prep. abbreviation for id est, which is Latin for “that is” or “that is to say.” It is used to expand or explain a general term as in “his children (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and Joan).” It should not be confused with “e.g.,” which means “for example.”
1) adj. in violation of statute, regulation or ordinance, which may be criminal or merely not in conformity. Thus, an armed robbery is illegal, and so is an access road which is narrower than the county allows, but the violation is not criminal. 2) status of a person residing in a country of which he/she is not a citizen and who has no official permission to be there. 3) Against or not authorized by the law. Also called illicit or unlawful.
A promise that pledges nothing, because it is vague or because the promisor can choose whether or not to honor it. Such promises are not legally binding. For example, if you get a new job and promise to work for three years, unless you resign sooner, you haven’t made a valid contract and can resign or be fired at any time.
adj. a commonly heard objection to introducing evidence in a trial on the ground that it had nothing substantial to do with the case or any issue in the case. It can also apply to any matter (such as an argument or complaint) in a lawsuit which has no bearing on the issues to be decided in a trial. The public is often surprised at what is immaterial, such as references to a person’s character or bad deeds in other situations.
Although the common meaning of this is a close family relation, it has a more specific meaning in immigration law. Immediate relatives are a category of prospective immigrants, who include a U.S. citizen’s spouse, minor children (under the age of 21), and parents (so long as the citizen is at least 21 years old).
adv. 1) at once. 2) in orders of the court or in contracts it means “as soon as can be done” without excuse.
n. exemption from penalties, payments or legal requirements, granted by authorities or statutes. Generally there are three types of immunity at law: a) a promise not to prosecute for a crime in exchange for information or testimony in a criminal matter, granted by the prosecutors, a judge, a grand jury or an investigating legislative committee; b) public officials’ protection from liability for their decisions (like a city manager or member of a public hospital board); c) governmental (or sovereign) immunity, which protects government agencies from lawsuits unless the government agreed to be sued; d) diplomatic immunity which excuses foreign ambassadors from most U.S. criminal laws. An exemption that a person (individual or corporate) enjoys from the normal operation of the law such as a legal duty or liability, either criminal or civil.
v. to select and install a jury.
n. the act of selecting a jury from the list of potential jurors, called the “panel” or “venire.” The steps are 1) drawing names at random from a large number of jurors called; 2) seating 12 tentative jurors (or fewer where agreed to); 3) hearing individual juror requests for being excused, to be determined by the judge; 4) questions from judge and lawyers for both sides, called “voir dire”; 5) challenges of tentative jurors either for cause (decided by the judge) or peremptory (no reason given) by the lawyers; 6) swearing in the jurors who survive this process.
1) To discredit. To impeach a witness’ credibility, for example, is to show that the witness is not believable. A witness may be impeached by showing that he has made statements that are inconsistent with his present testimony, or that he has a reputation for not being a truthful person. 2) The process of charging a public official, such as the President or a federal judge, with a crime or misconduct and removing the official from office.
n. 1) discrediting a witness by showing that he/she is not telling the truth or does not have the knowledge to testify as he/she did. 2) the trying of a public official for charges of illegal acts committed in the performance of public duty. It is not the conviction for the alleged crime nor the removal from office. It is only the trial itself.
n. a procedural device before trial in which a party brings a third party into the lawsuit because that third party is the one who owes money to an original defendant, which money will be available to pay the original plaintiff. The theory is that two cases may be decided together and justice may be done more efficiently than having two suits in a series.
adj., adv. referring to circumstances, conduct or statements of one or both parties which substitute for explicit language to prove authority to act, warranty, promise, trust, agreement, consent or easement, among other things. Thus circumstances “imply” something rather than spell it out.
n. consent when surrounding circumstances exist which would lead a reasonable person to believe that this consent had been given, although no direct, express or explicit words of agreement had been uttered.
n. an agreement which is found to exist based on the circumstances when to deny a contract would be unfair and/or result in unjust enrichment to one of the parties. An implied contract is distinguished from an “express contract.”
Implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing
n. a general assumption of the law of contracts, that people will act in good faith and deal fairly without breaking their word, using shifty means to avoid obligations or denying what the other party obviously understood. A lawsuit (or one of the causes of action in a lawsuit) based on the breach of this covenant is often brought when the other party has been claiming technical excuses for breaching the contract or using the specific words of the contract to refuse to perform when the surrounding circumstances or apparent understanding of the parties were to the contrary.
A guarantee about the quality of goods or services purchased that is not written down or explicitly spoken. Virtually everything you buy comes with two implied warranties. One for “merchantability” and one for “fitness.” The implied warranty of merchantability is an assurance that a new item will work for its specified purpose. The item doesn’t have to work wonderfully, and if you use it for something it wasn’t designed for, say trimming shrubs with an electric carving knife, the warranty doesn’t apply. The implied warranty of fitness applies when you buy an item for a specific purpose. If you notified the seller of your specific needs, the item is guaranteed to meet them. For example, if you buy new tires for your bicycle after telling the store clerk that you plan to use them for mountain cycling and the tires puncture when you pass over a small rock, the tires don’t conform to the warranty of fitness.
Implied warranty of habitability
A legal doctrine that requires landlords to offer and maintain livable premises for their tenants. If a landlord fails to provide habitable housing, tenants in most states may legally withhold rent or take other measures, including hiring someone to fix the problem or moving out. See constructive eviction.
n. when an act cannot be performed due to nature, physical impediments or unforeseen events. It can be a legitimate basis to rescind (mutually cancel) a contract.
v. 1) to collect funds, in addition to installment payments, from a person who owes a debt secured by property, and place them in a special account to pay property taxes and insurance when due. This protects the lender or seller from the borrower’s possible failure to keep up the insurance or a mounting tax bill which is a lien on the property. 2) to take away records, money or property, such as an automobile or building, by government action pending the outcome of a criminal prosecution. The records may be essential evidence, or the money or property may be forfeit to the state as in illegal drug cases.
To put a person in prison or jail or otherwise confine him as punishment for committing a crime.
n. any permanent structure on real property, or any work on the property (such as planting trees) which increases its value.
v. 1) to attach to a person responsibility (and therefore financial liability) for acts or injuries to another, because of a particular relationship, such as mother to child, guardian to ward, employer to employee or business associates. 2) to attribute knowledge and/or notice to a person only because of his/her relationship to the one actually possessing the information.
Latin for “in absence,” or more fully, in one’s absence. Occasionally a criminal trial is conducted without the defendant being present when he/she walks out or escapes after the trial has begun, since the accused has thus waived the constitutional right to face one’s accusers.
Latin for “in chambers.” A legal proceeding is “in camera” when a hearing is held before the judge in her private chambers or when the public is excluded from the courtroom. Proceedings are often held in camera to protect victims and witnesses from public exposure, especially if the victim or witness is a child. There is still, however, a record made of the proceeding, typically by a court stenographer. The judge may decide to seal this record if the material is extremely sensitive or likely to prejudice one side or the other.
adj. referring to discussions or hearings held in the judge’s office, called his chambers. It is also called “in camera.”
Latin, facing imminent death.
In fee simple
adj. referring to holding clear title to real property.
In forma pauperis
Latin for “in the form of a pauper,” referring to a party to a lawsuit who gets filing fees waived by filing a declaration of lack of funds (has no money to pay). These declarations are most often found in divorces by young marrieds or poor defendants who have been sued.
In haec verba
Latin for “in these words,” which refers to stating the exact language of an agreement in a complaint or other pleading rather than attaching a copy of the agreement as an exhibit incorporated into the pleading.
adj. referring to payment, distribution or substitution of things in lieu of money, a combination of goods and money, or money instead of an article. It is an expression often found in wills and trusts, which empowers the executor or trustee to make distribution to beneficiaries “in kind” according to his/her discretion as long as the value is equivalent to the value intended to be given to each beneficiary. This is important since it allows distribution of furniture, heirlooms, stocks and bonds, automobiles or even real property (as well as money) among the beneficiaries without selling assets to get cash. The “in kind” provision may avoid the potential low value returns from estate sales and the cost of real estate commissions.
prep. instead. “In lieu taxes” are use taxes paid instead of sales tax. A “deed in lieu of foreclosure” occurs when a debtor just deeds the property securing the loan to the lender rather than go through the foreclosure process.
Latin for “at the threshold,” referring to a motion before a trial begins. A motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence is such a motion.
In loco parentis
Latin for “instead of a parent” or “in place of a parent,” this phrase identifies a foster parent, a county custodial agency or a boarding school which is taking care of a minor, including protecting his/her rights.
In pari delicto
Latin for “in equal fault,” which means that two (or more) people are all at fault or are all guilty of a crime. In contract law, if the fault is more or less equal then neither party can claim breach of the contract by the other; in an accident, neither can collect damages, unless the fault is more on one than the other under the rule of “comparative negligence”; in defense of a criminal charge, one defendant will have a difficult time blaming the other for inducing him or her into the criminal acts if the proof is that both were involved.
adj. forever, as in one’s right to keep the profits from the land in perpetuity.
Latin for “directed toward a particular person.” In a lawsuit in which the case is against a specific individual, that person must be served with a summons and complaint to give the court jurisdiction to try the case, and the judgment applies to that person and is called an “in personam judgment.” In personam is distinguished from in rem, which applies to property or “all the world” instead of a specific person. This technical distinction is important to determine where to file a lawsuit and how to serve a defendant. In personam means that a judgment can be enforceable against the person wherever he/she is. On the other hand, if the lawsuit is to determine title to property (in rem) then the action must be filed where the property exists and is only enforceable there.
In pro per
adj. short for in propria persona.
In propria persona
Latin “for one’s self,” acting on one’s own behalf, generally used to identify a person who is acting as his/her own attorney in a lawsuit. The popular abbreviation is “in pro per.” In the filed legal documents (pleadings), the party’s name, address and telephone number are written where the name, address and telephone number of the attorney would normally be stated. The words “in propria persona” or “in pro per” are typed where normally it would say “attorney for plaintiff.
prep. short for “in regard to” or concerning. t is also used in naming legal actions in which there is only one party, the petitioning party, as in “In re Adoption of Marcus McGillicuddy.”
Latin “against or about a thing,” referring to a lawsuit or other legal action directed toward property, rather than toward a particular person. Thus, if title to property is the issue, the action is “in rem.” The term is important since the location of the property determines which court has jurisdiction and enforcement of a judgment must be upon the property and does not follow a person. “In rem” is different from “in personam,” which is directed toward a particular person.
Latin meaning “in fear.” This phrase is used to describe provisions in contracts or wills meant to scare a person into complying with the terms of the agreement. For example, a will might state that an heir will forfeit her inheritance if she challenges the validity of the will. Of course, if the will is challenged and found to be invalid, then the clause itself is also invalid and the heir takes whatever she would have inherited if there were no will.
Latin for “in its entirety” or “completely.” For example, if a judge accepts a lawyer’s argument in toto, it means that he’s bought the whole thing, hook, line & sinker.
Potential immigrants who are disqualified from obtaining visas or green cards because they are judged by the U.S. government to be in some way undesirable are called “inadmissible” (formerly “excludable”). Most of these people have criminal records, certain health problems, are thought to be terrorists or subversives, or are unable to support themselves financially. In some cases, there are legal ways to overcome inadmissibility.
Testimony or other evidence that fails to meet state or federal court rules governing the types of evidence that can be presented to a judge or jury. The main reason why evidence is ruled inadmissible is because it falls into a category deemed so unreliable that a court should not consider it as part of a deciding a case –for example, hearsay evidence, or an expert’s opinion that is not based on facts generally accepted in the field. Evidence will also be declared inadmissible if it suffers from some other defect–for example, as compared to its value, it will take too long to present or risks enflaming the jury, as might be the case with graphic pictures of a homicide victim. In addition, in criminal cases, evidence that is gathered using illegal methods is commonly ruled inadmissible. Because the rules of evidence are so complicated (and because contesting lawyers waste so much time arguing over them) there is a strong trend towards using mediation or arbitration to resolve civil disputes. In mediation and arbitration, virtually all evidence can be considered. See evidence, admissible evidence.
1) A lack of physical or mental abilities that results in a person’s inability to manage his or her own personal care, property or finances.2) A lack of ability to understand one’s actions when making a will or other legal document. 3) The inability of an injured worker to perform his or her job. This may qualify the worker for disability benefits or workers’ compensation.
adj. or adv. referring to something which has begun but has not been completed, either an activity or some object which is incomplete. It may define a potential crime like a conspiracy which has been started but not perfected or finished (buying the explosives, but not yet blowing up the bank safe), a right contingent on an event (receiving property if one outlives the grantor of the property) or a decision or idea which has been only partially considered, such as a contract which has not been formalized.
n. someone who obtains a benefit as the result of the main purpose of the trust.
Incidents of ownership
Any control over property. If you give away property but keep an incident of ownership–for example, you give away an apartment building but retain the right to receive rent–then legally, no gift has been made. This distinction can be important if you’re making large gifts to reduce your eventual estate tax.
n. money, goods or other economic benefit received. Under income tax laws, income can be “active” through one’s efforts or work (including management) or “passive” from rentals, stock dividends, investments and interest on deposits in which there is neither physical effort nor management. For tax purposes, income does not include gifts and inheritances received. Taxes are collected based on income by the federal government and most state governments.
n. a tax on an individual’s net income, after deductions for various expenses and payments such as charitable gifts, calculated on a formula which takes into consideration whether it is paid jointly by a married couple, the number of dependents of the taxpayers, special breaks for ages over 65, disabilities and other factors.
A conflict in personalities that makes married life together impossible. In a number of states, incompatibility is the accepted reason for a no-fault divorce. Compare irreconcilable differences; irremediable breakdown.
adj. 1) inconsistent. 2) unmatching. 3) unable to live together as husband and wife due to irreconcilable differences. In no-fault divorce states, if one of the spouses desires to end the marriage, that fact proves incompatibility, and a divorce (dissolution) will be granted even though the other spouse does not want a divorce. The term also has the general meaning that two people do not get along with each other.
The inability, as determined by a court, to handle one’s own personal or financial affairs. A court may declare that a person is incompetent after a hearing at which the person is present and/or represented by an attorney. A finding of incompetence may lead to the appointment of a conservator to manage the person’s affairs. Also known as “incompetency.”
n. the condition of lacking the ability to handle one’s affairs due to mental or physical incapacity. Before a condition of incompetency is officially declared by a court, a hearing must be held with the person who is involved interviewed by a court investigator; the person must be present and/or represented by an attorney.
adj. 1) referring to a person who is not able to manage his/her affairs due to mental deficiency (low I.Q., deterioration, illness or psychosis) or sometimes physical disability. Being incompetent can be the basis for appointment of a guardian or conservator (after a hearing in which the party who may be found to be incompetent has been interviewed by a court investigator and is present and/or represented by an attorney) to handle his/her person and/or affairs (often called “estate”). 2) in criminal law, the inability to understand the nature of a trial. In these cases the defendant is usually institutionalized until such time as he/she regains sanity and can be tried. 3) a generalized reference to evidence which cannot be introduced because it violates various rules against being allowed, particularly because it has no bearing on the case. It may be irrelevant (not sufficiently significant) or immaterial (does not matter to the issues).
n. testimony, documents or things which one side attempts to present as evidence during trial, which the court finds (usually after objection by the opposition) are not admissible because they are irrelevant or immaterial to the issues in the lawsuit. Thus, trial lawyers often object with: “incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial,” figuring that covers the waterfront of most objections.
n. evidence introduced to prove a fact in a trial which is so conclusive, that by no stretch of the imagination can there be any other truth as to that matter.
v. 1) to obtain an official charter or articles of incorporation from the state for an organization, which may be a profit-making business, a professional business such as a law office or medical office or a non-profit entity which operates for charitable, social, religious, civic or other public service purposes. The process includes having one or more incorporators (most states require a minimum of three for profit-making companies) choose a name not currently used by (nor confusingly similar to) any corporation, prepare articles, determine who will be responsible for accepting service of process, decide on the stock structure, adopt a set of bylaws, file the articles with the Secretary of State of the state of incorporation, and hold a first meeting of incorporators to launch the enterprise. Other steps follow such as electing a board of directors, selecting officers, issuing stock according to state laws and, if there is going to be a stock offering to the public, following the regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission and/or the State Corporations Commissioner. If the corporation is non-profit, it will have to apply for non-profit status with the home state, and may, if desired, also apply to the Internal Revenue Service for federal non-profit recognition, both of which require detailed explanations of the intended operation of the organization. 2) to include into a unit.
Incorporate by reference
v. to include language from another document or elsewhere in a document by reference rather than repeat it.
n. the act of incorporating an organization.
adj. referring to a thing which is not physical, such as a right. This is distinguished from tangible. Legal rights which are intangible such as copyrights or patents.
v. to make a statement in which one admits that he/she has committed a crime or gives information that another named person has committed a crime.
A legal reason for obtaining either a fault divorce or a no-fault divorce. It is rarely used, however, because of the difficulty of proving both the insanity of the spouse being divorced and that the insanity is incurable.
Revealing one’s genitals under circumstances likely to offend others. Exposure is indecent under the law whenever a reasonable person would or should know that his act may be seen by others–for example, in a public place or through an open window–and that it is likely to cause affront or alarm. Indecent exposure is considered a misdemeanor in most states.
adj. cannot be altered or voided, usually in reference to an interest in real property.
v. to guarantee against any loss which another might suffer.
n. the act of making someone “whole” (give equal to what they have lost) or protected from (insured against) any losses which have occurred or will occur.
1) n. a type of real property deed in which two parties agree to continuing mutual obligations. One party may agree to maintain the property, while the other agrees to make periodic payments. 2) a contract binding one person to work for another. 3) v. to bind a person to work for another.
A legal category of worker defined by the Internal Revenue Service. The key to the definition is that, unlike employees, independent contractors retain control over how the work they are hired to do gets done; the person or company paying the independent contractor controls only the outcome–the product or service.
n. the prison term imposed after conviction for a crime which does not state a specific period of time or release date, but just a range of time, such as “five-to-ten years.” It is one side of a continuing debate as to whether it is better to make sentences absolute (subject to reduction for good behavior) without reference to potential rehabilitation, modification or review in the future.
Latin for “signs,” circumstances which tend to show or indicate that something is probable. It is used in the form of “indicia of title,” or “indicia of partnership,” particularly when the “signs” are items like letters, certificates or other things that one would not have unless the facts were as the possessor claimed.
n. a crime (offense) for which a Grand Jury rules that there is enough evidence to charge a defendant with a felony (a crime punishable by death or a term in the state penitentiary). These crimes include murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, grand theft, robbery, burglary, arson, conspiracy, fraud and other major crimes, as well as attempts to commit them.
n. a charge of a felony (serious crime) voted by a Grand Jury based upon a proposed charge, witnesses’ testimony and other evidence presented by the public prosecutor (District Attorney). To bring an indictment the Grand Jury will not find guilt, but only the probability that a crime was committed, that the accused person did it and that he/she should be tried. District Attorneys often only introduce key facts sufficient to show the probability, both to save time and to avoid revealing all the evidence. “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment of a Grand Jury….” However, while grand juries are common in charging federal crimes, many states use grand juries sparingly and use the criminal complaint, followed by a “preliminary hearing” held by a lower court judge or other magistrate, who will determine whether or not the prosecutor has presented sufficient evidence that the accused has committed a felony. If the judge finds there is enough evidence, he/she will order the case sent to the appropriate court for trial.
1) n. a person so poor and needy that he/she cannot provide the necessities of life (food, clothing, decent shelter) for himself/herself. 2) n. one without sufficient income to afford a lawyer for defense in a criminal case. If the court finds a person is an indigent, the court must appoint a public defender or other attorney to represent him/her. 3) adj. referring to a person who is very poor and needy.
A person or entity (such as a corporation) that must be included in a lawsuit in order for the court to render a final judgment that will be just to everyone concerned. For example, if a person sues his neighbors to force them to prune a tree that poses a danger to his house, he must name all owners of the neighboring property in the suit.
n. although the popular use of the word means the early years of age up to seven, in law, it is under-age or minority. Historically this meant under 21 years, but statutes adopted in almost all states end minority and infancy at 18. An “infant” cannot file a lawsuit without a “guardian ad litem” (one-purpose guardian) acting for him/her, in most states cannot marry without parental permission, and cannot enter into a contract that is enforceable during his/her minority.
n. a rule of logic applied to evidence in a trial, in which a fact is “proved” by presenting other “facts” which lead to only one reasonable conclusion-that if A and B are true, then C is. The process is called “deduction” or “deductive reasoning” and is a persuasive form of circumstantial evidence.
The name of the document, sometimes called a criminal complaint or petition in which a prosecutor charges a criminal defendant with a crime, either a felony or a misdemeanor. The information tells the defendant what crime he is charged with, against whom and when the offense allegedly occurred, but the prosecutor is not obliged to go into great detail. If the defendant wants more specifics, he must ask for it by way of a discovery request. Compare indictment.
Information and belief
n. a phrase often used in legal pleadings (complaints and answers in a lawsuit), declarations under penalty of perjury, and affidavits under oath, in which the person making the statement or allegation qualifies it. In effect, he/she says: “I am only stating what I have been told, and I believe it.” This makes clear about which statements he/she does not have sure-fire, personal knowledge (perhaps it is just hearsay or surmise) and protects the maker of the statement from claims of outright falsehood or perjury. The typical phraseology is: “Plaintiff is informed and believes, and upon such information and belief, alleges that defendant diverted the funds to his own use.”
An agreement to do something or to allow something to happen, made with complete knowledge of all relevant facts, such as the risks involved or any available alternatives. For example, a patient may give informed consent to medical treatment only after the healthcare professional has disclosed all possible risks involved in accepting or rejecting the treatment. A healthcare provider or facility may be held responsible for an injury caused by an undisclosed risk. In another context, a person accused of committing a crime cannot give up his constitutional rights–for example, to remain silent or to talk with an attorney–unless and until he has been informed of those rights, usually via the well-known Miranda warnings.
Latin for “below,” this is legal shorthand to indicate that the details or citation of a case will come later on in the brief. Infra is distinguished from supra, which shows that a case has already been cited “above.” The typical language is Jones v. McLaughlin, infra, meaning the exact citation of the case, including volume and page number, will follow later in the document.
A minor violation of the law that is punishable only by a fine–for example, a traffic or parking ticket. Not all vehicle-related violations are infractions, however–refusing to identify oneself when involved in an accident is a misdemeanor in some states.
n. 1) a trespassing or illegal entering. 2) in the law of patents (protected inventions) and copyrights (protected writings or graphics), the improper use of a patent, writing, graphic or trademark without permission, without notice, and especially without contracting for payment of a royalty. Even though the infringement may be accidental (an inventor thinks he is the first to develop the widget although someone else has a patent), the party infringing is responsible to pay the original patent or copyright owner substantial damages, which can be the normal royalty or as much as the infringers’ accumulated gross profits.
Infringement (of copyright)
Any unauthorized use of a copyrighted work other than fair use. Uses can range from outright plagiarism to using a portion of a photograph in a CD-ROM. The copyright owner may file a lawsuit to stop the infringement and collect damages from the infringer, provided the owner has registered her copyright with the Copyright Office.
Infringement (of patent)
Violation of a patent, occurring when someone else is making, using, or selling the invention described in the patent, or a product that is functionally equivalent to the invention described in the patent, without the patent holder’s permission.
Infringement (of trademark)
Unauthorized use of a protected trademark or service mark, or use of something very similar to a protected mark. The success of a lawsuit to stop the infringement turns on whether the defendant’s use causes a likelihood of confusion in the average consumer. If a court determines that the average consumer would be confused, the owner of the original mark can prevent the other’s use of the infringing mark and sometimes collect damages.
1) An entrance 2) n. the right to enter. 3) v. the act of entering. Often used in the combination “ingress and egress,” which means entering and leaving, to describe one’s rights to come and go under an easement over another’s property.
To receive property from someone who has died. Traditionally, the word “inherit” applied only when one received property from a relative who died without a will. Currently, however, the word is used whenever someone receives property from the estate of a deceased person.
n. whatever one receives upon the death of a relative due to the laws of descent and distribution, when there is no will. However, inheritance has come to mean anything received from the estate of a person who has died, whether by the laws of descent or as a beneficiary of a will or trust.
Taxes some states impose on people or organizations who inherit property from a deceased person’s estate. The taxes are based on the value of the inherited property.
Persons or organizations who receive property from someone who dies.
A court decision that is intended to prevent harm–often irreparable harm–as distinguished from most court decisions, which are designed to provide a remedy for harm that has already occurred. Injunctions are orders that one side refrain from or stop certain actions, such as an order that an abusive spouse stay away from the other spouse or that a logging company not cut down first-growth trees. Injunctions can be temporary, pending a consideration of the issue later at trial (these are called interlocutory decrees or preliminary injunctions). Judges can also issue permanent injunctions at the end of trials, in which a party may be permanently prohibited from engaging in some conduct–for example, infringing a copyright or trademark or making use of illegally obtained trade secrets. Although most injunctions order a party not to do something, occasionally a court will issue a “mandatory injunction” to order a party to carry out a positive act–for example, return stolen computer code.
A situation in which a court grants an order, called an injunction, telling a party to refrain from doing something–or in the case of a mandatory injunction, to carry out a particular action. Usually injunctive relief is granted only after a hearing at which both sides have an opportunity to present testimony and legal arguments.
n. any harm done to a person by the acts or omissions of another. Injury may include physical hurt as well as damage to reputation or dignity, loss of a legal right or breach of contract. If the party causing the injury was either willful (intentionally causing harm) or negligent then he/she is responsible (liable) for payment of damages for the harm caused. Theoretically, potential or continuing injury may be prevented by an order of the court upon a petition for an injunction.
The act of displaying a graphic file from another company’s website. For example, inlining occurs if a user at site A can, without leaving site A, view a “cartoon of the day” featured on site B.
adj. without guilt (not guilty). Usually the plea which an accused criminal defendant gives to the court at the time of his/her first appearance (or after a continued appearance). Such pleas often disturb the public in cases in which guilt seems obvious from the start. However, everyone is entitled to a fair trial, and the innocent plea gives defense lawyers an opportunity to investigate, find extenuating circumstances, develop reasons punishment should be lenient, bargain with the District Attorney, and let the memories of witnesses fade.
Latin innuere, “to nod toward.” In law it means “an indirect hint.” “Innuendo” is used in lawsuits for defamation (libel or slander), usually to show that the party suing was the person about whom the nasty statements were made or why the comments were defamatory.
n. 1) an investigation and/or a hearing held by the coroner (a county official) when there is a violent death either by accident or homicide, the cause of death is not immediately clear, there are mysterious circumstances surrounding the death, or the deceased was a prisoner. Usually an autopsy by a qualified medical examiner from the coroner’s office is a key part of the inquest. In rare cases a jury may be used to determine the cause of death. 2) a term used in New York for a hearing on the validity of a will by a surrogate judge.
n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior. Insanity is distinguished from low intelligence or mental deficiency due to age or injury. If a complaint is made to law enforcement, to the District Attorney or to medical personnel that a person is evidencing psychotic behavior, he/she may be confined to a medical facility long enough (typically 72 hours) to be examined by psychiatrists who submit written reports to the local superior/county/district court. A hearing is then held before a judge, with the person in question entitled to legal representation, to determine if she/he should be placed in an institution or special facility. The person ordered institutionalized at the hearing may request a trial to determine sanity. Particularly since the original hearings are often routine with the psychiatric findings accepted by the judge. In criminal cases, a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanity” will require a trial on the issue of the defendant’s insanity (or sanity) at the time the crime was committed. In these cases the defendant usually claims “temporary insanity” (crazy then, but okay now). The traditional test of insanity in criminal cases is whether the accused knew “the difference between right and wrong,” following the “M’Naughten rule” from 19th century England. Most states require more sophisticated tests based on psychiatric and/or psychological testimony evaluated by a jury of laypersons or a judge without psychiatric training. A claim by a criminal defendant of his/her insanity at the time of trial requires a separate hearing to determine if a defendant is sufficiently sane to understand the nature of a trial and participate in his/her own defense. If found to be insane, the defendant will be ordered to a mental facility, and the trial will be held only if sanity returns. Sex offenders may be found to be sane for all purposes except the compulsive dangerous and/or antisocial behavior. They are usually sentenced to special facilities for sex offenders, supposedly with counseling available. However, there are often maximum terms related to the type of crime, so that parole and release may occur with no proof of cure of the compulsive desire to commit sex crimes.
n. the claim of a defendant in a criminal prosecution that he/she was insane when the crime was committed, usually only temporarily.
n. the addition of language at a place within an existing typed or written document, which is always suspect unless initialled by all parties.
n. someone who has a position in a business or stock brokerage, which allows him/her to be privy to confidential information (such as future changes in management, upcoming profit and loss reports, secret sales figures and merger negotiations) which will affect the value of stocks or bonds.
n. the use of confidential information about a business gained through employment in a company or a stock brokerage, to buy and/or sell stocks and bonds based on the private knowledge that the value will go up or down.
n. 1) the condition of having more debts (liabilities) than total assets which might be available to pay them, even if the assets were mortgaged or sold. 2) a determination by a bankruptcy court that a person or business cannot raise the funds to pay all of his/her debts. The court will then “discharge” (forgive) some or all of the debts, leaving those creditors holding the bag and not getting what is owed them. The supposedly insolvent individual debtor, even though found to be bankrupt, is allowed certain exemptions, which permit him/her to retain a car, business equipment, personal property and often a home as long as he/she continues to make payments on a loan secured by the property.
Inspection of documents
n. the right to examine and copy the opposing party’s papers in a lawsuit which are relevant to the case. A demand (legal request) may be made, but the categories of documents must be stated so that the other party can know what he/she must produce. If the opposition either refuses to produce some documents or appears to hold back, the party wanting to see the documents can bring a “motion to produce” requesting a court order to produce and a penalty (sanctions) to be paid for failure to honor the demand. A party may also use a subpena duces tecum to obtain specific documents if they are known to exist. All of these procedures are part of the discovery process, intended to give both sides extensive pre-trial information. Such exchanges of documents can lead to settlement, minimize surprises at trial and keep one side from hiding material, thus preventing the other from being able to introduce relevant material at trial. However, it is well known that many law firms obfuscate, delay, pretend to misunderstand requests and fail to be forthcoming.
n. an agreement in which payments of money, delivery of goods or performance of services are to be made in a series of payments, deliveries or performances, usually on specific dates or upon certain happenings. One significance is that failure to pay an installment when due is a breach in which damages can be assessed based on the portion which has not been paid, and is an excuse for the other party not to perform further. In many installment contracts, failure to make a payment gives the seller of an article the right to repossess (take it back).
n. an explanation of the law governing a case which the judge gives orally to the jury after the attorneys have presented all the evidence and have made final arguments, but before the jury begins deliberations.
n. 1) a written legal document such as a contract, lease, deed, will or bond. 2) an object used to perform some task or action, ranging from a surgeon’s scalpel to any hard thing used in an assault (a blunt instrument).
n. a finding (decision) by a trial judge or an appeals court that the prosecution in a criminal case or a plaintiff in a lawsuit has not proved the case because the attorney did not present enough convincing evidence. Insufficient evidence usually results in dismissal of the case after the prosecution or the plaintiff has completed his/her introduction of evidence or, if on appeal, reversal of the judgment by the trial court.
n. a contract (insurance policy) in which the insurer (insurance company) agrees for a fee (insurance premiums) to pay the insured party all or a portion of any loss suffered by accident or death. The losses covered by the policy may include property damage or loss from accident, fire, theft or intentional harm; medical costs and/or lost earnings due to physical injury; long-term or permanent loss of physical capacity; claims by others due to the insured’s alleged negligence (e.g. public liability auto insurance); loss of a ship and/or cargo; finding a defect in title to real property; dishonest employees; or the loss of someone’s life. Life insurance may be on the life of a spouse, a child, one of several business partners or an especially important manager (“key man” insurance), all of which is intended to provide for survivors or to ease the burden created by the loss of a financial contributor. So-called “mortgage” insurance is life insurance which will pay off the remaining amount due on a home loan on the death of the husband or wife. Life insurance proceeds are usually not included in the probate of a dead person’s estate, but the funds may be counted by the Internal Revenue Service in calculating estate tax. Insurance companies may refuse to pay a claim by a third party against an insured, but at the same time may be required to assume the legal defense (pay attorney’s fees or provide an attorney) under the doctrine of “reservation of rights.”
n. 1) the person or entity who will be compensated for loss by an insurer under the terms of a contract called an insurance policy. 2) the person whose life is insured by life insurance, after whose death the benefits go to others.
n. an insurance company which agrees to pay someone who pays them for insurance for losses suffered pursuant to the terms of an insurance policy. For this benefit the customer pays the company a fee, called a premium.
Personal property that has no physical existence, such as stocks, bonds, bank notes, trade secrets, patents, copyrights and trademarks. Such “untouchable” items may be represented by a certificate or license that fixes or approximates the value, but others (such as the goodwill or reputation of a business) are not easily valued or embodied in any instrument. Compare tangible property.
Integrated pension plan
A pension plan that is integrated with Social Security retirement benefits. In such plans, the monthly or yearly pension benefit is reduced by all, or some percentage of, the retiree’s Social Security check–although since 1988, the law has required that the plan leave at least half of the pension amount. These integrated plans work in one of two ways, either establishing a benefit goal for combined Social Security and pension benefits, or reducing your pension by a set percentage of your Social Security benefits.
n. 1) adopting a writing as part of an agreement, e.g. “the parties agree that Robert’s Rules of Order shall be the procedural rules employed during negotiations.” 2) removing barriers to schooling, housing and employment which formerly segregated races, particularly blacks and sometimes Hispanics, from the general society, dominated by whites in the United States. Integration includes encouragement of free and equal association, equal access to public facilities and housing in any neighborhood, equitable employment, promotions and pay levels, as well as racial mix in schools.
Intellectual property (IP) law
The area of law that regulates the ownership and use of creative works, including patent, copyright and trademark law.
n. mental desire and will to act in a particular way, including wishing not to participate. Intent is a crucial element in determining if certain acts were criminal. Occasionally a judge or jury may find that “there was no criminal intent.” Example: lack of intent may reduce a charge of manslaughter to a finding of reckless homicide or other lesser crime.
A term used in trademark law. The Lanham Act permits a mark not yet used in commerce to be reserved for later registration by filing an intent-to-use application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). The initial reservation lasts for six months and can be extended for up to five additional six-month periods (for a total of 3 years) for good cause.
A deliberate act that causes harm to another, for which the victim may sue the wrongdoer for damages. Acts of domestic violence, such as assault and battery, are intentional torts (as well as crimes).
Latin for “among other things.” This phrase is often found in legal pleadings and writings to specify one example out of many possibilities. Example: “The judge said, inter alia, that the time to file the action had passed.”
Latin for “among themselves,” meaning that, for instance, certain corporate rights are limited only to the shareholders or only to the trustees as a group.
Latin for “among the living,” usually referring to the transfer of property by agreement between living persons and not by a gift through a will. It can also refer to a trust (inter vivos trust) which commences during the lifetime of the person (trustor or settlor) creating the trust as distinguished from a trust created by a will (testamentary trust), which comes into existence upon the death of the writer of the will.
Inter vivos trust
Latin for “between the living.”
A commission you pay a bank or other creditor for lending you money or extending you credit. An interest rate represents the annual percentage that is added to your balance. This means that if your loan or credit line has an interest rate of 8%, the holder adds 8% to the balance each year. More specifically, interest is calculated and added to your loan or credit line through a process called compounding. If interest is compounded daily, the balance will rise by 1/365th of 8% each day. If interest is compounded monthly, the balance will rise 1/12th of 8% at the start of each month.
In patent law, a procedure to resolve a conflict that occurs when two or more patent applications have been filed on the same invention. When this happens, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) examines a number of factors in order to determine who gets the patent, including who first conceived of the invention and worked on it diligently, who first built and tested the invention and who was first to file a patent application.
n. a temporary order of the court pending a hearing, trial, a final order or while awaiting an act by one of the parties.
n. the act of writing between the lines of a document, usually to add something that was omitted or thought of later. The issue (debated question) is whether both parties to a document (a contract, for example) had agreed upon the addition or whether the new words were part of the document (like a will) when it was signed. Good practice is either to have all parties initial the change at the point of the writing or have the document re-typed and then signed.
adj. provisional and not intended to be final. This usually refers to court orders which are temporary.
A court judgment that is not final until the judge decides other matters in the case or until enough time has passed to see if the interim decision is working. In the past, interlocutory decrees were most often used in divorces. The terms of the divorce were set out in an interlocutory decree, which would become final only after a waiting period. The purpose of the waiting period was to allow the couple time to reconcile. They rarely did, however, so most states no longer use interlocutory decrees of divorce.
n. treaties between countries; multi-lateral agreements; some commissions covering particular subjects, such as whaling or copyrights; procedures and precedents of the International Court of Justice (“World Court”) which only has jurisdiction when countries agree to appear; the United Nations Charter; and custom. However, there is no specific body of law which governs the interaction of all nations.
Internet service provider (ISP)
A business that provides access to the Internet. An ISP may also offer services such as website hosting. An ISP can sometimes be held accountable for copyright violations for material posted by subscribers and users, but is often protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The Communications Decency Act usually protects ISPs from the posting of obscenities or defamation by subscribers or users.
n. the procedure when two parties are involved in a lawsuit over the right to collect a debt from a third party, who admits the money is owed but does not know which person to pay. The debtor deposits the funds with the court (“interpleads”), asks the court to dismiss him/her/it from the lawsuit and lets the claimants fight over it in court.
A term that describes vigorous questioning, usually by the police of a suspect in custody. Other than providing his name and address, the suspect is not obligated to answer the questions, and the fact that he has remained silent generally cannot be used by the prosecution to help prove that he is guilty of a crime. If the suspect has asked for a lawyer, the police must cease questioning. If they do not, they cannot use the answers against the suspect at trial.
Written questions designed to discover key facts about an opposing party’s case, that a party to a lawsuit asks an opposing party (but not a witness, who can only be questioned in person at a deposition). Interrogatories are part of the pretrial discovery stage of a lawsuit, and must be answered under penalty of perjury. Court rules tightly regulate how, when and how many interrogatories can be asked. Lawyers can write their own sets of questions, or can use form interrogatories, designed to cover typical issues in common lawsuits.
n. commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another.
v. to obtain the court’s permission to enter into a lawsuit which has already started between other parties and to file a complaint stating the basis for a claim in the existing lawsuit. Such intervention will be allowed only if the party wanting to enter into the case has some right or interest in the suit and will not unduly prejudice the ability of the original parties to the lawsuit to conduct their case.
n. an event which occurs between the original improper or dangerous action and the damage itself. Thus, the “causal connection” between the wrong and damages is broken by the intervening cause. This is a “but for” situation, in which the intervention becomes the real reason harm resulted. The result is that the person who started the chain of events is no longer responsible and will not be found liable for damages to the injured person. Sometimes this is called supervening cause or superseding.
n. the procedure under which a third party may join an on-going lawsuit, providing the facts and the law issues apply to the intervenor as much as to one of the existing contestants. The determination to allow intervention is made by a judge after a petition to intervene and a hearing on the issue. Intervention must take place fairly early in the lawsuit, shortly after a complaint and answer have been filed and not just before trial since that could prejudice one or both parties who have prepared for trial on the basis of the original litigants. Intervention is not to be confused with joinder, which involves requiring all parties who have similar claims to join in the same lawsuit to prevent needless repetitious trials based on the same facts and legal questions, called multiplicity of actions.
n. the condition of having died without a valid will. In such a case if the dead party has property it will be distributed according to statutes, primarily by the law of descent and distribution and others dealing with marital property and community property. In probate the administration of the estate of a person without a will is handled by an administrator (usually a close relative, the spouse, a close associate) or a public administrator if there is no one willing to act, since there is no executor named in a will. In most states an administrator must petition the court to be appointed and must post a bond from an insurance company guaranteeing that it will pay the value of the assets he/she/it may steal or misuse.
The condition of dying without a valid will. The probate court appoints an administrator to distribute the deceased person’s property according to state law.
The method by which property is distributed when a person dies without a valid will. Each state’s law provides that the property be distributed to the closest surviving relatives. In most states, the surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and next of kin inherit, in that order.
n. an intentionally false representation (lie) which is part of the fraud and can be considered in determining general and punitive damages. This is distinguished from extrinsic fraud (collateral fraud) which was a deceptive means to keeping one from enforcing his/her legal rights.
To take effect, or to benefit someone. In property law, the term means “to vest.” For example, Jim buys a beach house that includes the right to travel across the neighbor’s property to get to the water. That right of way is said, cryptically, “to inure to the benefit of Jim.”
Invasion of privacy
n. the intrusion into the personal life of another, without just cause, which can give the person whose privacy has been invaded a right to bring a lawsuit for damages against the person or entity that intruded. However, public personages are not protected in most situations, since they have placed themselves already within the public eye, and their activities (even personal and sometimes intimate) are considered newsworthy, i.e. of legitimate public interest. However, an otherwise non-public individual has a right to privacy from: a) intrusion on one’s solitude or into one’s private affairs; b) public disclosure of embarrassing private information; c) publicity which puts him/her in a false light to the public; d) appropriation of one’s name or picture for personal or commercial advantage. Lawsuits have arisen from magazine articles on obscure geniuses, use of a wife’s name on a hospital insurance form to obtain insurance payment for delivery of a mistress’s baby, unauthorized use of a girl’s photo to advertise a photographer, and “tabloid” journalism treatment of people as freaks. There are also numerous instances of governmental invasion of privacy such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation compiling files on people considered as political opponents, partially corrected by the passage of the Freedom of Information Act in 1966. The right to privacy originated with an article in the Harvard Law Review in the 1890s written by lawyers “Bull” Warren and future Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis.
A complete listing of all property owned by a deceased person at the time of death. The inventory is filed with the court during probate. The executor or administrator of the estate is responsible for making and filing the inventory.
n. the taking of property by a government agency which so greatly damages the use of a parcel of real property that it is the equivalent of condemnation of the entire property. Thus the owner claims he/she is entitled to payment for the loss of the property (in whole or in part) under the constitutional right to compensation for condemnation of property under the government’s eminent domain right.
1) To formally grant power or authority to someone. For example, when the President of the United States is inaugurated, he is invested with all the powers of that office. 2) To contribute money to a business venture, or to buy property or securities, with the intention and expectation of making a profit.
n. the money put into use for profit, or the property or business interest purchased for profit.
A person who makes investments. An investor may act either for herself or on behalf of others. A stock broker or mutual fund manager, for instance, makes investments for others who have entrusted her with their money.
A business guest, or someone who enters property held open to members of the public, such as a visitor to a museum. Property owners must protect invitees from dangers on the property. In an example of the perversion of legalese, social guests that you invite into your home are called “licensees.”
adj. or adv. without intent, will or choice. Participation in a crime is involuntary if forced by immediate threat to life or health of oneself or one’s loved ones and will result in dismissal or acquittal.
Latin for “he himself said it.” The term labels something that is asserted but unproved.
Latin for “by the fact itself.” This term is used by Latin-addicted lawyers when something is so obvious that it needs no elaboration or further explanation. For example, it might be said that a blind person, ipso facto, is not qualified to obtain to a driver’s license.
Differences between spouses that are considered sufficiently severe to make married life together more or less impossible. In a number of states, irreconcilable differences is the accepted ground for a no-fault divorce. As a practical matter, courts seldom, if ever, inquire into what the differences actually are, and routinely grant a divorce as long as the party seeking the divorce says the couple has irreconcilable differences. Compare incompatibility; irremediable breakdown.
adj. not important, pertinent, or germane to the matter at hand or to any issue before the court. This is the most common objection raised by attorneys to questions asked or to answers given during testimony in a trial. The objection is made as soon as an alert attorney believes the opposition is going into matters which are not concerned with the facts or outside the issues of the lawsuit. It is often stated in the trio: “Irrelevant, immaterial and incompetent” to cover the bases. The judge must then rule on the relevancy of the question. If the question has been answered before the lawyer could say “objection,” the judge may order that answer stricken from the record. Blotting it from a jury’s memory or conscience, though, is impossible.
Irremediable or irretrievable breakdown
The situation that occurs in a marriage when one spouse refuses to live with the other and will not work toward reconciliation. In a number of states, irremediable breakdown is the accepted ground for a no-fault divorce. As a practical matter, courts seldom, if ever, inquire into whether the marriage has actually broken down, and routinely grant a divorce as long as the party seeking the divorce says the marriage has fallen apart. Compare incompatibility; irreconcilable differences.
Irreparable damage or injury
n. the type of harm which no monetary compensation can cure or put conditions back the way they were, such as cutting down shade trees, polluting a stream, not giving a child needed medication, not supporting an excavation which may cause collapse of a building, tearing down a structure, or a host of other actions or omissions. The phrase must be used to claim that a judge should order an injunction, writ, temporary restraining order or other judicial assistance, generally known as equitable relief. Such relief is a court order of positive action, such as prohibiting pollution or requiring the shoring up of a defective wall.
Irresistible impulse test
A seldom-used test for criminal insanity that labels the person insane if he could not control his actions when committing the crime, even though he knew his actions were wrong.
A permanent trust. Once you create it, it cannot be revoked, amended or changed in any way.
1) A term generally meaning all your children and their children down through the generations, including grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on. Also called “lineal descendants.” 2) n. any matter of dispute in a legal controversy or lawsuit, very commonly used in such phrases as “the legal issues are,” “the factual issues are,” “this is an issue which the judge must decide,” or “please, counsel, let us know what issues you have agreed upon.” 3) v. to send out, promulgate, publish or make the original distribution, such as a corporation selling and distributing shares of stock to its initial investors. 4) n. the shares of stock or bonds of a corporation which have been sold and distributed.