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Legal explanations - Law terms
Category: Legal
Date & country: 25/02/2010, SG
Words: 2570


Errors And Omissions
n. short hand for malpractice insurance which gives physicians, attorneys, architects, accountants and other professionals coverage for claims by patients and clients for alleged professional errors and omissions which amount to negligence

Escalator Clause
n. a provision in a lease or other agreement in which rent, installment payments or alimony, for example, will increase from time to time when the cost of living index (or a similar gauge) goes up. Often there is a maximum amount of increase ("cap") and seldom is there a provision for reduction if the cost of living goes down or for deflation inste...

Escape Clause
n. a provision in a contract which allows one of the parties to be relieved from (get out of) any obligation if a certain event occurs

Escheat
n. from old French eschete, which meant "that which falls to one," the forfeit of all property (including bank accounts) to the state treasury if it appears certain that there are no heirs, descendants or named beneficiaries to take the property upon the death of the last known owner

Escrow
1) n. a form of account held by an "escrow agent" (an individual, escrow company or title company) into which is deposited the documents and funds in a transfer of real property, including the money, a mortgage or deed of trust, an existing promissory note secured by the real property, escrow "instructions" from both parties, an accounting of the f...

Escrow Agent
n. a person or entity holding documents and funds in a transfer of real property, acting for both parties pursuant to instructions. Typically the agent is a person (commonly an attorney), escrow company or title company, depending on local practice

Escrow Instructions
n. the written instructions by buyer and seller of real estate given to a title company, escrow company or individual escrow in "closing" a real estate transaction. These instructions are generally prepared by the escrow holder and then approved by the parties and their agents

Espionage
n. the crime of spying on the federal government and/or transferring state secrets on behalf of a foreign country. The other country need not be an "enemy," so espionage may not be treason, which involves aiding an enemy

Esquire
n. a form of address showing that someone is an attorney, usually written Albert Pettifog, Esquire, or simply Esq. Originally in England an Esquire was a rank just above "gentleman" and below "knight." It became a title for barristers, sheriffs and judges

Estate
n. 1) all that one owns in real estate and other assets. 2) commonly, all the possessions of one who has died and are subject to probate (administration supervised by the court) and distribution to heirs and beneficiaries, all the possessions which a guardian manages for a ward (young person requiring protection and administration of affairs), or a...

Estate By Entirety
n. tenancy by the entirety

Estate Tax
n. generally a federal tax on the transfer of a dead person's assets to his heirs and beneficiaries. Although a transfer tax, it is based on the amount in the decedent's estate (including distribution from a trust at the death) and can include insurance proceeds. Currently such federal taxation applies to the amount of an estate above $600,000, or ...

Estop
v. to halt, bar or prevent

Estoppel
n. a bar or impediment (obstruction) which precludes a person from asserting a fact or a right or prevents one from denying a fact. Such a hindrance is due to a person's actions, conduct, statements, admissions, failure to act or judgment against the person in an identical legal case. Estoppel includes being barred by false representation or concea...

Et Al.
n. abbreviation for the Latin phrase et alii meaning "and others." This is commonly used in shortening the name of a case, as in "Pat Murgatroyd v. Sally Sherman, et al."

Et Seq.
(et seek) n. abbreviation for the Latin phrase et sequentes meaning "and the following." It is commonly used by lawyers to include numbered lists, pages or sections after the first number is stated, as in "the rules of the road are found in Vehicle Code Section 1204, et seq."

Et Ux.
(et uhks) n. abbreviation for the Latin words et uxor meaning "and wife." It is usually found in deeds, tax assessment rolls and other documents in the form "John Alden et ux.," to show that the wife as well as the husband own property. The connotation that somehow the wife is merely an adjunct to her husband, as well as the modern concepts of join...

Evasion Of Tax
n. the intentional attempt to avoid paying taxes through fraudulent means, as distinguished from late payment, using legal "loopholes" or errors

Eviction
n. a generic word for the act of expelling (kicking out) someone from real property either by legal action (suit for unlawful detainer), a claim of superior (actual) title to the property, or actions which prevent the tenant from continuing in possession (constructive eviction). Most frequently eviction consists of ousting a tenant who has breached...

Evidence
n. every type of proof legally presented at trial (allowed by the judge) which is intended to convince the judge and/or jury of alleged facts material to the case. It can include oral testimony of witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, public records, objects, photographs and depositions (testimony under oath taken before tri...

Ex Delicto
(ex dee-lick-toe)adj. Latin for a reference to something that arises out of a fault or wrong, but not out of contracts. Of only academic interest today, it identified actions which were civil wrongs (torts)

Ex Officio
a (ex oh-fish-ee-oh)dj. Latin for "from the office," to describe someone who has a right because of an office held, such as being allowed to sit on a committee simply because one is president of the corporation

Ex Parte
(ex par-tay, but popularly, ex party) adj. Latin meaning "for one party," referring to motions, hearings or orders granted on the request of and for the benefit of one party only. This is an exception to the basic rule of court procedure that both parties must be present at any argument before a judge, and to the otherwise strict rule that an attor...

Ex Post Facto
adj. Latin for "after the fact," which refers to laws adopted after an act is committed making it illegal although it was legal when done, or increasing the penalty for a crime after it is committed. Such laws are specifically prohibited by the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9. Therefore, if a state legislature or Congress enacts new rules o...

Ex Rel.
conj. abbreviation for Latin ex relatione, meaning "upon being related" or "upon information," used in the title of a legal proceeding filed by a state Attorney General (or the federal Department of Justice) on behalf of the government, on the instigation of a private person, who needs the state to enforce the rights of himself/herself and the publ...

Examination
n. 1) the questioning of a witness by an attorney. Direct examination is interrogation by the attorney who called the witness, and cross-examination is questioning by the opposing attorney. A principal difference is that an attorney putting questions to his own witness cannot ask "leading" questions, which put words in the mouth of the witness or s...

Exception
n. 1) a formal objection during trial ("We take exception, or simply, "exception")" to the ruling of a judge on any matter, including rulings on objections to evidence, to show to a higher court that the lawyer did not agree with the ruling. In modern practice, it is not necessary "to take exception" to a judge's adverse ruling, since it is now ass...

Exception In Deed
n. a notation in a deed of title to real property which states that certain interests, such as easements, mineral rights or a life estate, are not included in the transfer (conveyance) of title

Excessive Bail
n. an amount of bail ordered posted by an accused defendant which is much more than necessary or usual to assure he/she will make court appearances, particularly in relation to minor crimes. If excessive bail is claimed, the defendant can make a motion for reduction of bail, and if it is not granted, he/she can then apply directly to a court of app...

Exchange
1) v. to trade or barter property, goods and/or services for other property, goods and/or services, unlike a sale or employment in which money is paid for the property, goods or services. 2) n. the act of making a trade or barter. An exchange of "equivalent" property, including real estate, can defer capital gains taxation until the acquired proper...

Excise
n. a tax upon manufacture, sale or for a business license or charter, as distinguished from a tax on real property, income or estates. Sometimes it is redundantly called an excise tax

Exclusionary Rule
n. the rule that evidence secured by illegal means and in bad faith cannot be introduced in a criminal trial. The technical term is that it is "excluded" upon a motion to suppress made by the lawyer for the accused. It is based on the constitutional requirement that "...no [person] can be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due proce...

Exculpatory
adj. applied to evidence which may justify or excuse an accused defendant's actions and which will tend to show the defendant is not guilty or has no criminal intent

Excusable Neglect
n. a legitimate excuse for the failure of a party or his/her lawyer to take required action (like filing an answer to a complaint) on time. This is usually claimed to set aside a default judgment for failure to answer (or otherwise respond) in the period set by law. Illness, press of business by the lawyer (but not necessarily the defendant), or an...

Execute
v. 1) to finish, complete or perform as required, as in fulfilling one's obligations under a contract or a court order. 2) to sign and otherwise complete a document, such as acknowledging the signature if required to make the document valid. 3) to seize property under court order. 4) to put to death pursuant to a sentence rendered by a court

Executed
1) adj. to have been completed. (Example: "it is an executed contract") 2) v. to have completed or fully performed. (Example: "he executed all the promises made in the contract") 3) v. completed and formally signed a document, such as a deed, contract or lease. 4) v. to have been put to death for a crime pursuant to a death sentence

Execution
n. 1) the act of getting an officer of the court to take possession of the property of a losing party in a lawsuit (judgment debtor) on behalf of the winner (judgment creditor), sell it and use the proceeds to pay the judgment. The procedure is to take the judgment to the clerk of the court and have a writ of execution issued which is taken to the ...

Executive Clemency
n. the power of a President in federal criminal cases, and the Governor in state convictions, to pardon a person convicted of a crime, commute the sentence (shorten it, often to time already served) or reduce it from death to another lesser sentence. There are many reasons for exercising this power, including real doubts about the guilt of the part...

Executive Order
n. a President's or Governor's declaration which has the force of law, usually based on existing statutory powers, and requiring no action by the Congress or state legislature

Executive Privilege
n. a claim by the President or another high official of the executive branch that he/she need not answer a request (including a subpena issued by a court or Congress) for confidential government or personal communications, on the ground that such revelations would hamper effective governmental operations and decision-making. The rationale is that s...

Executor
n. the person appointed to administer the estate of a person who has died leaving a will which nominates that person. Unless there is a valid objection, the judge will appoint the person named in the will to be executor. The executor must insure that the person's desires expressed in the will are carried out. Practical responsibilities include gath...

Executory
adj. Something which has not been performed or done yet. For example: an executory contract is a contract in which part, or all of the necessary performance has not been accomplished.

Executory Interest
n. If certain events occur, the passing of an interest in property to another in the future.

Executrix
n. Latin for female executor. The term executor now refers to both sexes.

Exemplary Damages
n. Referred to as punitive damages, these damages are requested and/or awarded in a lawsuit when the defendant's actions were malicious, violent, oppressive, fraudulent, wanton or grossly reckless. For example: publishing that someone had committed murder when the publisher knew that the facts were not accurate; an ex-husband destroys his former wi...

Exemption
n. 1) Credit given for each dependent, disability, or age over 65 which result in a lower tax level. Not to be confused with deductions that reduce gross income when taxes are paid. 2) The right to be excluded from taxation if one is in a low-income bracket, not being subject to the military draft if employed in an essential industry, having severa...

Exhibit
n. 1) Document or object that is introduced in a trial as evidence. Opposing attorneys may object to exhibits. 2) Copy of a paper that is attached to a pleading, declaration, affidavit, or other document that is incorporated into the main document.

Expectancy
n. The likelihood of enjoyment in the future of something which one reckons on receiving. This term typically refers to real property or a deceased's estate.

Expense
n. Current cost of operation that is used in business accounting and business taxation. Distinguished from capital expenditures for long-term property and equipment, expenses include rent, utilities and payroll.

Expert Testimony
n. A specialist's opinions that are stated during a trial or deposition. The specialist is qualified as an expert on a subject that is relevant to the lawsuit or criminal case.

Expert Witness
n. Specialist in a subject who may present their expert opinion without being a witness to the occurrence related to the lawsuit or criminal case. If the expert is qualified by evidence of their expertise, training, or special knowledge, they are an exception to the rule against providing an opinion as testimony. The attorney for the party calling ...

Express
adj. Explicit, unequivocal, distinctive language that does not require interpretation.

Express Contract
n. Contract that states all elements and the terms. Compared to an implied contract which is assumed by the circumstances.

Expropriation
n. Acquisition of property or rights by a government authority through eminent domain. Just compensation must be paid to the owner who can issue a claim against the acquirer.

Extension
n. Allotting extra time to make a payment, file a legal document after the due date, or to continue a lease after the original term's expiration.

Extenuating Circumstances
n. Surrounding factors that cause a crime to appear less serious, less motivated or lacking criminal intent, therefore demanding a more lenient punishment or lesser charge.

Extinguishment
n. A right's cancellation because the enforcement time has passed. For example: waiting for more than four years after a due date to make a payment demand of a promissory note eliminates the person's right to collect the money that is due. Extinguishment can also occur by fulfilling an obligation so that additional money or performance is not due.

Extortion
n. Threatening a victim's property or loved ones through intimidation or false claim in order to obtain money or property. This is a felony is most states. A direct threat to harm an individual is treated as the crime of robbery. Blackmail is a form of extortion when the threat to make embarrassing or damaging information public.

Extradition
n. Surrendering a person to another state or country by one state or country. The state requesting the right to prosecute usually makes the claim to the governor of the state where the accused is present. A Governor may refuse to extradite the person if he/she has proven that the prosecution is not warranted despite the constitutional mandate that ...

Extrajudicial
adj. Actions that occur outside the court system. For example: extralegal confession, which may be recognized by the judge during a trial if brought in as evidence.

Extraordinary Fees
n. An attorney's fees from the administration of a deceased's estate or for work beyond the normal call of duty. These fees are additional to the usual statutory or court-approved legal fees and the attorney must provide proof in order to justify the claim. It is up to the judge's discretion to award extraordinary fees.

Extreme Cruelty
n. Requirement to illustrate the infliction of mental or physical harm by one party to his/her spouse in order to support a divorce judgment or unequal division of property. Except for Illinois and South Dakota, all states recognize "no fault" divorces. Some states favor the suffering spouse when dividing the property when there is eviden...

Extrinsic Fraud
n. Acts that are fraudulent and keep a person from receiving the necessary information about their rights that are needed to enforce a contract of obtain the evidence for a lawsuit's defense. This may include the destruction of evidence or misleading an ignorant person about their right to use. Intrinsic fraud is fraud that is the subject of a laws...

Eyewitness
n. Someone who observed an event and can testify in court.

Face Amount
n. Original amount due, without interest, on a promissory note or insurance policy.

Face Value
n. Original cost of a share of stock which is shown on the certificate. Also referred to as "par value."

Fact
n. Something, such as an actual thing or happening, that has to be proven at a trial through presenting evidence that the finder of fact evaluates (a jury in a jury trial, or by the judge if he/she sits without a jury).

Fact Finder
(Finder Of Fact) n. The judge or jury during a trial of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution that decides if the facts presented have been proven. In rare instances, the judge will appoint a special master to investigate certain fact's existence.

Factor
n. 1) Salesman who sells in their own name on other's behalf in exchange for a commission on the services provided. 2) Something that is a contributing factor to the result.

Failure Of Consideration
n. The stoppage of goods or services delivery when promised in a contract. Failure of consideration is justified when goods that a party bargained for are no longer valuable or are damaged. The recipient can withhold payment, demand performance or take legal action.

Failure Of Issue
n. Someone who dies and does not leave any children or other direct descendants.

Fair Comment
n. Opinion which is based upon correctly stated facts and does not allege dishonorable motives on the part of the target of the comment. Unless the victim can prove that opinions were stated with malice or with intent to harm, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that comments about a public person, even if untrue and harmful, are fair comment. Therefo...

Fair Market Value
n. Potential sale price for a piece of property if it were sold on the open market. This differs from replacement value which is the cost of duplicating the property. Comparable sales of similar property in the area are used by real estate appraises to determine the market value. Differences in quality and size of the property are added or deducted...

Fair Trade Laws
n. Minimum rates for a product's resale set by manufacturers. These state laws have been repealed or determined to violate state constitutions in many states.

Fair Use
n. The right to utilize a copyrighted material without compensating the author or fear of being sued for copyright infringement. Copy machines can be used to copy pages of texts, charts, act., without infringing the copyright if used in classrooms or as advice to employees. For example: Professor Elmer Smedley makes 100 copies of a photograph from ...

False Arrest
n. Illegally holding someone without due cause. This often involves private security or retail establishments that pretend they are police officers or hold someone even though they did not witness a crime being committed. These people would be allowed to conduct a citizen's arrest, as long as they are certain that they detain the person who committ...

False Imprisonment
n. Holding a person prisoner in a confined space or through physical restraint, denying freedom of movement. Examples include being locked in a car that is driven without allowing the opportunity to get out of the car, being tied to a chair, or locked in a closet. False imprisonment may follow a false arrest, but is most similar to a kidnapping. If...

False Pretenses
n. Issuing untrue statements in order to fraudulently obtain money or property. For example: claiming that zircons are diamonds, or turning back a car's odometer. It is considered a form of theft.

Family
n. 1) Wife, husband, and children. 2) Blood relations. 3) Members of a household, including servants and relatives, with one or more people directing the economic and social unit.

Family Purpose Doctrine
n. Regulation that makes an automobile's owner responsible for damages to anyone who is injured which the automobile is driven by a family member, either with or without the owner's permission. This rule of law is applied under the theory that the vehicle is owned for family purposes. Some states use this law instead of requiring a registered owner...

Federal Courts
n. The court system handling civil and criminal cases determined by the Constitution's jurisdictions and federal statutes. Federal courts include federal district courts, district courts of appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court, and specialized courts such as bankruptcy, tax, claims, and veterans' appeals.

Federal Question
n. A lawsuit basis in federal court that is based on one of the subject specified in the U.S. Constitution or when a federal statute is involved. If a federal question exists, the federal court has jurisdiction.

Federal Tort Claims Act
n. A 1948 statute that eradicated the federal government's power to claim immunity from a lawsuit for damages due to a federal employee's negligent or intentional injury the occurred in the scope of his/her government work. In addition, it created a set of regulations and format for issuing claims, providing the federal district courts with jurisdi...

Fee
n. 1) Derived from old French, fief, for "payment." Refers to absolute title in land and often appears in deeds that transfer title. "Fee" can be modified to illustrate that the title was dependent upon another occurrence or could be terminated upon a future event. 2) Service charge.

Fee Simple
n. Absolute title to land which is free from other claims against the title and is used to transfer title. The title can be sold or passed to another through a will or inheritance. The phrase is used to demonstrate that the fee is not conditional, determinable, or fee tail.

Fee Tail
n. Title to real property that can only be inherited by blood relatives. If no heirs "of his body" exist, then the title would revert to the descendants of the lord who originally granted title to the land, keeping the title within the family line. Trusts were eventually created in order to circumvent this "restraint on alienation&qu...

Felon
n. Someone who was convicted of a felony. A felony is a crime that results in time spent in state or federal prison, or a death sentence.

Felonious
adj. An act performed with criminal intent. Used to differentiate between a malicious wrong and an intentional crime.

Felony
n. 1) A crime that is deemed serious enough to result in punishment by death or sentencing to a term in state or federal prison. Misdemeanors are only punishable by a term in county or local jail and/or fine. 2) Any crime that carries a minimum term of more than one year in state prison because a shorter term can be served in county jail. Also refe...

Felony Murder Doctrine
n. If a death occurs during a felony, it is considered to be first degree murder and all of the felony's participants (or attempted felony's participants) can be charged and found guilty of murder. For example: if a robbery involves more than one criminal and one of them kills a clerk, all of the participants can be found guilty of murder even if t...

Fertile Octogenarian
n. The notion that any male or female regardless of their age, infirmity or physical deficiency, is capable of having a child. For instance, a child would have to wait until their mother and father have deceased so that they could receive a property title since he/she may still be able to acquire a sibling. This unnecessarily tied up the property a...

Fictitious Defendants
n. During the course of a lawsuit, if unknown persons or entities exist which were involved in the incident or the business being sued. Usually identified as "Doe 1" or "Green and Red Company" with an inclusion in the complaint that if and when the unidentified defendants are identified, they will be included in the complaint. B...

Fiduciary
1) n. Latin meaning "trust." Refers to a business or person who may act for another with total trust, good faith, and honesty who has the complete confidence and trust of that person. A fiduciary may include a trustee of a trust, a business adviser, attorney, guardian, estate administrator, real estate agent, banker, stockbroker, or title...

Fiduciary Relationship
n. Confidence placed in someone else regarding a transaction or one's general affairs or business. The relationship does not need to be formally or legally established but can be based upon personal or moral responsibility due to a fiduciary's superior knowledge and training as compared to the one whose affairs are being handled.

Fighting Words
n. Words stated towards another person that are intentionally nasty and full of malice which cause the person emotions distress or cause him/her to retaliate physically. If the words are threatening, they can form the basis for a lawsuit for assault although they are not an excuse or defense for a retaliatory assault or battery.

File
(v) File is the action by which a lawsuit, complaint, petition , replay etc are formally entered in to the records of the legal or statutory authority for the commencement of process related to such written documents.

Final Decree
(n) Final decree is the concluding judgment issued by a court at the end of the legal procedure, finalizing its decision . Final decree is issued by a court when intermediate or temporary orders are issued by them during the hearing. Eg. interlocutory decrees of divorce are issued to give a chance for reconciliation, then a final decree is issued i...

Final Judgment
(n) Final Judgment is the written order of a judge in a lawsuit which is legally binding on the parties involved in the suit, superseding all interim orders if any issued by that court, unless it is set aside by higher court. Final judgment is also referred as final decree.

Final Settlement
(n) Final settlement is the mutual understanding and agreement arrived among the parties involved in a dispute, wherein they settle the issues mutually by accepting, conceding or compromising their demands. Settlement is a reconciliation process in which legal stand and facts are immaterial.

Financial Statement
"Income and expenses for a particular accounting period. The report usually consists of a balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flows.