Dictionary of law (Part4,Q-Y)
Subject: Law

Dictionary of law:

Helps the students of law to understand definitions of various words related to law.

Latin: amount or extent.


Quantum meruit
Latin for “as much as is deserved.” This is a legal principle under which a person should not be obliged to pay, nor should another be allowed to receive, more than the value of the goods or services exchanged.


Refers to decisions made by administrative tribunals or government officials to which the rules of natural justice apply. In judicial decisions, the principles of natural justice always apply. But between routine government policy decisions and the traditional court forums lies a hybrid, sometimes called a “tribunal” or “administrative tribunal” and not necessarily presided by judges. These operate as a government policy-making body at times but also exercise a licensing, certifying, approval or other adjudication authority which is “judicial” because it directly affects the legal rights of a person. Some law teachers sugest that there is no such thing as a “quasi-judicial” decision or body; the body or decision is either judicial or not.


Quid pro quo
Latin: something for something. The giving of something in exchange for another thing of equal value.


Quo warranto
Latin and referring to a special legal procedure taken to stop a person or organization from doing something for which it may not have the legal authority, by demanding to know by what right they exercise the controversial authority.


The number of people who must be present at a meeting before business can be conducted. Without “quorum”, decisions are invalid. Many organizations have a quorum requirement to prevent decisions being taken without a majority of members present.


Quarterly Wage


Money paid to have a kidnapped person released.


Real property
Immoveable property such as land or a building or an object that, though at one time a chattel, has become permanently affixed to land or a building.


Real Property Law
law dealing with “property” consisting of land, buildings, crops, or other resources still attached to or within the land or improvements or fixtures permanently attached to the land or a structure on it.


Buying back. When a vendor later buys the property back. A right of redemption gives the vendor the right to buy back the property. In some jurisdictions where a mortgage transfers title to the lender until the mortgage is paid off, the “buying back” of the property is known as redemption.


An informer; a person who has supplied the facts required for a criminal prosecution or a civil suit. In criminal prosecutions in some states, this would be indicated by the use of the expression ex. rel. as in The State of California ex. rel. Robert Smith v. George Doe.


A right to future enjoyment or ownership of real property. The “left-over” after property has been conveyed first to another party. A remainder interest is what if left-over after a life estate has run its course. Contrary to a reversion, a remainder does not go to the grantor or his (or her) heirs.


Abbreviation for “reciprocal enforcement of maintenance orders” and the name of the international system of recognition, registration and enforcement of child and spousal support orders between countries which have agreed, between themselves, to enforce each other’s maintenance orders. Originally created by England, the international REMO system now spreads over many countries. In the USA, the system is known as UIFSA or URESA.


This is the consideration paid by a tenant to a landlord in exchange for the exclusive use and enjoyment of land, a building or a part of a building. Under normal circumstances, the rent is paid in money and at regular intervals, such as the first of every month. The word has also come to be used as a verb as in to “rent an apartment”, although the proper legal term would be to “lease an apartment.”


A legal action taken to reclaim goods which have been distrained.


Res gestae
Latin for “things done.” A peculiar rule, used mostly in criminal cases, which allows hearsay if the statement is made during the excitement of the litigated event. For example, the words “stick ’em up!” used during an armed robbery would be admissible in evidence under the res gestae rule. So, too, would spontaneous statements made by the defendant during or right after the crime. Some laws even allow res gestae statements to be introduced in evidence in special kinds of prosecutions. For example, in child sexual abuse cases, the statement made by a child to another person may be allowed as evidence even though, technically, it offends the rule against hearsay. This is to recognize the trauma of having a child testify in open court on the subject of her or his abuse. Res gestae evidence usually requires a voir dire hearing before it is admissible unless the defense allows it to be put on the trial record unchallenged.


Res ipsa loquitur

A word used in tort to refer to situations where negligence is presumed on the defendant since the object causing injury was in his or her control. This is a presumption which can be rebutted by showing that the event was an inevitable accident and had nothing to do with the defendant’s responsibility of control or supervision. An example of res ipsa loquitur would be getting hit by a rock which flies off a passing dump truck. The event itself imputes negligence (res ipsa loquitur) and can only be defeated if the defendant can show that the event was a total and inevitable accident.


Res judicata
Latin: A matter which has already been conclusively decided by a court.


To abrogate or cancel a contract putting the parties in the same position they would have been in had there been no contract. Rescission can occur in one of two ways: either a contract can be set aside (rescinded) because of some defect in its formation (such as misrepresentation, duress or undue influence) or it can be set aside by agreement by the parties, for example if they reach a new agreement.


The party that “responds to” a claim filed in court against them by a plaintiff. The more common term is defendant. The word is also used to refer to the party who wins at the first court level but who must then respond to an appeal launched by the party that lost the case at the first court level (upon appeal, this latter person is called the appelant).


Restitutio in integrum
Latin for restitution to the original position. In contract law, upon breach of contract, the injured party may ask the court to reverse the contract and revert the parties to their respective positions before the contract was accepted. But if the court finds that restitutio in integrum is not possible because of actions or events occurring since the date of acceptance, then the court may order that damages be paid instead.

Under ancient English common law, when a party enforced a court judgement and then that judgement was overturned on appeal, the appellant could ask the appeal court for “restitution”, or financial compensation placing that appellant in the same position as if the original legal decision had not been enforced. A new strain of common law has also developed called “restitution”, closely associated with unjust enrichment, whereby a person is deprived of something of value belonging to them, can ask a court to order “restitution”. The best example is asking a court to reverse or correct a payment made in error.


Resulting trust
A trust that is presumed by the court from certain situations. Similar to a constructive trust but for resulting trusts, the court presumes an intention to create a trust; the law assumes that the property is not held by the right person and that the possessor is only holding the property “in trust” for the rightful owner. In constructive trusts, the courts don’t even bother with presuming an intention; they simply impose a trust from the facts.


A contract between a lawyer and his (or her) client, wherein the lawyer agrees to represent and provide legal advice to the client, in exchange for money. The signed retainer begins the client-lawyer relationship from which flow many responsibilities and duties, primarily on the lawyer, including to provide accurate legal advice, to monitor limitation dates and to not allow any conflict of interest with the relationship with the client.


A future interest left in a transferror or his (or her) heirs. A reservation in a real property conveyance that the property reverts back to the original owner upon the occurence of a certain event. For example, Jim gives Bob a bulding using the words “to Bob for life”. Upon the death of Bob, the property reverts back to Jim or to Jim’s heirs. Differs from a remainder in that a remainder takes effect by an act of the parties involved. A reversion takes effect by operation of the law. Nor is a reversion a “left-over” as is a remainder. Rather, it reverts the entire property.


Right of first refusal
A right given to a person to be the first person allowed to purchase a certain object if it is ever offered for sale. The owner of this right is the first to be offered the designated object if it is ever to be offered for sale.


Riparian rights
Special rights of people who own land that runs into a river bank (a “riparian owner” is a person who owns land that runs into a river). While not an ownership right, riparian rights include the right of access to, and use of the water for domestic purposes (bathing, cleaning and navigating). The extent of these rights varies from country to country and may include the right to build a wharf outwards to a navigable depth or to take emergency measures to prevent flooding.


Rule against perpetuities
A common law rule that prevents suspending the transfer of property for more then 21 years or a lifetime plus 21 years. For example, if a will proposes the transfer of an estate to some future date, which is uncertain, for either more than 21 years after the death of the testator or for the life of a person identified in the will and 21 years, the transfer is void. Statute law exists in many jurisdictions which supersedes the common law rule. For more information, see the WWLIA article on the “Rule Against Perpetuities.”


Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act


This is a very unusual word with two contradictory meanings. To “sanction” can mean to ratify or to approve but it can also mean to punish. The “sanction” of a crime refers to the actual punishment, usually expressed as a fine or jail term.


A special criminal law option available in Medieval times to persons who had just committed a crime, allowing them to seek refuge in a church or monastery. There, they could be exempted from the normal prosecution which, in those days, was quite severe (see, for example, The Law’s Hall of Horrors). But the ordeal, even within sanctuary, was no piece of cake. The fugitive had to remain within the walls of the sanctuary, abandon his or her oath to the king, followed which they had a short period of time to leave the country. They were considered to be “dead”, so much so that their land was forfeited to the King and their wife considered to be a widow. If they refused to renounce their oath, they could be starved out of the sanctuary. Henry VIII of England even took to branding them with a hot iron before they left the country just in case they tried to return; they could then be quickly spotted and arrested. Abolished from the common law in 1624 and, in France, at the time of the Revolution, the principle of sanctuary continues today, in somewhat altered form, as diplomatic asylum under international law.


State Case Registry of Child Support Orders


State Directory of New Hires


State Disbursement Unit


Search warrant
A court order (i.e. signed by a judge) that gives a police the permission to enter private property and to search for evidence of the commission of a crime, for the proceeds of crime or property that the police suspect may be used to commit a crime. These court orders are obtained on the basis of a sworn statement by the requesting law enforcement officer and will precisely describe the place to be searched and, in some cases, the exact property being sought.


Securities Law
the area of law dealing with securities, which is the generic term for shares of stock, bonds and debentures issued by corporations and governments to evidence ownership and terms of payment of dividends or final pay-off. They are called securities because the assets and/or the profits of the corporation or the credit of the government stand as security for payment. However, unlike secured transactions in which specific property is pledged, securities are only as good as the future profitability of the corporation or the management of the governmental agency.


The legal possession of property. In law, the term refers more specifically to the possession of land by a freeholder. For example, a owner of a building has seisin, but a tenant does not, because the tenant, although enjoying possession, does not have the legal title in the building.


The punishment given to a person who has been convicted (i.e. found to be guilty) of a crime. It may be time in jail, community service or a period of probation.


The taking of someone’s property, voluntarily (by deposit) or involuntarily (by seizure), by court officers or into the possession of a third party, awaiting the outcome of a trial in which ownership of that property is at issue.


Servient tenement
The land which suffers or has the burden of an easement. The beneficiary of the easement is called a dominant tenement.


From Roman law, referring to rights of use over the property of another; a burden on a piece of land causing the owner to suffer access by another. An easement is type of servitude as is a profit á prendre.


State Employment Security Agency


The person who actually creates a trust by donating property to be managed and administered by a trustee but from which all profits would go to a beneficiary. The law books of some countries refer to this person as a “donor.”


Sexual Harassment
the area of law dealing specifically with discrimination consisting of unwelcome verbal or physical conduct directed at an employee because of his or her sex.


A portion of a company bought by a transfer of cash in exchange for a certificate, the certificate constituting proof of share ownership. Persons owning shares in a company are called “shareholders”. There are two basic kinds of shares: common and preferred. A shareholder is not liable for the debts or other obligations of the company except to the extent of any commitment made to buy shares. The two other benefits of shares include a right to participate in profits (through dividends) and the right to share the residue of assets of the company, once liabilities have been paid off, if it is ever dissolved.


Shareholder agreement
A contract between the shareholders of the company and the company itself, in which certain things, usually the purview of the board of directors, are detailed. For example, a shareholder might be allowed to manage the company, instead of a board of directors. The shareholder agreement will also, typically, control inflows to the company (purchase of shares), how profits are to be distributed, dispute resolution and what to do if a shareholder dies.


Silent partner
A person who invests in a company or partnership but does not take part in administering or directing the organization; he or she just shares in the profits or losses.


Sine die
Adjourned without giving any future date of meeting or hearing. A court that adjourns sine die essentially dismisses the case by saying that it never wants to hear the case again! A meeting which adjourns sine die has simply not set a date for it’s next meeting.


Verbal or spoken defamation.


Slander of title
Intentionally casting aspersion on someone’s property including real property, a business or goods (the latter might also be called “slander of goods”). A form of jactitation. For example, stating that a house is haunted or alleging that a certain product infringes a patent or copyright.


When a person (called “master”) has absolute power over another (called “slave”) including life and liberty. The slave has no freedom of action except within limits set by the master. The slave is considered to be the property of the master and can be sold, given away or killed. All the fruits of the slave’s labor belongs to the master (see, for example, the extract from “The 1740 South Carolina Slave Code” in the History of the Law). Slavery was once very prevalent in the world but is now illegal in most countries.


Small Business
the area of law that involves the creation and needs of “small business”. A small business can be any activity or enterprise entered into for profit, usually a company, a corporation, partnership, or any such formal organization.


Small claims
A regular court but which has simplified rules of procedure and process to deal with claims of a lesser value. Many jurisdictions have established small claims courts which, because of their structures and reliance on deformalized proceedings, allow for expedited hearings and where representation by lawyer is not required or encouraged. Some typical distinctive characteristics of small claims courts include the ability to serve by regular mail and to seize both a court and an adversary at far less cost than in ordinary courts.


A term of the feudal system which referred to the tenure which was exchanged for certain goods or services which were not military in nature. Socage is often described as “free and common socage” although the “free and common” qualification is now of a purely historical significance.

Social Security/Disability Law
the area of law assisting those who, due to a disability, require a program of public provision for the economic security and social welfare of the individual and his or her family.


A lawyer that restricts his or her practice to the giving of legal advice and does not normally litigate. that court room. In England and some other Commonwealth jurisdictions, a legal distinction is made between solicitors and barristers, the former with exclusive privileges of giving oral or written legal advice, and the latter with exclusive privileges of preparing and conducting litigation in the courts. In other words, solicitors don’t appear in court on a client’s behalf and barristers don’t give legal advice to clients. In England, barristers and solicitors work as a team: the solicitor would typically make the first contact with a client and if the issue cannot be resolved and proceeds to trial, the solicitor would transfer the case to a barrister for the duration of the litigation. Lawyers in some states, such as Canada, sometimes use the title “barrister and solicitor” even though, contrary to England, there is no legal distinction between the advising and litigating roles. Canadian lawyers can litigate or give legal advice (as is the case in the USA, where lawyers are referred to as “attorneys”).


Has two meanings. The first one is a technical word for the monarch (king or queen) of a particular country as in “the Sovereign of England is Queen Elizabeth.” The other meaning of the word is to describe the supreme legislative powers of a state: that they are totally independent and free from any outside political control or authority over their decisions. The people of Quebec, for example, has, at times, supported governments which have proposed that Quebec become a “sovereign” state; that all legislative authority of the government of Canada over their territory cease and that the government of Quebec be enabled to regulate in any matter at all; and that the government of Quebec represent itself internationally.


Split custody
A child custody decision which means that legal custody goes back and forth between parents like a ping-pong ball, as they, in turn, take care of the child. They are very rare (for example, only 5% of all custody orders in the USA) because they works against consistent upbringing decisions for the child.


State Parent Locator Service


Social Security Administration


Social Security Number


Standing committee
A term of parliamentary law which refers to those committees which have a continued existence; that are not related to the accomplishment of a specific, once-only task as are ad hoc or special committees. Standing committees generally exist as long as the organization to which it reports. Budget and finance or nomination committees are typical standing committees of a larger organization.

Stare decisis
A basic principle of the law whereby once a decision (a precedent) on a certain set of facts has been made, the courts will apply that decision in cases which subsequently come before it embodying the same set of facts. A precedent which is binding; must be followed.


A term of international law: those groups of people which have acquired international recognition as an independent country and which have four characteristics; permanent and large population with, generally, a common language; a defined and distinct territory; a sovereign government with effective control; and a capacity to enter into relations with other states (i.e. recognized by other states). The USA, Canada and China are examples of states. States are the primary subjects of international law. The United Nations is comprised of all the states of the world. Some large states have subdivided into smaller units each having limited legislative powers normally restricted to subjects which are more properly regulated at a local, rather than a national level. Thus, the states of the USA are not really “states” under international law. It is common for the general public and English dictionaries to use the word “nations” to refer to what international law calls “states.”


State Parent Locator Service (SPLS)
a service operated by the State Child Support Enforcement Agencies to locate noncustodial parents to establish paternity, and establish and enforce child support obligations


Statute Of Limitations
the period during which someone can be held liable for an action or a debt-statutes of limitations for collecting child support vary from State to State


The written laws approved by legislatures, parliaments or houses of assembly (i.e., politicians). Also known as “legislation”. The written laws of the Canadian Province of Newfoundland, for example, are in a multi-volume set of books called the Statutes of Newfoundland.


Statutory rape
The common law definition of rape has not proven adequate to reflect modern values. It is limited to sex without consent and with a woman, and only where the victim is not the wife of the rapist. Many states have enacted laws which include under the charge of rape, sex with a minor even if done with the minor’s consent, sex without consent regardless of whether the victim is male or female, and sex without consent regardless of the matrimonial bond between victim and rapist.


Statutory trust
A trust created by the effect of a statute. They are usually temporary in nature and serve the purpose of bridging ownership of property to benefit a certain class of individuals which the statute is designed to protect. Some examples are the temporary trusts that the law of some states impose on the executor of an estate, the holding and administration of tax or other pay deductions (including vacation pay) by employers, the trust accounts of lawyers and the statutory trust on money paid for a construction project on behalf of any person who might have a construction lien on the property.


an order by a court which suspends all or some of the proceedings in a case


Latin: the offspring of a person; his or her descendants. For example, inheriting per stirpes means having a right to a deceased’s estate because you happen to be a descendant of the deceased.


Strict liability
Tort liability which is set upon the defendant without need to prove intent, negligence or fault; as long as you can prove that it was the defendant’s object that caused the damage.


Sub judice
A matter that is still under consideration by a court. You will hear of politicians declining to speak on a certain subject because the subject matter is “sub judice”.


The process whereby, under the feudal system of tenure, a person receiving a grant of land from a lord, could himself become a lord by subdividing and subletting that land to others.


To be subject to the orders or direction of another; of lower rank.


an order of the court for a witness to appear at a particular time and place to testify and/or produce documents in the control of the witness (if a “subpena duces tecum”). A subpena is used to obtain testimony from a witness at both depositions (testimony under oath taken outside of court) and at trial.


When you pay off someone’s debt and then try to get the money from the debtor yourself. (Compare with “novation”.)


Subservient tenement
The real property that supports or endures an easement. The real property benefitting from an easement is called the dominant tenement.


Substituted service
If a party appears to be avoiding service of court documents, a request may be made with the court to, instead of personal service (i.e. giving the document directly to the person), that the document be published in a local newspaper, served on a person believed to frequent the person or mailed to his (or her) last known address.


A person who takes over the rights of another.


Sui juris
A person who possesses full civil rights and is not under any legal incapacity such as being bankrupt, of minor age or mental incapacity. Most adults are sui juris.

Summary conviction offence
In Canada, a less serious offence than indictable offences for which both the procedure and punishment tends to be less onerous.


In the USA, this is one of the initial documents issued in a civil suit; giving the defendant notice of the claim and an opportunity to defend it. The summons also gives the court which issues it the authority to dispose of the matter. In Canadian criminal law, this is the document used by the police to compel an accused to attend court to answer the charges. It does not involve the arrest of the accused and is used where the police, either by the relatively less serious nature of the crime or because of the standing of the accused in the community, do not believe that arrest is necessary to ensure the attendance of the accused at court.


The person who has pledged him or herself to pay back money or perform a certain action if the principal to a contract fails, as collateral, and as part of the original contract. Technically, where a person provides collateral after or before the original contract is signed, and as a separate contract, the person is called a “guarantor” and not a “surety.”


Synallagmatic contract
A civil law term for a reciprocal or bilateral contract: one in which both parties provide consideration. A contract of sale is a classic example, where one party provides money and the other, goods or services. A gift is not a synallagmatic contract.


The name of an American federal labor law which was passed in 1947, and which sought to “equalize legal responsibilities of labor organizations and employers”; ie. balance the Wagner Act, which, it was felt, may have gone to far in protecting union rights. Where the Wagner Act had was aimed primarily at employer behavior, the Taft-Hartley was aimed at unions and sought to restrain their activities under certain circumstances, by detailing union rights and duties. For example, the Taft-Hartley Act exempted supervisors from it’s provisions, allowed employees to decline participation in union activities and permitted union decertification petitions.


To interfere improperly or in violation of the law such as to tamper with a document. The term “jury tampering” means to illegally disrupt the independence of a jury member with a view to influencing that juror otherwise than by the production of evidence in open court.


Temporary Assistance for Needy Families


Tax Litigation
the area of law that provides assistance in the preparation and presentation of a lawsuit or other resort to the courts to determine a legal question or matter as relating to tax situations.


the area of law that focuses on taxes.

the area of law dealing with the scientific technology involving the production or use of devices especially in the fields of electronics and computers.


Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
time-limited assistance payments to poor families. The program provides parents with job preparation, work and support services to help them become self-sufficient.


Tenancy by the entireties
A form of co-ownership in English law where, when a husband transferred land to his wife, the property could not be sold unless both spouses agreed nor could it be severed except by ending the marriage.


A person to whom a landlord grants temporary and exclusive use of land or a part of a building, usually in exchange for rent. The contract for this type of legal arrangement is called a lease. The word “tenant” originated under the feudal system, referring to land “owners” who held their land on tenure granted by a lord.


Tenants in common
Similar to joints tenants. All tenants in common share equal property rights except that, upon the death of a tenant in common, that share does not go to the surviving tenants but is transferred to the estate of the deceased tenant. Unity of possession but distinct titles.


An unconditional offer of a party to a contract to perform their part of the bargain. For example, if the contract is a loan contract, a tender would be an act of the debtor where he produces the amount owing and offers to the creditor. In real property law, when a party suspects that the other may be preparing to renege, he or she can write a tender in which they unequivocally re-assert their intention to respect the contract and tender their end of the bargain; either by paying the purchase or delivering the title.


Property that could be subject to tenure under English land law; usually land, buildings or apartments. The word is rarely used nowadays except to refer to dominant or servient tenements when qualifying easements.


A right of holding or occupying land or a position for a certain amount of time. The term was first used in the English feudal land system, whereby all land belonged to the king but was lent out to lords for a certain period of time; the lord never owning, but having tenure in the land. Used in modern law mostly to refer to a position a person occupies such as in the expression “a judge holds tenure for life and on good behavior.”


Testamentary trust
A trust which is to take effect only upon the death of the settlor and is commonly found as part of a will. Trusts which take effect during the life of the settlor are called inter vivos trusts.


A person who dies with a valid will.


The verbal presentation of a witness in a judicial proceeding.


Torrens land registration system
A land registration system invented by Robert Torrens and in which the government is the keeper of the master record of all land and their owners. In the Torrens system, a land title certificate suffices to show full, valid and indefeasible title. Used in Australia and several Canadian provinces.


Derived from the Latin word tortus which meant wrong. In French, “tort” means a wrong”. Tort refers to that body of the law which will allow an injured person to obtain compensation from the person who caused the injury. Every person is expected to conduct themselves without injuring others. When they do so, either intentionally or by negligence, they can be required by a court to pay money to the injured party (“damages”) so that, ultimately, they will suffer the pain cause by their action. Tort also serves as a deterrent by sending a message to the community as to what is unacceptable conduct.


Name given to a person or persons who have committed a tort.


A legal proceeding taken under the law of equity where the plaintiff attempts to reclaim specific property, through the court, whether the property is still in the first acquirer’s hands or it has passed onto others, and even if the property has been converted (related common law terms: conversion, trover and detinue). This is a procedure frequently used by a trust beneficiary to recover misappropriated trust property.


Traffic Violations
the “right to drive” is a privilege, which is governed by the individual states. Traffic violations are a mix of regulatory and penal (criminal) offenses based on violations of state statutes and city ordinances relating to the operation of vehicles.


A person who receives property being transferred (the person from whom the property is moving is the transferor).


A person from whom property moves. Property is transferred from the transferor to th transferor. I sell you my house and in transferring title to you, I am the transferor and you, the transferee.


Transportation Law
the area of law focusing on the conveyance of passengers or goods especially as a commercial enterprise.


A formal agreement between two states signed by official representatives of each state. A treaty may be “law-making” in that it is the declared intention of the signatories to make or amend their internal laws to give effect to the treaty. The Berne Convention is an example of such as treaty. Other treaties are just contracts between the signatories to conduct themselves in a certain way or to do a certain thing. These latter type of treaties are usually private to two or a limited number of states and may be binding only through the International Court of Justice.


Unlawful interference with another’s person, property or rights. Theoretically, all torts are trespasses.


the area of law that focuses on the judicial examination of issues of fact or law disputed by parties for the purpose of determining the rights of the parties.


An old English and common law legal proceeding against a person who had found someone else’s property and has converted that property to their own purposes. The action of trover did not ask for the return of the property but for damages in an amount equal to the replacement value of the property. English law replaced the action of trover with that of conversion in 1852.


The person who holds property rights for the benefit of another through the legal mechanism of the trust. A trustee usually has full management and administration rights over the property but these rights must always be exercised to the full advantage of the beneficiary. All profits from the property go to the beneficiary although the trustee is entitled to reimbursement for administrative costs. There is no legal impediment for a trustee to also be a beneficiary of the same property.


Trustee de son tort
A trustee “of his own wrong”; a person who is not a regularly appointed trustee but because of his or her intermeddling with the trust and the exercise of some control over the trust property, can be held by a court as “constructive” trustee which entails liability for losses to the trust.


the area of law that creates a fiduciary relationship in which one party holds legal title to another’s property for the benefit of a party who holds equitable title to the property (see also estate planning).


Unemployment Insurance


Uniform Interstate Family Support Act


The American uniform child and spousal support legislation, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act already adopted and implemented by most states and expected to be law throughout the USA soon. It is the successor of URESA and is a long-arm statutes as it gives the state which issues the first support order jurisdiction over the support payor anywhere in the USA for the purposes of varying that order. For more information, please see http://wwlia.org/us-uifsa.htm


Ultra vires
Without authority. An act which is beyond the powers or authority of the person or organization which took it.


Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), and Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA)
laws enacted at the State level which provide mechanisms for establishing and enforcing support obligations when the noncustodial parent lives in one State and the custodial parent and the children live in another


Unjust enrichment
A legal procedure whereby you can seek reimbursement from another who benefitted from your action or property without legal justification. There are said to be three conditions which must be met before you can get a court to force reimbursement based on “unjust enrichment”: an actual enrichment or benefit to the defendant, a corresponding deprivation to the plaintiff, and the absence of a legal reason for the defendant’s enrichment. For example (and only theoretically as many countries have laws which have modified equity law in some situations), if you found somebody else’s cash and spent it, you might be sued for reimbursement under unjust enrichment. The legal theory behind unjust enrichment is the constructive trust, which the court imposes upon the circumstances to hold the person unjustly enriched as the trustee for the person who should properly get the property back, held to be the beneficiary of the constructive trust.


Unreimbursed Public Assistance


Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act of the United States, as created in 1950 by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. This was the first family support uniform legislation in the USA and it was ultimately adopted, in some form or another, by all the US states. It was updated in 1968 and the revised version became known as “RURESA”, the initial “R” standing for “Revised.” It has been replaced by UIFSA. For more information, please see http://wwlia.org/us-uifsa.htm


From ancient Roman law (and now a part of many civil law systems), “usufruct” means the rights to the product of another’s property. For example, a farmer may give a right of “usufruct”of his land to a neighbor, thus enabling that neighbor to sow and reap the harvest of that land.


Excessive or illegal interest rate. Most countries now prohibit interest rates above a certain level; and rates which exceed these levels are called “usury”.


Utility/Telecom Interconnection
a mechanism for resolving disputes that exists outside the state or federal judicial system specifically dealing with issues of communications at a distance (see also arbitration and mediation).


A tramp or homeless person.


Any thing that is designed to transport persons or objects. A bicycle has been held to be a vehicle.


The seller; the person selling.


This has the same meaning as in everyday English except that in a legal context it usually refers specifically to the location of a judicial hearing. For example, if a criminal case has a very high media profile in a particular city, the “venue” may change to another city to ensure objective witnesses (i.e. that would not have been spoiled by media speculation on the crime).


Verba fortius accipiuntur contra proferentem
Latin: a principle of construction whereby if words of a contract are ambiguous, of two equally possible meanings, they should be interpreted against the author of the words and not against the other party.


The decision of a jury. In criminal cases, this is usually expressed as “guilty” or “not guilty”.In a civil case, the verdict would be a finding for the plaintiff or for the defendant.


Veterans Law
the area of law that assists former members of the armed forces.


Vicarious liability
When a person is held responsible for the tort of another even though the person being held responsible may not have done anything wrong. This is often the case with employers who are held vicariously liable for the damages caused by their employees.


Latin for “to wit” or “that is to say.” “Viz.”, which is the abbreviation of videlicet, is much more commonly used. It is often found in legal documents to advise that what follows provides more detail about a preceding general statement. For example: “The defendant committed adultery; viz., on April 15th, at approximately 10:30 pm, he had sexual intercourse with Ms Jane Doe.”


Latin: man or husband. Vir et uxor censentur in lege una persona is an old (and long abandoned in most countries) legal principle meaning that man and wife are considered to be one person in law.


An abbreviation of the Latin word videlicet. Short for “namely” or “that is to say.”


the right of a non-custodial parent to visit or spend time with his or her children


Void or void ab initio
Not legally binding. A document that is void is useless and worthless; as if it did not exist.For example, in many countries, contracts for immoral purposes are said to be “void”:unenforceable and not recognized by the courts. A good example is a contract to commit a serious crime such as murder.


The law distinguishes between contracts which are void and those which are voidable. Some contracts have such a latent defect that they are said to be void (see definition of “void” above). Other have more minor defects to them and are voidable at the option of the party victimized by the defect. For example, contracts signed by a person when they are totally drunk are voidable by that person upon recovering sobriety.


Voir dire
A mini-hearing held during a trial on the admissibility of contested evidence. For example, a defendant may object to a plaintiff’s witness. The court would suspend the trial, immediately preside over a hearing on the standing of the proposed witness, and then resume the trial with or without the witness, or with any restrictions placed on the testimony by the judge as a result of the voir dire ruling. In a jury trial, the jury would be excused during the voir dire.


Volenti non fit injuria
Voluntary assumption of risk. A defence in tort that means where a person engages in an event accepting and aware of the risks inherent in that event, then they can not later complain of, or seek compensation for an injury suffered during the event. This is used most often to defend against tort actions as a result of a sports injury.


Voluntary Acknowledgement Of Paternity
an acknowledgement by a man, or both parents, that the man is the father of a child, usually provided in writing on an affidavit or form


Wage Withholding
procedure by which automatic deductions are made from wage or income to pay some debt such as child support; may be voluntary or involuntary


Wagner Act
A 1935 American federal statute which recognized employee rights to collective bargaining, protected the right to belong to a union, prohibited many anti-union tactics then used by employers, and set up the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB was given wide enforcement powers. It was later amended by the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947.

When a person disclaims or renounces to a right that they may have otherwise had. Waivers are not always in writing. Sometimes a person’s actions can be interpreted as a waiver.


A guarantee given on the performance of a product or the doing of a certain thing. For example, many consumer products come with warranties under which the manufacturer will repair or replace any product that fails during the warranty period; the commitment to repair or replace being the “warranty”.


The abuse, destruction or permanent change to property by one who is merely in possesion of it as in the case of a tenant or a life tenant.


Being married. Has the same meaning as “matrimony.” Used mostly to refer to illegitimate children as “born out of wedlock.”


White Collar Criminal Law
the area of law that specifically deals with crime that is committed by salaried professional workers or persons in business, which involves a form of financial theft or fraud.


A written and signed statement, made by an individual, which provides for the disposition of their property when they die. (See also codicil and probate.)


An electronic surveillance device which secretly listens in and records conversations held over a phone line. It is usually only allowed with the permission of a judge and if it can be shown to be necessary for the solving of a serious crime.


Without prejudice
A statements set onto a written document which qualifies the signatory as exempted from it’s content to the extent that they may be interpreted as containing admissions or other interpretations which could later be used against the person signing; or as otherwise affecting any legal rights of the person signing. A lawyer will often send a letter “without prejudice” in case the letter makes admissions which could later prove inconvenient to the client.


The regular definition of this word is a person who perceives an event (by seeing, hearing, smelling or other sensory perception). The legal definition refers to the court-supervised recital of that sensory experience, in writing (deposition) or verbally (testimony).


Words of limitation
Words in a conveyance or in a will which set the duration of an estate. If a will said “to Bob and his heirs”, the words “and his heirs” were words of limitation because they indicate that Bob gets the land in fee simple and his heirs get no interest.


Words of purchase
Words which specifically name the person to whom land is being conveyed. The property is conveyed to specifically and by name in a legal act such as a conveyance or will. This would preclude, for example, transfer as a result of intestacy.


Workers Compensation Law
law that focuses on the remedies and compensation for injury to an employee arising out of and in the course of employment that is paid to the worker or dependents by an employer whose strict liability for such compensation is established by statute.


An official court document, signed by a judge or bearing an official court seal, which commands the person to whom it is addressed, to do something specific. That “person” is typically either a sheriff (who may be instructed to seize property, for example) or a defendant (for whom the writ is the first notice of formal legal action. In these cases, the writ would command the person to answer the charges laid out in the suit, or else judgment may be made against them in their absence).


Wrongful Death
an area of law that seeks to provide compensation to the heirs of a person whose death was caused by the negligent, willful, or wrongful act, neglect, omission, or default of another (see personal injury).


Wrongful dismissal
Being fired from a job without an adequate reason or without any reason whatsoever. Employees do not have a right to a job for life and can be dismissed for economic or performance reasons but they cannot be dismissed capriciously. Most employment implies an employment contract, which may be supplemented by labor legislation. Either could provide for certain procedures to be followed, failing which any firing is wrongful dismissal and for which the employee could ask a court for damages against the employer. Can also be referred to as “dismissal without just cause.” Not all states recognize this tort law action.


Yellow dog contract
A name given in American labor law to contract of employment by which the employee agrees to forfeit their employment if they join a union during the period of employment. These types of contracts are now prohibited by American law.


Young offender
Young persons who, in many states, are treated differently than adult criminals and are tried in special youth courts. In Canada, for example, criminal suspects between 12 and 17 inclusively are processed under the Young Offenders Act, which includes several provisions which reflect the rehabilitative nature of the legislation.

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