- This is a very unusual word with two contradictory meanings. To "sanction"
can mean to ratify or to approve but it can also mean to punish. The
"sanction" of a crime refers to the actual punishment, usually expressed as a
fine or jail term.
- A special criminal law option available in Medieval times to persons who
had just committed a crime, allowing them to seek refuge in a church or
monastery. There, they could be exempted from the normal prosecution which, in
those days, was quite severe (see, for example,
The Law's Hall of Horrors). But the
ordeal, even within sanctuary, was no piece of cake. The fugitive had to
remain within the walls of the sanctuary, abandon his or her oath to the king,
followed which they had a short period of time to leave the country. They were
considered to be "dead", so much so that their land was forfeited to the King
and their wife considered to be a widow. If they refused to renounce their
oath, they could be starved out of the sanctuary. Henry VIII of England even
took to branding them with a hot iron before they left the country just in
case they tried to return; they could then be quickly spotted and arrested.
Abolished from the common law in 1624 and, in France, at the time of the
Revolution, the principle of sanctuary continues today, in somewhat altered
form, as diplomatic asylum under international law.
- Latin for knowledge. In legal situations, the word is usually used to
refer to "guilty knowledge". For example, owners of vicious dogs may be liable
for injuries caused by these dogs if they can prove the owner's "scienter"
(i.e. that the owner was aware, before the attack, of the dog's vicious
- Search warrant
- A court order (i.e. signed by a judge) that gives a police the permission
to enter private property and to search for evidence of the commission of a
crime, for the proceeds of crime or property that the police suspect may be
used to commit a crime. These court orders are obtained on the basis of a
sworn statement by the requesting law enforcement officer and will precisely
describe the place to be searched and, in some cases, the exact property being
- The legal possession of property. In law, the term refers more
specifically to the possession of land by a freeholder.
For example, a owner of a building has seisin, but a tenant does not, because
the tenant, although enjoying possession, does not have the legal title in the
- The punishment given to a person who has been convicted (i.e. found to be
guilty) of a crime. It may be time in jail, community service or a period of
- The taking of someone's property, voluntarily (by deposit) or
involuntarily (by seizure), by court officers or into the possession of a
third party, awaiting the outcome of a trial in which ownership of that
property is at issue.
- Servient tenement
- The land which suffers or has the burden of an
The beneficiary of the
is called a
- From Roman law, referring to rights of use over the property of another; a
burden on a piece of land causing the owner to suffer access by another. An
is type of servitude as is a
- The person who actually creates a
donating property to be managed and administered by a
from which all profits would go to a
The law books of some countries refer to this person as a "donor."
- Sexual harassment
- A term used in human rights legislation and referring primarily to
in employment situations, related to sex or gender, which detrimentally
affects the working environment. The most overt variation of sexual harassment
quo offer of work-favor in exchange for sexual favor.
- Sexual intercourse
- Penetration of a man's penis into a woman's vagina.
- A portion of a
bought by a transfer of cash in exchange for a certificate, the certificate
constituting proof of share ownership. Persons owning shares in a
called "shareholders". There are two basic kinds of shares:
preferred. A shareholder is not liable for the debts or other obligations
of the company
except to the extent of any commitment made to buy shares. The two other
benefits of shares include a right to participate in profits (through
and the right to share the residue of assets of the
once liabilities have been paid off, if it is ever dissolved.
- Shareholder agreement
- A contract between the shareholders of the company and the company itself,
in which certain things, usually the purview of the board of directors, are
detailed. For example, a shareholder might be allowed to manage the company,
instead of a board of directors. The shareholder agreement will also,
typically, control inflows to the company (purchase of shares), how profits
are to be distributed, dispute resolution and what to do if a shareholder
- Silent partner
- A person who invests in a company or partnership but does not take part in
administering or directing the organization; he or she just shares in the
profits or losses.
- Sine die
- Adjourned without giving any future date of meeting or hearing. A court
that adjourns sine die essentially dismisses the case by saying that it
never wants to hear the case again! A meeting which adjourns sine die
has simply not set a date for it's next meeting.
- Verbal or spoken
- Slander of title
- Intentionally casting aspersion on someone's property including
a business or goods (the latter might also be called "slander of goods"). A
form of jactitation. For example, stating that a house is haunted or alleging that
a certain product infringes a patent or copyright.
- When a person (called "master") has absolute power over another (called
"slave") including life and liberty. The slave has no freedom of action except
within limits set by the master. The slave is considered to be the
of the master and can be sold, given away or killed. All the fruits of the
slave's labor belongs to the master (see, for example, the extract from
The 1740 South
Carolina Slave Code in the
History of the Law).
Slavery was once very prevalent in the world but is now illegal in most
- Small claims
- A regular court but which has simplified rules of procedure and process to
deal with claims of a lesser value. Many jurisdictions have established small
claims courts which, because of their structures and reliance on deformalized
proceedings, allow for expedited hearings and where representation by lawyer
is not required or encouraged. Some typical distinctive characteristics of
small claims courts include the ability to serve by regular mail and to seize
both a court and an adversary at far less cost than in ordinary courts.
- A term of the feudal
system which referred to the
was exchanged for certain goods or services which were not military in nature.
Socage is often described as "free and common socage" although the "free and
common" qualification is now of a purely historical significance.
- Synonymous with
referring to "unnatural" sex acts, including copulation, either between two
persons of the same sex or between a person and an animal (the latter act is
known as "bestiality"). Most countries outlaw bestiality but homosexual
activity is gradually being decriminalized.
- A lawyer that restricts his or her practice to the giving of legal advice
and does not normally
that court room. In England and some other Commonwealth jurisdictions, a legal
distinction is made between solicitors and
the former with exclusive privileges of giving oral or written legal advice,
and the latter with exclusive privileges of preparing and conducting
in the courts. In other words, solicitors don't appear in court on a client's
behalf and barristers don't give legal advice to clients. In England,
barristers and solicitors work as a team: the solicitor would typically make
the first contact with a client and if the issue cannot be resolved and
proceeds to trial, the solicitor would transfer the case to a barrister for
the duration of the litigation. Lawyers in some states, such as Canada,
sometimes use the title "barrister and solicitor" even though, contrary to
England, there is no legal distinction between the advising and litigating
roles. Canadian lawyers can litigate or give legal advice (as is the case in
the USA, where lawyers are referred to as "attorneys").
- Has two meanings. The first one is a technical word for the monarch (king
or queen) of a particular country as in "the Sovereign of England is Queen
Elizabeth." The other meaning of the word is to describe the supreme
legislative powers of a state: that they are totally
independent and free from any outside political control or authority over
their decisions. The people of Quebec, for example, has, at times, supported
governments which have proposed that Quebec become a "sovereign" state; that
all legislative authority of the government of Canada over their territory
cease and that the government of Quebec be enabled to regulate in any matter
at all; and that the government of Quebec represent itself internationally.
- Split custody
- A child
custody decision which means that legal custody
goes back and forth between parents like a ping-pong ball, as they, in turn,
take care of the child. They are very rare (for example, only 5% of all
custody orders in the USA) because they works against consistent upbringing
decisions for the child. Also known as "divided custody" although the latter
concept is mostly used to describe split custody over greater periods of time
such as alternate years with each parent.
- Standing committee
- A term of parliamentary law which refers to those
which have a continued existence; that are not related to the accomplishment
of a specific, once-only task as are
ad hoc or
special committees. Standing committees generally exist as long as the
organization to which it reports. Budget and finance or nomination
are typical standing committees of a larger organization.
- Stare decisis
- A basic principle of the law whereby once a decision (a
on a certain set of facts has been made, the courts will apply that decision
in cases which subsequently come before it embodying the same set of facts. A
which is binding; must be followed.
- A term of international law: those groups of people which have acquired
international recognition as an independent country and which have four
characteristics; permanent and large population with, generally, a common
language; a defined and distinct territory; a sovereign
government with effective control; and a capacity to enter into relations with
other states (i.e. recognized by other states). The USA, Canada and China are
examples of states. States are the primary subjects of international law. The
United Nations is comprised of all the states of the world. Some large states
have subdivided into smaller units each having limited legislative powers
normally restricted to subjects which are more properly regulated at a local,
rather than a national level. Thus, the states of the USA are not really
"states" under international law. It is common for the general public and
English dictionaries to use the word "nations"
to refer to what international law calls "states."
- The written laws approved by legislatures, parliaments or houses of
assembly (i.e., politicians). Also known as "legislation".
The written laws of the Canadian Province of Newfoundland, for example, are in
a multi-volume set of books called the Statutes of Newfoundland.
- Statutory rape
- The common
law definition of rape has not
proven adequate to reflect modern values. It is limited to sex without consent
and with a woman, and only where the victim is not the wife of the rapist.
Many states have enacted laws which include under the charge of
with a minor even if done with the minor's consent, sex without consent
regardless of whether the victim is male or female, and sex without consent
regardless of the matrimonial bond between victim and rapist.
- Statutory trust
- A trust
created by the effect of a statute. They are usually temporary in nature and
serve the purpose of bridging ownership of property to benefit a certain class
of individuals which the statute is designed to protect. Some examples are the
that the law of some states impose on the executor of an estate, the holding
and administration of tax or other pay deductions (including vacation pay) by
employers, the trust accounts of lawyers and the statutory trust on money paid
for a construction project on behalf of any person who might have a
on the property.
- Latin: the offspring of a person; his or her descendants. For example,
inheriting per stirpes means having a right to a deceased's estate
because you happen to be a descendant of the deceased.
- Strict liability
- Tort liability which is set upon the defendant without need to prove
intent, negligence or fault; as long as you can prove that it was the
defendant's object that caused the damage.
- The process whereby, under the
tenure, a person receiving a grant of land from a lord, could himself
become a lord by subdividing and subletting that land to others.
- Sub judice
- A matter that is still under consideration by a court. You will hear of
politicians declining to speak on a certain subject because the subject matter
is "sub judice".
- To be subject to the orders or direction of another; of lower rank.
- Latin: an order of a court which requires a person to be present at a
certain time and place or suffer a penalty (subpoena means, literally,
"under penalty"). This is the traditional tool used by lawyers to ensure that
witnesses present themselves at a given place, date and time to make
themselves available to testify (see also
- When you pay off someone's debt and then try to get the money from the
debtor yourself. (Compare with "Novation".)
- Subservient tenement
- The real
property that supports or endures an
The real property benefiting from an
is called the
- Substituted service
- If a party appears to be avoiding service of court documents, a request
may be made with the court to, instead of personal service (i.e. giving the
document directly to the person), that the document be published in a local
newspaper, served on a person believed to frequent the person or mailed to his
(or her) last known address.
- A person who takes over the rights of another.
- Sui juris
- A person who possesses full civil rights and is not under any legal
incapacity such as being
of minor age or mental incapacity. Most adults are sui juris.
- Summary conviction offence
- In Canada, a less serious offence than indictable offences for which both
the procedure and punishment tends to be less onerous.
- In the USA, this is one of the initial documents issued in a civil suit;
giving the defendant notice of the claim and an opportunity to defend it. The
summons also gives the court which issues it the authority to dispose of the
matter. In Canadian criminal law, this is the document used by the police to
compel an accused to attend court to answer the charges. It does not involve
the arrest of the accused and is used where the police, either by the
relatively less serious nature of the crime or because of the standing of the
accused in the community, do not believe that arrest is necessary to ensure
the attendance of the accused at court.
- The person who has pledged him or herself to pay back money or perform a
certain action if the principal to a contract fails, as
and as part of the original contract. Technically, where a person provides
collateral after or before the original contract is signed, and as a separate
contract, the person is called a "guarantor"
and not a "surety."
- Synallagmatic contract
- A civil law term for a reciprocal or bilateral contract: one in which both
consideration. A contract of sale is a classic example, where one party
provides money and the other, goods or services. A gift is not a synallagmatic