- Canon law
- The law of the Christian Church. Has little or no legal effect today.
Canon law refers to that body of law which has been set by the Christian
Church and which, in virtually all places, is not binding upon citizens and
has virtually no recognition in the judicial system. Some citizens resort to
canon law, however, for procedures such as marriage annulments to allow for a
Christian church marriage where one of the parties has been previously
divorced. Many church goers and church officers abide by rulings and doctrines
of canon law. Also known as "ecclesiastical
- Capital punishment
- The most severe of all
that of death. Also known as the
penalty, capital punishment has been banned in many coutries. In the
United States, an earlier move to eliminate capital punishment has now been
reversed and more and more states are resorting to capital punishment for
serious offenses such as
- Case law
- The entire collection of published legal decisions of the courts which,
stare decisis, contributes a large part of the legal rules which apply
in modern society. If a rule of law cannot be found in written laws, lawyers
will often say that it is a rule to be found in "case law". In other words,
the rule is not in the
books but can be found as a principle of law established by a judge in some
recorded case. The word
jurisprudence has become synonymous for case law.
- Latin: let him beware. A formal warning. Caveat emptor means let the buyer
beware or that the buyers should examine and check for themselves things which
they intend to purchase and that they cannot later hold the vendor responsible
for the broken condition of the thing bought.
- A writ of certiorari is a form of judicial review whereby a court
is asked to consider a legal decision of an
administrative tribunal, judicial office or organization (eg. government)
and to decide if the decision has been regular and complete or if there has
been an error of law. For example, a certiorari may be used to wipe out
a decision of an administrative tribunal which was made in violation of the
rules of natural justice, such as a failure to give the person affected by the
decision an opportunity to be heard.
- Cestui que trust or cestui que use
- The formal Latin word for the
or donee of a
- Ceteris paribus
- Latin" all things being equal or unchanged.
- When a person agrees to finance someone else's lawsuit in exchange for a
portion of the judicial award.
- A person who has never voluntarily had
sexual intercourse outside of marriage such as unmarried virgins.
- Moveable items of property which are neither land nor permanently attached
to land or a building, either directly or vicariously through attachment to
real property. A piano is chattel but an apartment building, a tree or a
concrete building foundation are not. The opposite of chattel is
which includes lands or buildings. All property which is not real property is
said to be chattel. "Personal property" or "personalty" are other words
sometines used to describe the concept of chattel. The word "chattel" came
from the feudal era when "cattle" was the most valuable property besides land.
- Chattel mortgage
- When an interest is given on moveable property other than
(in which case it is usually a "mortgage"),
in writing, to guarantee the payment of a debt or the execution of some
action. It automatically becomes void when the debt is paid or the action is
- Check or cheque
- A form of
of exchange where the order to pay is given to a bank which is holding the
- Chose in action
- A right of property in intangible things or which are not in one's
possession, enforceable through legal or court action . Examples may include
salaries, debts, insurance claims, shares in companies and pensions.
- Circumstantial evidence
which may allow a judge or jury to deduce a certain fact from other facts
which have been proven. In some cases, there can be some
that can not be proven directly, such as with an eye-witness. And yet that
may be essential to prove a case. In these cases, the lawyer will provide the
judge or juror with
of the circumstances from which a juror or judge can logically deduct, or
reasonably infer, the fact that cannot be proven directly; it is proven by the
of the circumstances; hence, "circumstantial"
Fingerprints are an example of circumstantial evidence: while there may be no
witness to a person's presence in a certain place, or contact with a certain
object, the scientific evidence of someone's fingerprints is persuasive proof
of a person's presence or contact with an object.
- An order of a court to either do a certain thing or to appear before it to
answer charges. The citation is typically used for lesser offences (such as
traffic violations) because it relies on the good faith of the defendant to
appear as requested, as opposed to an arrest or
penalty for failing to obey a citation is often a warrant for the arrest of
- Civil law
- Law inspired by old Roman Law, the primary feature of which was that laws
were written into a collection; codified, and not determined, as is
common law, by judges. The principle of civil law is to
provide all citizens with an accessible and written collection of the laws
which apply to them and which judges must follow.
- Something that is purposely kept from the view or knowledge of others
either in violation of the law or to conduct or conceal some illegal purpose.
A "clandestine marriage" would be one which does not comply with laws related
- Class action
- When different persons combine their lawsuits because the facts and the
defendant are so similar. This is designed to save Court time and to allow one
judge to hear all the cases at the same time and to make one decision binding
on all parties. Class action lawsuits would typically occur after a plane or
train accident where all the victims would sue the transportation company
together in a class action suit.
- Clayton's Case
- An English case which established a presumption that monies withdrawn from
a money account are presumed to be debits from those monies first deposited;
first in, first out. The proper citation is Devaynes v. Noble (1816) 1
Mer. 572) and the presumption is not applicable to
who are presumed to withdraw their own money first, and not trust money.
- Clean hands
- A maxim of the law to the effect that any person, individual or corporate,
that wishes to ask or petition a court for judicial action, must be in a
position free of fraud or other unfair conduct.
- Client-solicitor privilege
- A right that belongs to the client of a lawyer that the latter keep any
information or words spoken to him during the provision of the legal services
to that client, strictly confidential. This includes being shielded from
testimony before a court of law. The client may, expressly or impliedly, waive
the privilege and, exceptionally, it may also be waived by the lawyer if the
disclosure of the information may prevent a serious crime.
- An amendment to an existing
not mean that the will is totally changed; just to the extent of the codicil.
- Property which has been committed to guarantee a loan.
- Collateral descendant
descendant that is not direct, such as a niece or a cousin.
- Collateral source rule
- A rule of tort
law which holds that the
is not allowed to deduct from the amount he or she would be held to pay to the
victim of the tort,
any goods, services or money received by that victim from other "collateral"
sources as a result of the
- A secret agreement between two or more persons, who seem to have
conflicting interests, to abuse the law or the legal system, deceive a court
or to defraud a third party. For example, if the partners in a marriage agree
to lie about the duration of their separation in order to secure a divorce.
- A formal group of experts brought together on a regular or
ad hoc basis
to debate matters within that sphere of expertise, and with regulatory or
quasi-judicial powers such as the ability to license activity in the
sphere of activity or to
witnesses. Commissions usually also have advisory powers to government. The
organizational form of a commission is often resorted to by governments to
exhaustively investigate a matter of national concern, and is often known as a
"commission of inquiry." This legal structure can be contrasted with a
council, the latter not enjoying
quasi-judicial or regulatory powers.
- A term of parliamentary law which refers to a body of one or more persons
appointed by a larger assembly or society, to consider, investigate and/or
take action on certain specific matters. A committee only has those powers
which have been assigned to it by the constituent assembly. Most are merely
created to study matters in detail and to then report to the larger group.
This saves the larger assembly time when it meets and allows it to review and
approve a greater number of items, relying on the committee's report and
recommendations. Committees are either
ad hoc (this latter kind is also known as a "special committee).
- Common law
- Judge-made law. Law which exists and applies to a group on the basis of
historical legal precedents developed over hundreds of years. Because it is
not written by elected politicians but, rather, by judges, it is also referred
to as "unwritten" law. Judges seek these principles out when trying a case and
apply the precedents to the facts to come up with a judgement. Common law is
often contrasted with civil law systems which require all
laws to be written in a code or written collection. Common law has been
referred to as the "common sense of the community, crystallized and formulated
by our ancestors".
developed after the common law to offset the rigid interpretations medieval
English judges were giving the common law. For hundreds of years, there were
separate courts in England and its dependents: one for common law and one for
equity and the decisions of the latter, where they conflicted, prevailed. It
is a matter of legal debate whether or not common law and equity are now
"fused." It is certainly common to speak of the "common law" to refer to the
entire body of English law, including common law and
- Common share
- The basic
share in a company. Typically, common shares have
voting rights and a
right to any
dividends declared. They differ from
preferred shares which, by definition, carry some kind of right or
privilege above the common shares (eg. first to receive any
- A legal entity, allowed by
which permits a group of people, as shareholders, to create an organization,
which can then focus on persuing set objectives, and empowered with legal
rights which are usually only reserved for individuals, such as to sue and be
sued, own property, hire employees or loan and borrow money. Also known as a "corporation."
The primary advantage of a company structure is that it provides the
shareholders with a right to participate in the profits (by
without any personal liability (the company absorbs the entire liability of
- Comparative negligence
- A principle of
tort law which looks at the
of the victim and which may lead to either a reduction of the award against
the defendant, proportionate to the contribution of the victim's
or which may even prevent an award altogether if the victim's
when compared with the defendant, is equal to or greater in terms or
contributing to the situation which caused the injury or damage.
- Condition precedent
- A contractual condition that suspends the coming into effect of a
contract unless or until a certain event takes place.
Many residential real estate contracts have a condition precedent which states
that the contract is not binding until and unless the property is subjected to
an professional inspection, the results of which are satisfactory to the
purchaser. Compare with "condition subsequent".
- Condition subsequent
- A condition in a contract that causes the contract
to become invalid if a certain event occurs. This is different from a
condition precedent. The happening of a
condition subsequent may invalidate a contract which is, until that moment,
fully valid and binding. In the case of a condition precedent, no binding
contract exists until the condition occurs.
can be obtained by showing a fault of the other spouse, such as
or cruelty. But a court will refuse to grant a divorce based on these grounds
if there has been "condonation", which is the obvious or implied forgiveness
of the fault. For example, if the "injured" spouse resumes cohabitation with
the "guilty" spouse after being informed of the adultery, and for a long
period or time, the "injured" spouse may be barred from divorce on the grounds
of adultery because of "condonation".
- A statement made by a person suspected or charged with a crime, that he
(or she) did, in fact, commit that crime.
- A result achieved through negotiation whereby a hybrid solution is arrived
at between parties to an issue, dispute or disagreement, comprising typically
of concessions made by all parties, and to which all parties then subscribe
unanimously as an acceptable resolution to the issue or disagreement.
- Consensus ad idem
- Latin term meaning an agreement, a meeting of the minds between the
parties where all understand the committments made by each. This is a basic
requirement for each contract.
- Under common law, there can be no binding contract without consideration,
which was defined in an 1875 English decision as "some right, interest, profit
or benefit accruing to the one party, or some forbearance, detriment, loss or
responsibility given, suffered or undertaken by the other". Common law did not
want to allow gratuitous offers, those made without anything offered in
exchange (such as gifts), to be given the protection of contract law. So they
added the criteria of consideration. Consideration is not required in
contracts made in civil law systems and many common law states have adopted
laws which remove consideration as a prerequisite of a valid contract.
- To leave an item of property in the custody of another. A item can be
consigned to a transportation company, for example, for the purpose of
transporting it from one place to another. The consignee is the person to
receive the property and the consignor is the person who ships the property to
- An agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal act. Those
forming the conspiracy are called conspirators.
- The basic law or laws of a nation or a state which sets out how that state
will be organized by deciding the powers and authorities of government between
different political units, and by stating and the basic principles of society.
Constitutions are not necessarily written and may be based on aged customs and
conventions, as is the case in England and New Zealand (the USA, Canada and
Australia all have written constitutions).
- The legal process of interpreting a phrase or document; of trying to find
it's meaning. Whether it be a contract or a statute, there are times when a
phrase may be unclear or of several meanings. Then, either lawyers or judges
must attempt to interpret or "construct" the probable aim and purpose of the
phrase, by extrapolating from other parts of the document or, in the case of
statutes, referring to a interpretation law which gives legal construction
guidelines. Generally, there are two types of construction methods:
literal (strict) or
- Constructive dismissal
- Under the employment law of some states, judges will consider a situation
where there has been a fundamental violation of the rights of an employee, by
the employer, so severe that the employee would have the right to consider
himself as dismissed, even though, in fact, there has been no act of dismissal
on the part of the employer. For example, if an employer tries to force an
employee to accept a drastic demotion, the employee might have a case for
constructive dismissal and would be able to assume that the employment
contract has been ended and seek compensation from a court.
- Constructive trust
- A trust
which a court declares or imposes onto participants of very specific
circumstances such as those giving rise to an action for
notwithstanding the lack of any willing
declare the trust
- Contempt of court
- A act of defiance of court authority or dignity. Contempt of court can be
direct (swearing at a judge or violence against a court officer) or
constructive (disobeying a court order). The punishment for contempt is a fine
or a brief stay in jail (i.e. overnight).
- Contingency fee
- A method of payment of legal fees represented by a percentage of an award.
Lawyers get paid in one of two ways: either you pay a straight hourly rate as
you might pay a plumber (eg. $400 an hour) or the lawyer might "gamble" (i.e.
"contingency" fee) and agree to only get paid if the claim is successful and
by taking a portion (eg. one-third) of any award that comes after the filing
of the claim. For example, if you go and see a lawyer because, after a medical
emergency, your health insurance company refuses to pay your medical bills in
violation of their policy, the law firm might say: "no money down. In fact, we
don't get paid a cent unless you do. And then, we take one-third off the top
of any award you might get." This allows the client to receive legal services
without putting any money down and it allows the lawyer to advertise "we don't
get paid unless you do." The lawyer associations in some counties prohibit
contingency fee arrangements. In those countries that allow them, they are
very prevalent in personal injury cases.
- An agreement between persons which obliges each party to do or not to do a
certain thing. Technically, a valid contract requires an
offer and an
of that offer, and, in common law countries,
- Contract law
- That body of law which regulates the enforcement of contracts. Contract
law has its origins thousands of years as the early civilizations began to
trade with each other, a legal system was created to support and to facilitate
that trade. The English and French developed similar contract law systems,
both referring extensively to old Roman contract law principles such as
consensus ad idem or caveat emptor.
There are some minor differences on points of detail such as the English law
requirement that every contract contain consideration.
More and more states are changing their laws to eliminate consideration as a
prerequisite to a valid contract thus contributing to the uniformity of law.
Contract law is the basis of all commercial dealings from buying a bus ticket
to trading on the stock market.
- Contributory negligence
negligence of a person which, while not being the primary cause of a
nevertheless combined with the act or omission of the primary defendant to
cause the tort,
and without which the
tort would not
- The action of conversion is a common law legal
proceeding for damages by an owner of property against a
who came across the property and who, rather than return the property,
converted that property to his own use or retained possession of the property
or otherwise interfered with the property. The innocence of the
who took the property is not an issue. It is the conversion that gives rise to
the cause of action. This common law action replaced the
old action of
trover by English law dated 1852. Compare with
- A written document which transfers property from one person to another. In
real-estate law, the conveyance usually refers to the actual document which
transfers ownership, between persons living (i.e. other than by will), or
which charges the land with another's interest, such as a mortgage.
- The formal decision of a criminal trial which finds the accused guilty. It
is the finding of a judge or jury, on behalf of the state, that a person has,
beyond reasonable doubt, committed the crime for which he, or she, has been
accused. It is the ultimate goal of the prosecution and the result resisted by
the defense. Once convicted, an accused may then be sentenced.
- An obsolete co-ownership mechanism of English law where property, if there
was no will, always went to the eldest son. If there was no male heir, the
property went to all the female children collectively as a form of
- The exclusive right to produce or reproduce (copy), to perform in public
or to publish an original literary or artistic work. Many countries have
expanded the definition of a "literary work" to include computer programs or
other electronically stored information.
- A public official who holds an inquiry into violent or suspicious deaths.
A coroner has the power to summon people to the inquest.
- Corporal punishment
- A punishment for some violation of conduct which involves the infliction
of pain on, or harm to the body. A fine or imprisonment is not considered to
be corporal punishment (in the latter case, although the body is confined, no
punishment is inflicted upon the body). The
penalty is the most drastic form of corporal punishment and is also called
capital punishment. Some schools still use a
strap to punish students. Some countries still punish habitual thieves by
cutting off a hand. These are forms of corporal punishment, as is any form of
spanking, whipping or bodily mutilation inflicted as punishment.
- Corporate secretary
- Officer of a corporation responsible for the
official documents of the corporation such as the
official seal, records of shares issued, and minutes of all board or committee
- A legal entity, allowed by
which permits a group of people, as shareholders (for-profit companies) or
members (non-profit companies), to create an organization, which can then
focus on pursuing set objectives, and empowered with legal rights which are
usually only reserved for individuals, such as to sue and be sued, own
property, hire employees or loan and borrow money. Also known as a "company."
The primary advantage of for profit corporations is that it provides its
shareholders with a right to participate in the profits (by
without any personal liability because the company absorbs the entire
liability of the organization.
- This is a term often used in judgments as in "the defendant will pay
costs." When a person is condemned to "costs" it means that he has to pay all
the court costs such as the fees for bringing the action, witness fees and
other fees paid out by the other side in bringing the action to justice. A
court can also condemn a losing party to "special costs" but this is
considered punitive as it would include the other side's lawyer bill. The rule
in most places is that "costs follows the event" which means that the loser
pays. In most states, the court has the final say on costs and may decide not
to make an order on costs.
- A formal group of experts brought together on a regular basis to debate
matters within that sphere of expertise, and with advisory powers to
government. For example, Canada has a 'Standards Council of Canada" which
debates and proposes standards policies and is able to make recomendations to
the government of Canada. It can be contrasted with a
commission which, although also a body of experts, is typically given
regulatory powers in addition to a role as advisor to the government.
- Court martial
- A military court set up to try and punish offenses taken by members of the
army, navy or air force.
- Court of admiralty
- A rather archaic term used to denote the court which has the right to hear
shipping, ocean and sea legal cases. Also known as "maritime law".
- A written document in which signatories either commit themselves to do a
certain thing, to not do a certain thing or in which they agree on a certain
set of facts. They are very common in real property dealings and are used to
restrict land use such as amongst shopping mall tenants or for the purpose of
preserving heritage property. For example, a coventor to a mortgage commits
themself to pay the mortgage if the mortgagor defaults.
- A person to whom money, goods or services are owed by the
- An act or omission which is prohibited by criminal
law. Each state sets out a limited series of acts (crimes) which are
prohibited and punishes the commission of these acts by a fine, imprisonment
or some other form of punishment. In exceptional cases, an omission to act can
constitute a crime, such as failing to give assistance to a person in peril or
failing to report a case of child abuse.
- Criminal conversation
- Synonymous with
In old English law, this was a claim for damages the husband could institute
against the adulterer.
- Criminal law
- That body of the law that deals with conduct considered so harmful to
society as a whole that it is prohibited by
prosecuted and punished by the government.
- In trials, each party calls witnesses. Each party may also question the
other's witness(es). When you ask questions of the other party's witness(es),
it is called a "cross-examination" and you are allowed considerably more
latitude in cross-examination then when you question your own witnesses
(called an "examination-in-chief").
For example, you are not allowed to ask
questions to your own witness whereas you can in cross-examination.
- The word refers specifically to the British Monarch, where she is the head
of state of Commonwealth countries. Prosecutions and civil cases taken (or
defended) by the government are taken in the name of the Crown as head of
state. That is why public prosecutors are referred to, in Canada, as "Crown"
prosecutors and criminal cases take the form of "The Crown vs. John Doe" or
"Regina vs. John Doe", Regina being Latin for "The Queen."
est solum, ejus est usque ad caelum et ad inferos
- Latin: who owns the land, owns down to the center of the earth and up to
the heavens. This principle of land ownership has been greatly tempered by
case law which has limited ownership upwards to the
extent necessary to maintain structures. Otherwise, airplanes would trespass
- Culpa lata
- Latin for
negligence. It is more than just simple
and includes any action or an omission in reckless disregard of the
consequences to the safety or property of another.
- The yard surrounding a residence or dwelling house which is reserved for
or used by the occupants for their enjoyment or work. Curtilage may or may not
be inclosed by fencing and includes any outhouses such as stand-alone garages
or workshops. It is a term one might come across in a search warrant which
calls for a search of the residence its' curtilage of a particular person.
- Means the charge and control of a child including the right to make all
major decisions such as education, religious upbringing, training, health and
welfare. Custody, without qualification usually refers to a combination of
For other varieties of custody, see
- "As near as may be": a technical word used in the law of
trusts or of
refer to a power that the courts have to, rather than void the document, to
construct or interpret the
will or a
document "as near as may be" to the actual intentions of the signatory, where
literal construction would give the document illegal, impracticable or