Vacate

v. 1) for a judge to set aside or annul an order or judgment which he/she finds was improper. 2) to move out of real estate and cease occupancy.

Vagrancy

n. moving about without a means to support oneself, without a permanent home, and relying on begging. Until recently it was considered a minor crime (misdemeanor) in many states. Constitutionally it is evident that being poor is not a crime. The same is true of “loitering.”

Vagrant

A tramp or homeless person.

Valuable consideration

n. a necessary element of a contract, which confers a benefit on the other party. Valuable consideration can include money, work, performance, assets, a promise or abstaining from an act.

Variance

An exception to a zoning ordinance, usually granted by a local government. For example, if you own an oddly shaped lot that could not accommodate a home in accordance with your city’s setback requirement, you could apply at the appropriate office for a variance allowing you to build closer to a boundary line.

Vehicular manslaughter

n. the crime of causing the death of a human being due to illegal driving of an automobile, including gross negligence, drunk driving, reckless driving or speeding. Vehicular manslaughter can be charged as a misdemeanor (minor crime with a maximum punishment of a year in county jail or only a fine) or a felony (punishable by a term in state prison) depending on the circumstances. Gross negligence or driving a few miles over the speed limit might be charged as a misdemeanor, but drunk driving resulting in a fatality is most likely treated as a felony. Death of a passenger, including a loved one or friend, can be vehicular manslaughter if due to illegal driving.

Vendee

n. a buyer, particularly of real property.

Vendor

n. a seller, particularly of real property. The seller; the person selling.

Venire

n. the list from which jurors may be selected.

Veniremen

People who are summoned to the courthouse so that they may be questioned and perhaps chosen as jurors in trials of civil or criminal cases.

Venue

State laws or court rules that establish the proper court to hear a case, often based on the convenience of the defendant. Because state courts have jurisdiction to hear cases from a wide geographical area (for example, California courts have jurisdiction involving most disputes arising between California residents), additional rules, called rules of venue, have been developed to ensure that the defendant is not needlessly inconvenienced. For example, the correct venue for one Californian to sue another is usually limited to the court in the judicial district where the defendant lives, an accident occurred or a contract was signed or to be carried out. Practically, venue rules mean that a defendant can’t usually be sued far from where he lives or does business, if no key events happened at that location. Venue for a criminal case is normally the judicial district where the crime was committed.

Verdict

n. the decision of a jury after a trial, which must be accepted by the trial judge to be final. A judgment by a judge sitting without a jury is not a verdict. A “special verdict” is a decision by the jury on the factual questions in the case, leaving the application of the law to those facts to the judge, who makes the final judgment. A “directed verdict” is a decision following an instruction by the judge that the jury can only bring in a specific verdict (“based on the evidence you must bring in a verdict of ‘not guilty'”). A “chance verdict” (decided by lot or the flip of a coin), a “compromise verdict” (based on some jurors voting against their beliefs to break a deadlock) and a “quotient verdict” (averaging the amount each juror wants to award) are all improper and will result in a mistrial (having the verdict thrown out by the judge) or be cause for reversal of the judgment on appeal.

Verification

n. the declaration under oath or upon penalty of perjury that a statement or pleading is true, located at the end of a document.

Vertical privity

A legal relationship in corporate law that exists between companies in the chain of distribution of a product. This relationship creates responsibilities between the companies involved, including being liable for defects in the product. For example, vertical privity exists between the manufacturer of a car and the dealership that sells it. Therefore, both the dealer and the manufacturer are liable for defects in cars sold by the dealership.

Vest

v. to give an absolute right to title or ownership, including real property and pension rights.

Vested

adj. referring to having an absolute right or title, when previously the holder of the right or title only had an expectation.

Vested remainder

An unconditional right to receive real property at some point in the future. A vested interest may be created by a deed or a will. For example, if Julie’s will leaves her house to her daughter, but the daughter gains possession only after Julie’s husband dies, the daughter has a vested remainder in the house.

Vexatious litigation

n. filing a lawsuit with the knowledge that it has no legal basis, with its purpose to bother, annoy, embarrass and cause legal expenses to the defendant. Vexatious litigation includes continuing a lawsuit after discovery of the facts shows it has absolutely no merit. Upon judgment for the defendant, he/she has the right to file a suit for “malicious prosecution” against the original vexatious plaintiff. Moreover, most states allow a judge to penalize with sanctions a plaintiff and his/her attorney for filing or continuing a “frivolous” legal action (money award to the defendant for the trouble and/or attorney fees).

Vicarious liability

n. sometimes called “imputed liability,” attachment of responsibility to a person for harm or damages caused by another person in either a negligence lawsuit or criminal prosecution. Thus, an employer of an employee who injures someone through negligence while in the scope of employment (doing work for the employer) is vicariously liable for damages to the injured person. In most states a participant in a crime (like a hold-up) may be vicariously liable for murder if another member of the group shoots and kills a shopkeeper or policeman.

View ordinance

A law adopted by some cities or towns with desirable vistas — such as those in the mountains or overlooking the ocean — that protects a property owner from having his or her view obstructed by growing trees. View ordinances don’t cover buildings or other structures that may block views.

Vigilante

n. someone who takes the law into his/her own hands by trying and/or punishing another person without any legal authority. In the 1800s groups of vigilantes dispensed “frontier justice” by holding trials of accused horsethieves, rustlers and shooters, and then promptly hanging the accused if “convicted.” A mother who shoots the alleged molester of her child is a vigilante.

Visa

A stamp placed in a foreign national’s passport by an official at a consulate outside the country. All visas allow their holders to enter the country.

Visitation rights

The right to see a child regularly, typically awarded by the court to the parent who does not have physical custody of the child. The court will deny visitation rights only if it decides that visitation would hurt the child so much that the parent should be kept away.

Viz

prep. to wit, or namely.

Void

adj. referring to a statute, contract, ruling or anything which is null and of no effect. A law or judgment found by an appeals court to be unconstitutional is void, a rescinded (mutually cancelled) contract is void, and a marriage which has been annulled by court judgment is void.

Void for vagueness

adj. referring to a statute defining a crime which is so vague that a reasonable person of at least average intelligence could not determine what elements constitute the crime. Such a vague statute is unconstitutional on the basis that a defendant could not defend against a charge of a crime which he/she could not understand, and thus would be denied “due process”.

Voidable

adj. capable of being made void.

Voir dire

n. from French “to see to speak,” the questioning of prospective jurors by a judge and attorneys in court. Voir dire is used to determine if any juror is biased and/or cannot deal with the issues fairly, or if there is cause not to allow a juror to serve (knowledge of the facts; acquaintanceship with parties, witnesses or attorneys; occupation which might lead to bias; prejudice against the death penalty; or previous experiences such as having been sued in a similar case). Actually one of the unspoken purposes of the voir dire is for the attorneys to get a feel for the personalities and likely views of the people on the jury panel. In some courts the judge asks most of the questions, while in others the lawyers are given substantial latitude and time to ask questions. Some jurors may be dismissed for cause by the judge, and the attorneys may excuse others in “peremptory” challenges without stating any reason. 2) questions asked to determine the competence of an alleged expert witness. 3) any hearing outside the presence of the jury held during trial.

Volenti non fit injuria

Latin for “to a willing person, no injury is done.” This doctrine holds that a person who knowingly and willingly puts himself in a dangerous situation cannot sue for any resulting injuries.

Voluntary bankruptcy

n. the filing for bankruptcy by a debtor who believes he/she/it cannot pay bills and has more debts than assets. Voluntary bankruptcy differs from “involuntary bankruptcy” filed by creditors owed money to bring the debtor before the bankruptcy court.

Voting trust

n. a trust which solicits vote proxies of shareholders of a corporation to elect a board of directors and vote on other matters at a shareholders’ meeting. A voting trust is usually operated by current directors to insure continued control, but occasionally a voting trust represents a person or group trying to gain control of the corporation.