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Easement
A right of passage over a neighbor's land or waterway. An easement is a type of servitude. For every easement, there is a dominant and a servient tenement. Easements are also classified as negative (which prevents the servient land owner from doing certain things) or affirmative easements (the most common, which allows the beneficiary of the easement to do certain things, such as a right-of-way). Although right-of-ways are the most common easements, there are many others such as rights to tunnel under another's land, to use a washroom, to emit smoke or fumes, to pass over with transmission towers, to access a dock and to access a well.
Ecclesiastical law
Synonymous to canon law: the body of church-made law which binds only those persons which recognize it, usually only church officers, and based on aged precepts of canon law.
Emancipation
Term used to describe the act of freeing a person who was under the legal authority of another (such as a child before the age of majority) from that control (such as child reaching the age of majority). The term was also used when slavery was legal to describe a former slave that had bought or been given freedom from his or her master. When Abraham Lincoln outlawed slavery he did so in a law called the "emancipation proclamation".
Embargo
This is an act of international military aggression where an order is made prohibiting ships or goods from leaving a certain port, city or territory and may be enforced by military threat of destroying any vehicle that attempts to break it or by trade penalties. The word has also come to refer to a legal prohibition of trade with a certain nation or a prohibition towards the use of goods or services produced by or within a certain nation.
Embezzle
The illegal transfer of money or property that, although possessed legally by the embezzler, is diverted to the embezzler personally by his or her fraudulent action. For example, an employee would embezzle money from the employer or a public officer could embezzle money received during the course of their public duties and secretly convert it to their personal use.
Eminent domain
USA: The legal power to expropriate private land for the sake of public necessity.
Emolument
A legal word which refers to all wages, benefits or other benefit received as compensation for holding some office or employment.
Emphyteusis
Civil law: a long-term (many years or in perpetuity) rental of land or buildings including the exclusive enjoyment of all product of that land and the exercise of all property rights typically reserved for the property owner such as mortgaging the property for the term of the emphyteusis or permitting a right of way.
Emptio or emtio
Latin for "purchase" or the contract in which something is bought.
Enactment
A law or a statute; a document which is published as an enforceable set of written rules is said to be "enacted".
Endorsement
Something written on the back of a document. An alternate spelling, in some English jurisdictions, is "indorsement." In the laws of bills of exchange, an endorsement is a signature on the back of the bill of exchange by which the person to whom the note is payable transfers it by thus making the note payable to the bearer or to a specific person. An endorsement of claim means that if you want to ask a court to issue a writ against someone, you have to "endorse" your writ with a concise summary of the facts supporting the claim, sometimes called a statement of claim.
Endowment
The transfer of money or property (usually as a gift) to a public organization for a specific purpose, such as medical research or scholarships.
Entrapment
The inducement, by law enforcement officers or their agents, of another person to commit a crime for the purposes of bringing charges for the commission of that artificially-provoked crime. This technique, because it involves abetting the commission of a crime, which is itself a crime, is severely curtailed under the constitutional law of many states.
Equity
A branch of English law which developed hundreds of years ago when litigants would go to the King and complain of harsh or inflexible rules of common law which prevented "justice" from prevailing. For example, strict common law rules would not recognize unjust enrichment, which was a legal relief developed by the equity courts. The typical Court of Equity decision would prevent a person from enforcing a common law court judgment. The kings delegated this special judicial review power over common law court rulings to chancellors. A new branch of law developed known as "equity", with their decisions eventually gaining precedence over those of the common law courts. A whole set of equity law principles were developed based on the predominant "fairness" characteristic of equity such as "equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy" or "he who comes to equity must come with clean hands". Many legal rules, in countries that originated with English law, have equity-based law such as the law of trusts and mortgages.
Escheat
Where property is returned to the government upon the death of the owner, because there is nobody to inherit the property. Escheat is based on the Latin principle of dominion directum as was often used in the feudal system when a tenant died without heirs or if the tenant was convicted of a felony.
Escrow
When the performance of something is outstanding and a third party holds onto money or a written document (such as shares or a deed) until a certain condition is met between the two contracting parties.
Estate law
A term used by the law to decribe that part of the law which regulates wills, probate and other subjects related to the distribution of a deceased person's "estate".
Estoppel
A rule of law that when person A, by act or words, gives person B reason to believe a certain set of facts upon which person B takes action, person A cannot later, to his (or her) benefit, deny those facts or say that his (or her) earlier act was improper. A 1891 English court decision summarized estoppel as "a rule of evidence which precludes a person from denying the truth of some statement previously made by himself".
Euthanasia
The putting to death, by painless method, of a terminally-ill or severely debilitated person through the omission (intentionally withholding a life-saving medical procedure, also known as "passive euthanasia") or commission of an act ("active euthanasia'). See also living will.
Evidence
Proof of fact(s) presented at a trial. The best and most common method is by oral testimony; where you have an eye-witness swear to tell the truth and to then relate to the court (or jury) their experience. Evidence is essential in convincing the judge or jury of your facts as the judge (or jury) is expected to start off with a blank slate; no preconceived idea or knowledge of the facts. So it is up to the opposing parties to prove (by providing evidence), to the satisfaction of the court (or jury), the facts needed to support their case. Besides oral testimony, an object can be deposited with the court (eg. a signed contract). This is sometimes called "real evidence." In other rarer cases, evidence can be circumstantial.
Ex aequo et bono
Latin for "in justice and fairness." Something to be decided ex aequo et bono is something that is to be decided by principles of what is fair and just. Most legal cases are decided on the strict rule of law. For example, a contract will be normally upheld and enforced by the legal system no matter how "unfair" it may prove to be. But a case to be decided ex aequo et bono, overrides the strict rule of law and requires instead a decision based on what is fair and just given the circumstances.
Examination-in-chief
The questioning of your own witness under oath. Witnesses are introduced to a trial by their examination-in-chief, which is when they answer questions asked by the lawyer representing the party which called them to the stand. After their examination-in-chief, the other party's lawyer can question them too; this is called "cross-examination".
Exculpate
Something that excuses or justifies a wrong action.
Executor
A person specifically appointed by a testator to administer the will ensuring that final wishes are respected (i.e. that the will is properly "executed"). An executor is a personal representative.
Exhibit
A document or object shown to the court as evidence in a trial. They are each given a number or letter by the court clerk as they are introduced for future reference during the trial. For example, weapon are frequently given as exhibits in criminal trials. Except with special permission of the court, exhibits are locked up in court custody until the trial is over.
Ex parte
Latin: for one party only. Ex parte refers to those proceedings where one of the parties has not received notice and, therefore, is neither present nor represented. If a person received notice of a hearing and chose not to attend, then the hearing would not be called ex parte. Some jurisdictions expand the definition to include any proceeding that goes undefended, even though proper notice has been given.
Ex patriate
A person who has abandoned his or her country of origin and citizenship and has become a subject or citizen of another country.
Ex post facto
Latin: after the fact. Legislation is called ex post facto if the law attempts to extend backwards in time and punish acts committed before the date of the law's approval. Such laws are constitutionally prohibited in most modern democracies. For example, the USA Constitution prohibits "any ex post facto law".
Expropriation
Canada: the forced sale of land to a public authority. Synonymous to the USA doctrine of "eminent domain".
Express trust
A trust which is clearly created by the settlor, usually in the form of a document (eg. a will), although they can be oral. They are to be contrasted with trusts which come to being through the operation of the law and which do not result from the clear intent or decision of any settlor to create a trust (eg. constructive trust).
Expunge
To physically erase; to white or strike out. To "expunge" something from a court record means to remove every reference to it from the court file.
Ex rel
An abbreviation of "ex relatione", Latin for "on the relation of." Refers to information or action taken that is not based on first-hand experience but is based on the statement or account of another person. For example, a criminal charge "ex rel" simply means that the attorney general of a state is prosecuting on the basis of a statement of a person other than the attorney general himself (or herself.)
Extortion
Forcing a person to give up property in a thing through the use of violence, fear or under pretense of authority.
Extradition
The arrest and delivery of a fugitive wanted for a crime committed in another country, usually under the terms of a extradition treaty.
Ex turpi causa non oritur actio
Latin: "Of an illegal cause there can be no lawsuit." In other words, if one is engaged in illegal activity, one cannot sue another for damages that arose out of that illegal activity. A example is an injury suffered by a passenger in a stolen car, which that passenger knew to be stolen and was a free participant in the joyriding. If vehicle crashes injuring the passenger, there is no action in tort against the driver under the ex turpi causa non oritur actio principle.

 

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Last modified: 01/31/03