- A reduction in some amount that is owed, usually granted by the person to
whom the debt is owed. For example, a landlord
might grant an abatement in rent. In
the word may refer more specifically to a situation where property identified
in a will
cannot be given to the beneficiary because it had to be sold to pay off the
deceased debts. Debts are paid before gifts made in wills are distributed and
where a specific gift has to be sold to pay off a debt, it is said to "abate"
(compare with " ademption").
- A barbaric form of corporal punishment meted out in the middle ages where persons would be
permanently blinded by the pressing of hot irons to the open eyes.
- To take someone away from a place without that person's consent or by
fraud. See also " kidnapping".
- The act of encouraging or inciting another to do a certain thing, such as
a crime. For example, many countries will equally punish a person who aids or
abets another to commit a crime.
- Ab initio
- Latin: from the start.
- Acceleration clause
- A clause in a contract that states that if a payment is missed, or some
other default occurs (such as the debtor becoming insolvent),
then the contract is fully due immediately. This is a typical clause in a loan
contract; miss one payment and the agreement to pay at regular intervals is
voided and the entire amount becomes due and payable immediately.
- One of three requisites to a valid contract
under common law (the other two being an offer and
consideration). A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or
more parties which starts with an offer from one person but which does not
become a contract until the other party signifies an unequivocal willingness
to accept the terms of that offer. The moment of acceptance is the moment from
which a contract is said to exist, and not before. Acceptance need not always
be direct and can, in certain circumstances, be implied by conduct (see
- Accord and Satisfaction
- A term of contract law by which one party, having complied with its
obligation under a contract, accepts some type of compensation from the other
party (usually money and of a lesser value) in lieu of enforcing the contract
and holding the other party to their obligation. This discharges the contract.
The definition cited by lawyers is usually that found in British Russian
Gazette & Trade Outlook Ltd. v. Associated Newspapers Ltd. (1933) 2 K.B.
616: "Accord and satisfaction is the purchase of a release from an obligation
arising under contract or tort by means of any valuable consideration, not
being the actual performance of the obligation itself. The accord is the
agreement by which the obligation is discharged. The satisfaction is the
consideration which makes the agreement operative."
- The imperceptible and gradual addition to land by the slow action of
water. Heavy rain, river or ocean action would have this effect by either
washing up sand or soil or by a permanent retreat of the high water mark. The
washing up of soil is often called avulsion although
the latter term is but a variety of accretion.
- Action or inaction which binds a person legally even though it was not
intended as such. For example, action which is not intended as a direct
acceptance of a contract
will nevertheless stand as such as it implies recognition of the terms of the
contract. For example, if I display a basket of fruit in a marketplace and you
come by, inspect an apple and then bite into it, you have acquiesced to the
contract of sale of that apple. Acquiescence also refers to allowing too much
time to pass since you had knowledge of an event which may have allowed you to
have legal recourse against another, implying that you waive your rights to
that legal recourse.
- A bill which has passed through the various legislative steps required for
it and which has become law, as in "an Act of the Commonwealth of Australia."
Synonymous to statute, legislation or
- Act of God
- An event which is caused solely by the effect of nature or natural causes
and without any interference by humans whatsoever. Insurance contracts often
exclude "acts of God" from the list of insurable occurrences as a means to
waive their obligations for damage caused by hurricanes, floods or
earthquakes, all examples of "acts of God".
- Ad colligendum bona
- When a person dies and there is no apparent executor or administrator, a
person can be appointed by Court order and for the limited and sole purpose of
collecting, inventorying and preserving the assets of the deceased until an
appropriate full-fledged administrator can be found or appointed. Known then
as an administrator ad colligendum, this person is a agent of the Court
and does not have the true or full authority of an administrator of an estate.
- Ad damnum
- Latin: refers to the parts or sections of a petition
that speaks to the damages that were suffered and claimed by the
The ad damnum part of a petition
will usually suggest an amount in dollars that the plaintiff
asks the court to award.
- An attachment to a written document. For example, affidavits may be addendums to a
as a petition
may be an addendum to a writ.
- When property identified in a will cannot be given to the beneficiary
because it no longer belonged to the deceased at the time of death. For
example, the particular gift may have been destroyed, sold or given away
between the time of the will and the time of death. Compare this with "
- Adhesion contract
- A fine-print consumer form contract
which is generally given to consumers at point-of-sale, with no opportunity
for negotiation as to it's terms, and which, typically, sets out the terms and
conditions of the sale, usually to the advantage of the seller.
- Ad hoc
- Latin: for this purpose; for a specific purpose. An ad hoc
for example, is created with a unique and specific purpose or task and once it
has studied and reports on the matter, it stands disbanded (compare with
- Ad infinitum
- Latin: forever; without limit; indefinitely.
- Ad litem
- Latin: for the suit. A person appointed only for the purposes of
prosecuting or defending an action on behalf of another such as a child or
mentally-challenged person. Also called a guardian ad litem.
- Administrative law
- Synonymous with "natural justice." Administrative law is that body of law
which applies for hearings before quasi-judicial or
tribunals. This would include, as a minimum, the principles of
natural justice as embodied in
alteram partem and
nemo judex in sua causa. Many
quasi-judicial organizations or administrative tribunals supplement the rules of natural justice with
their own detailed rules of procedure.
- Administrative tribunal
- Hybrid adjudicating authorities which straddle the line between government
and the courts. Between routine government policy decision-making bodies and
the traditional court forums lies a hybrid, sometimes called a "tribunal" or
"administrative tribunal" and not necessarily presided by judges. These
operate as a government policy-making body at times but also exercise a
licensing, certifying, approval or other adjudication authority which is "
quasi-judicial" because it directly affects the legal rights of a person.
Administrative tribunals are often referred to as "Commission", "Authority" or
- A person who administers the estate of a person deceased. The
administrator is appointed by a court and is the person who would then have
power to deal with the debts and assets of a person who died
Female administrators are called "administratrix." An administrator is a
- Abbreviation for alternative
- Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who is not
their married spouse. In most countries, this is a legal ground for
The person who seduces another's spouse is known as the "adulterer." In old
English law, this was also known as
- Adverse possession
- The possession of land, without legal title, for a period of time
sufficient to become recognized as legal owner. The more common word for this
is "squatters." Each state has its own period of time after which a squatter
can acquire legal title. Some states prohibit title by mere
prescription or possession.
- A statement which before being signed, the person signing takes an oath
that the contents are, to the best of their knowledge, true. It is also signed
by a notary or some other judicial officer that can administer oaths, to the
effect that the person signing the affidavit was under oath when doing so.
These documents carry great weight in Courts to the extent that judges
frequently accept an affidavit instead of the testimony
of the witness.
- A person who has received the power to act on behalf of another, binding
that other person as if he or she were themselves making the decisions. The
person who is being represented by the agent is referred to as the "
- Aggravated damages
- Special and highly exceptional damages
awarded by a court where the circumstances of the tortuous conduct have been
particularly humiliating or malicious towards the plaintiff/victim.
- An amount given to one spouse to another while they are separated.
Historically, the word "alimony" referred to monies paid while spouses were
legally separated but stilled wed locked.
Where they were divorced, the monies payable were then referred to as "
maintenance" but this distinction is now in disuse.
- A military treaty between two or more states,
providing for a mutually-planned offensive, or for assistance in the case of
attack on any member.
- To sell or give completely and without reserve; to transfer title to
somebody else. A voluntary conveyance
of property, especially real property.
- A kind of land ownership that is unfettered, outright and absolute. It is
the opposite of the feudal
system and supposes no obligation to another (ie. a lord).
- A piece of paper which has been attached to a contract, a check or any
promissory note, on which to add signatures because there is not enough room
on the main document.
- Alternative dispute resolution
- Also known as "ADR"; methods by which legal conflicts and disputes are
resolved privately and other than through litigation in the public courts,
usually through one of two forms: mediation
or arbitration. It typically involves a process
much less formal than the traditional court process and includes the
appointment of a third-party to preside over a hearing between the parties.
The advantages of ADR are speed and money: it costs less and is quicker than
court litigation. ADR forums are also private. The disadvantage is that it
often involves compromise.
- The merging of two things together to form one such as the amalgamation of
different companies to form a single company.
- A citizen that has been officially asked by their country to live in
another country in order to legally represent it. For example, the USA has
sent ambassadors to live, and represent the USA, in almost all other
- Something which is not cast in stone; which can be changed or revoked,
such as a will.
- To change, to revise, usually to the wording of a written document such as
- Amicus curiae
- Latin: friend of the court. Refers more specifically to persons asking for
permission to intervene in a case in which they are neither plaintiff or
defendant, usually to present their point of view (or that of their
organization) in a case which has the potential of setting a legal precedent
in their area of activity. This is common, for example, in civil rights cases
and, in some instances, can only be done with the permission of the parties or
- Animus contrahendi
- Latin: an intention to contract.
- To make void; to cancel an event or judicial proceeding both retroactively
and for the future. Where, for example, a marriage is annulled, it is struck
from all records and stands as having never transpired in law. This differs
from a divorce which merely cancels a valid marriage only from the date of the
divorce. A marriage annulled stands, in law, as if never performed.
- To date back; retroactively. To date a document to a time before it was
- Ante nuptial
- An event or document which pre-dates a marriage. For example, an "ante
agreement" is one which is signed before marriage. A ante nuptial gift is a
gift given by one spouse to the other before marriage.
- (USA) "Anti-trust" legislation is designed to prevent businesses from
price-setting or other secret collaboration which circumvents the natural
forces of a free market economy and gives those engaging in the anti-trust
conduct, a covert competitive edge. Also known as "anti-combines" or
- To ask a more senior court or person to review a decision of a subordinate
court or person. In some countries such as Canada, the USA and Australia,
appeals can continue all the way up to the Supreme Court, where the decision
is final in that it can no longer be appealed. That is why it is called
"supreme" (although, in Australia the supreme court is called the
- The act of showing up in court as either plaintiff, defendant, accused or
any other party to a civil or criminal suit. It implies that you accept the
power of the court to try the matter (i.e. "jurisdiction"). Appearances are
most often made by lawyers on their clients behalf and any appearance by a
lawyer binds the client. You can make a limited appearance called a "special
appearance" in which your presence is not to imply acceptance of the court's
jurisdiction but, rather, to challenge the jurisdiction of the court. An
example of the usefulness of a "special appearance" would be where you want to
raise the fact that you were never properly served with the court papers.
- The division and distribution of something into proportionate parts; to
each according to their share. For example, if a court ordered apportionment
of a contract, the party would be required to perform only to a extent equal
to the performance of the other side.
- Something that, although detached, stands as part of another thing. An
attachment or appendage to something else. Used often in a real estate context
where an "appurtenance" may be, for example, a right-of-way over water, which,
although physically detached, is part of the legal rights of the owner of
- A alternative dispute resolution
method by which an independent, neutral third person ("arbitrator") is
appointed to hear and consider the merits of the dispute and renders a final
and binding decision called an award. The process is similar to the litigation
process as it involves adjudication, except that the parties choose their
arbitrator and the manner in which the arbitration will proceed. The decision
of the arbitrator is known as an "award." Compare with
- In USA criminal law, the formal appearance of an accused person to hear,
and to receive a copy of, the charge against him or her, in the presence of a
judge, and to then enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The arraignment is
the final preparatory step before the criminal trial.
- A debt that is not paid on the due date adds up and accumulates as
"arrears". For example, if you do not pay your rent, the debt still exists and
is referred to as "arrears". The same word is used to describe child or
spousal maintenance or support which is not paid by the due date.
- Some countries define "arson" as the intentional setting of a fire to a
building in which people live; others include as "arson" the intentionally
setting of a fire to any building. In either case, this is a very serious
crime and is punishable by a long jail sentence.
- The touching of another person with an intent to harm, without that
- To give, to transfer responsibility, to another. The assignee (sometimes
also called "assigns") is the person who receives the right or property being
given and the assignor is the person giving.
- Attorn or Attornment
- To consent, implicitly or explicitly, to a transfer of a right. Often used
to describe a situation where a tenant, by staying on location after the sale
of the leased property, accepts to be a tenant of the new landlord; or where a
person consents to ("attorns to") the jurisdiction of a court which would not
have otherwise had any authority over that person.
- An alternate word for lawyers or "
barrister & solicitor",
used mostly in the USA. A person that has been trained in the law and that has
been certified to give legal advice or to represent others in
- Audi alteram partem
- Latin: a principle of natural justice which prohibits a judicial decision which impacts upon
individual rights without giving all parties in the dispute a right to be
corpus was an early expression of the audi alteram partem
principle. In more recent years, it has been extended to include the right to
receive notice of a hearing and to be given an opportunity to be represented
- Autrefois acquit
- French word now part of English criminal law terminology. Refers to an
accused who cannot be tried for a crime because the record shows he has
already been subjected to trial for the same conduct and was acquitted. If the
accused maintains that the previous trial resulted in conviction, he or she
pleads "autrefois convict." "Autrefois attaint" is another similar term;
"attainted" for a felony, a person cannot be tried again for the same offence.
- A vinculo matrimonii
- Latin: of marriage. The term is now used to refer to a final and permanent
- Land accretion that occurs by the erosion or
addition of one's land by the sudden and unexpected change in a river stream
such as a flash flood.
- Latin: a mother's brother. "Avuncular" refers to an uncle.