Concurrent ownership of property in which the survivor inherits the entire property.
Judicial conduct board. An official body whose function is to investigate allegations of misconduct made against judges.
Judicial gatekeeping. Term used to describe how judges control access to the judicial system by either opening or closing the judicial "gates" to certain kinds of controversies.
Judicial notice. A method of providing trial evidence that allows the court to accept facts that are commonly known or verifiable without formal proof.
Judicial review. The power of a court to declare acts of governmental bodies contrary to the Constitution null and void.
Jurisdiction. The power and authority of courts to render a binding decision in a case.
Laying a predicate. Also known as "laying a foundation". Preliminary questions that establish the relevancy and admissibility of evidence.
Leading question. A question by which an attorney attempts to put words into the mouth of a witness, that is, a question that states the information to which the attorney wishes the witness to testify.
Lease. An agreement, oral or written, that governs the rental of property.
Legatee. A person who inherits personal property under the will.
Legislative address. A method of judicial removal used in some states that allows the state legislature to remove a state judge, usually by a two-thirds vote.
Legislative courts. A type of federal court created by Congress under one of its legislative powers; for example, military and territorial courts.
Legislative veto. Action by one or both houses of Congress that nullifies an executive proposal.
Lessee. Also known as the tenant; the person who is in possession of the property under a lease.
Lessor. Also known as the landlord; the person who owns the fee simple estate and carves out a small estate for a tenant.
Libel. Defamation that is preserved in some permanent form.
Licensee. In tort law, a social guest on one's property.
Lien. An encumbrance on property that is the result of a security interest held by the creditor.
Life estate. An estate in land that is held only during one's lifetime or during the life of another.
Long-arm statute. A legislative enactment that extends a court's jurisdiction to nonresident parties as long as there are "minimum contracts" between the litigant and the state, which is a requirement of due process.
Majority opinion. The opinion of a majority of appellate court judges in which the decision of the court and its reasons for that decision are given.
Malum in se. Literally, "wrong in itself". In criminal law, something that is made illegal because it is inherently or morally wrong.
Malum prohibitum. In criminal law, something, such as gambling, made illegal because government has deemed it undesirable, thereby prohibiting it.
Mandatory authority. Prior court cases, constitutional provisions, legislative enactments, court rules, or administrative regulations which are binding upon courts in rendering decisions.
Mandatory release. Automatic release from prison when the calendar time and good time served equal the maximum time for which the inmate was sentenced.
Mediation. The process whereby a neutral third person intervenes in a controversy to assist the parties in achieving a resolution.
Mens rea. Literally, "the guilty mind". The wrongful purpose, which is an element of a crime.
Missouri Plan. The name given to a method of judicial selection that combines merit selection and popular control in retention elections.
Mootness. A term used to describe a case that has become a dead issue because the controversy that gave rise to the case was resolved before a final judicial decision could be made.
Motion in limine. A motion that bars prejudicial questions and statements on specified topics.
Natural law. The theory that human law must conform to the laws of God and nature, just as the physical world must conform to the laws of physics.
Negligence. A theory of tort recovery involving a legal duty, a breach of duty, proximate cause, and injury.
Negligence per se. A method of establishing the defendant's negligence by proving a violation of a safety statute or regulation.
No bill. A term used to describe the decision of a grand jury not to indict a person for a crime.
Nolo contendere. Literally, "I will not contest it". A plea, tantamount to a guilty plea, in which the accused refuses to admit culpability but accepts the punishment of the court.
Noninterpretivism. The doctrine that the Constitution should be interpreted according to evolving standards of decency and justice and not frozen in time or meaning.
Nuisance. The use of the defendant's land in such a way that it interferes with the plaintiffs use or enjoyment of plaintiffs land.
Nuncupative will. An oral will.
Obiter dictum. Also known as dicta; statements in a judicial opinion that were not essential to the resolution of the case and are not binding precedent.
Offer. A proposal to enter into a contract.
Offeree. The person to whom an offer is made.
Offerer. The person making an offer.
Opening statement. Address made by attorneys for both parties at the beginning of a trial in which they outline for the jury what they intend to prove in their case.
Oral argument. The part of the appellate court decision-making process in which lawyers for both parties plead their cases in person before the court.
Oral testimony. A form of evidence that is given by the witness on the stand in open court or in a deposition under oath.
Ordinance power. The power of cities and other local government units to enact regulations binding on citizens within their jurisdiction.
Original intention. The doctrine that holds that judges should interpret the Constitution in accordance with the intent of the Framers.
Panel. A group of appellate judges, less than the full membership of the court, assigned to review a case on appeal.
Parol evidence rule. A rule of contract construction that prevents modification of written contracts by any oral statements.
Parole. Punishment for a crime that involves release from incarceration on the condition of good behavior.
Partnership. A business organization in which ownership is shared by two or more people and/or legal entities.
Party. One of the principals, either the plaintiff or the defendant, in alawsuit.
Patent. Exclusive legal monopoly granted by the government to sell, use, or assign the right to use or sell a product or process that one has invented, created, or discovered.
Peremptory challenge. A method used to strike a potential juror from the jury without specifying the reason for doing so.
Personal service. A notice to a party of pending litigation, or providing a copy of a subpoena to a witness, that is personally delivered.
Personalty. Ail property except realty or those items that cannot be severed from the realty without damage to it.
Persuasive Authority. Secondary sources or materials from other jurisdictions by which courts are not bound but upon which they may rely in deciding cases.
Plaintiff. The person or party who initiates a lawsuit.
Plea bargain. An arrangement whereby the accused agrees to exchange a plea of guilty for a lesser sentence, a reduction of charges, or some other consideration by the court.
Plurality opinion. Any written opinion that reflects the views of fewer than a majority of the justices who heard the case.
Political question. The doctrine that courts will not decide cases that involve issues for which a final decision is clearly left to one of the political branches of government by the Constitution.
Positive law. The theory that law is merely a reflection of the will of the strongest in a society.
Precedent. A case previously decided that serves as a legal guide for the resolution of subsequent cases.
Preliminary hearing. Either a pretrial hearing at which motions are considered or, in criminal law, a pretrial hearing to determine if there is probable cause to hold the accused for an indictment.
Preponderance of the evidence. In civil law, the standard of proof required to prevail at trial. To win, a plaintiff must show that the greater weight, or preponderance of the evidence, supports his or her version of the facts,
Pretrial publicity. Prejudicial information, often inadmissible at trial, that is circulated by the news media before a trial and that reduces the accused's chances of a trial before an impartial jury.
Prima facie case. The plaintiffs version of the facts, which if taken at first glance or "first face" seem to substantiate the plaintiffs allegations against the defendant.
Primary jurisdiction doctrine. In administrative law, the doctrine that requires litigants to take a dispute to the administrative agency with primary responsibility for handling the dispute before seeking judicial relief.
Primogeniture. A legal doctrine whereby the oldest son alone inherits the property of his ancestors.
Principal. In criminal law, achief actor who participates in the crime or who recruits an innocent agent to participate.
Principal brief. A brief filed by appellant that includes the issues and legal arguments to be appealed.
Prior restraint. The censoring of material by the government before it is published rather than penalizing the publisher after publication.
Private nuisance. A common law tort that forbids the use of one's property in a way that is offensive or obnoxious to one's neighbors.
Privilege. In evidence, a recognized right to keep certain communications confidential or private.
Probable cause. Standard used to determine if a crime has been committed and if there is sufficient evidence to believe a specific individual committed it.
Probation. Punishment for a crime that allows the offender to remain in the community without incarceration but subject to certain court-established conditions.
Procedural due process of law. A theory of due process that stresses "by-the-book" adherence to predetermined rules of behavior that government must observe.
Procedural law. Law that outlines the legal procedures or process that government is obliged to follow.
Product liability. A theory of tort recovery that imposes liability on the manufacturer, seller, or distributor of dangerous products for injuries sustained by consumers and bystanders who use the product.
Promissory estoppel. A contract remedy that is employed where one party has changed positions in reliance of the other party's gratuitous promise.
Property. The legal right to use or dispose of particular things or subjects.
Proximate cause. The theory that the injury sustained by the plaintiff and the defendant's action were so closely connected that the defendant's act caused the injury and there were no intervening causes.
Public nuisance. The use of one's property in a way that offends the health, safety, or morals of the general public.
Punitive damages. Money beyond actual damages awarded against a defendant whose conduct was so wanton, reckless, or reprehensible as to justify additional punishment.
Quasi-in-rem jurisdiction. The power and authority of courts to enter a judgment affecting property interests to satisfy the owner's personal obligations even though the owner is not otherwise subject to the court's jurisdiction.
Quitclaim deed. A written instrument conveying the grantor's interest in property, not the title to the property itself.
Ratio decidendi. Those statements in a judicial opinion that are essential to the resolution of the case and are binding precedent.
Realty. Also known as real property; land and the appurtenances thereto.
Reasonably prudent person. A mythical person created by the courts that is used as the objective standard by which the party's conduct is measured.
Recall. A method used in some states to remove judges from office. Recall elections allow the voters directly to remove judges from the bench.
Recognizance. A term used to describe the releasing of an accused person from custody without requiring a property or money bond.
Recross-examination. The questions asked of a witness after direct examination, cross-examination, and direct examination. Essentially, a second series of questions asked of a witness called by the opposing attorney.
Redirect examination. The follow-up questions asked of his or her own witness by the attorney who originally called the witness to the stand.
Regulatory law. The rules and regulations promulgated by administrative agencies that are just as binding as statutes passed by legislatures.
Remittitur. The process by which a jury verdict of money damages is reduced because the amount is excessive.
Renvoi. A legal theory applicable where there is a choice-of-law question and the forum state adopts the entire law of the sister state.
Reply brief. The brief filed by the appellee that attempts to rebut the appellant's grounds for the appeal.
Repudiation. The contract remedy excusing one party from performance of the contract terms based on the other party's statements of prospective nonperformance.
Res ipsa loquitur. A method of showing the defendant's tort liability by proving that all the instrumentalities were under the defendant's control and that the accident is of a kind that would not have occurred without negligence.
Respondeat superior. A theory of vicarious liability in which the employer or master is financially responsible for the torts of employees or servants.
Reversible error. An error made at trial serious enough to warrant a new trial.
Ripeness. The doctrine that an appellate court will not review the decision of a lower court until all remedies have been exhausted. Courts will not decide an issue before the need to do so.
Roman law. A system of laws created by the Romans and codified in the Code of Justinian.
Rule against perpetuities. The rule that interests in property must vest not later than twenty-one years after the lives of the persons specified at the time that the interests were created.
Rule enforcement. The power of an administrative agency to enforce rules promulgated by the agency under its rule-making authority
Rulemaking. The power of an administrative agency to promulgate rules and regulations concerning matters that fall within its jurisdiction. Rules promulgated by administrative agencies have the force of law.
Rule of four. The requirement that four Supreme Court justices must agree to hear a case before the Court will grant a writ of certiorari.
Scienter. An element of a crime that requires knowledge or awareness that a particular act is illegal.
Seisin. Possession of land under a claim of a freehold estate; very akin to absolute ownership of land.
Selective incorporation. As opposed to total incorporation, the doctrine that only those parts of the Bill of Rights deemed "fundamental" are incorporated into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Senatorial courtesy. The custom in the U.S. Senate that requires the president to clear judicial appointments with the senators of the state wherein the appointment occurs when the senators are of the president's party.
Separation of powers. The constitutional arrangement whereby legislative, executive, and judicial powers are exercised by three separate and distinct branches of government.
Sequestered. A jury is sequestered when its members are isolated from the community until it has reached a final verdict.
Service. The process of formally delivering the complaint or a subpoena to the defendant or a witness in a lawsuit.
Shield law. A law that allows a newspaper or other reporter to refuse to disclose the source of his or her information in a criminal case. Shield laws are a type of privilege.
Slander. Defamation that is spoken or not preserved in permanent form.
Small claims court. A lower-level state court whose jurisdiction is limited to a specified dollar amount; for example, that damages may not exceed $1,500.
Sociological theory of law. The theory that law is a function of the society that makes it and that law changes as society changes.
Sole proprietorship. A business organization in which ownership is vested in a single individual who receives all profits but who also bears all liability.
Special issues verdict. A verdict in which the jury answers a series of questions rather than merely entering a general finding.
Special warranty deed. A written deed conveying all property interests held by, through, or under the grantor.
Specific intent. The requisite intent that must be proved as an element of some crimes such as killing another "with malice aforethought".
Specific relief. Equitable remedies that are directed to the defendant personally and obligate him to do or refrain from doing some activity.
Standing. The doctrine requiring that a party bringing suit before a court must have a legal right to do so.
Stare decisis. The policy of courts to follow the rules laid down in previous cases and not to disturb settled points of law.
Statutes of limitations. Statutes that prescribe the time periods in which lawsuits must be filed.
Statutory law. Laws, called statutes, passed by legislative bodies that bestow benefits, impose obligations, or prohibit antisocial behavior.
Subpoena. An order from a court directing a person to appear before the court and to give testimony about a cause of action pending before it.
Subpoena duces tecum. An order from a court directing a person to appear before the court with specified documents that the court deems relevant in a matter pending before it.
Substantial evidence rule. Rule that says a finding of fact by an administrative agency is to be final if there is substantial evidence to support the agency's conclusion.
Substantive due process of law. A theory of due process that emphasizes judging the content of a law by a subjective standard of fundamental fairness.
Substantive law. Law that deals with the content or substance of the law, for example, the legal grounds for divorce.
Substituted service. A notice of pending litigation or other legal matters that is not personally delivered to the person; for example, publication of such a notice in the newspaper.
Substitutionary relief. The award of money damages as compensation for legally recognized losses.
Suit to partition land. A lawsuit dividing land held by co-owners or joint tenants into separate and distinct parts.
Summary judgment. Decision by a judge to rule in favor of one party because the opposing party failed to meet a standard of proof. For example, if a plaintiff fails to present a prima facie case, the judge may enter a summary judgment in favor of the defendant.
Summons. A court order directing the defendant to appear in court at a specified time and place, either in person or by filing a written answer to the plaintiffs complaint.
Suspect classification. Classification of persons, such as by race, to which the Supreme Court applies strict judicial scrutiny and for which government must offer compelling reasons to justify its use.
Suspended sentence. Punishment for a crime in which either the determination of guilt or the sentence is held in abeyance for good behavior and probable completion of certain court-imposed obligations.
Takings Clause. The clause in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that forbids the taking of private property for public use without just compensation.
Tangible evidence. Any evidence that the trier of fact may touch or observe in the courtroom.
Tangible property. Land and other material items that can be touched.
Taxpayer's suit. A suit brought by a person who claims standing on the basis of his or her status as a taxpayer.
Tenancies in common. Current ownership of property that does carry aright of survivorship.
Tenure. The system of landholding in the feudal era wherein land was held in subordination to a superior.
Testamentary capacity. The mental ability of an individual to understand the legal consequences of the act of making a will.
Testate. To die with a will.
Testator. The person making a will.
Third-party beneficiary contracts. Contracts intended to benefit a third party, that is, one who is not a party to the contract.
Tort. A private or civil wrong in which the defendant's actions cause injury to the plaintiff or to property, and the usual remedy is money damages.
Tortfeasor. The wrongful actor in a tort suit.
Total incorporation. The doctrine that all of the federal Bill of Rights should be absorbed into the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and made applicable to the states.
Trademark. A distinctive sound, symbol, color, device, or word that is associated with a product or service that identifies its origin and is legally reserved for that product or service.
Trespass to chattel. The damage to another's item of tangible, personal property.
Trespass to land. The injury to another's real property by an unlawful entry.
Trial de novo. Literally, a trial "from the beginning". Cases appealed from courts that have no transcript are reheard in their entirety "from the beginning".
Trier of fact. The trier of fact is responsible for hearing and viewing the evidence at trial and evaluating the veracity of it. The trier of fact may either be the judge or a jury.
True bill. A bill of indictment by a grand jury.
Trust. A right or property held by one person for the benefit of another.
Trustee. The person or institution that is vested, under an express or implied agreement, with property to be used for the benefit of another; also known as a fiduciary.
Trustor. The person creating a trust.
Ultra vires. Literally, "beyond the powers of". In administrative law, the doctrine that an administrative agency has exercised powers beyond those delegated to it by a legislative body.
Unconscionable contract. A contract in which one party imposed an unreasonably favorable contract on the other, who lacked a meaningful choice as to the contract terms.
Unenforceable contract. Contracts that cannot be legally enforced because of some missing legal element such as being notarized or witnessed.
Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). A set of uniform statutes governing commercial transactions that have been enacted by state legislatures with some modifications.
Unilateral contract. A contract in which one of the parties acts immediately in response to an offer.
Venire. A group of citizens from which members of the jury are chosen.
Venireman. A person called for jury duty.
Venue. The geographic location of a trial, which is determined by constitutional or statutory provisions.
Vicarious liability. The shifting of liability from the tortfeasor to another party, usually an employer.
Void. Null, ineffective, not able to support the purpose for which it was intended.
Voidable. Something such as a contract or marriage that is not void in and of itself but can be voided at the option of the parties.
Voidable contract. A contract that one party may safely disaffirm under certain conditions while the other party is bound by its terms.
Void contract. A contract that is void from its inception.
Voir dire. Literally, "to speak truth". The process by which prospective jurors are questioned by attorneys to ascertain if there is cause to strike them from jury.
Voluntary assumption of risk. A defense used in tort law that the plaintiff was cognizant of the danger and voluntarily chose to encounter the danger.
Warranty. A covenant or promise that a statement or fact is true.
Warranty deed. A written deed conveying property in which the grantor guarantees title and warrants that he or she will compensate the grantee for any failure of the title.
Will. The legal expression of one's wishes regarding the disposition of one's property, which is to be effective after death.
Witness. A person called to the stand to give testimony in a trial.
Writ of certiorari. An order from a higher court to a lower court in which the former orders the latter to send up the record of case for review by the higher court.
Writ of execution. A court order allowing a law enforcement official to seize the property or assets of a defendant against whom a civil judgment has been rendered.