Back-to-back life sentences

It means consecutive life term which is imposed by a judge upon the accused for two different crimes committed by him. Subesequent sentence was found on the premise that there would be lesser chances of the accused getting benefit of parole hearing.

Bad debt

It is un-recoverable debt. The running of the statute of limitations to bring a lawsuit, disappearance of the debtor, discharge in bankruptcy, a pattern of avoiding debts or the destruction of the collateral security can all make a debt "bad." A debt due for services rendered is not a bad debt for tax purposes, since there is just no income on which to be taxed.

Bad faith

A) Intentional dishonest act by not fulfilling contractual or legal obligations, entering into an agreement without the intention, misleading another or violating basic standards of honesty in dealing with others. B) when transaction is made with bad faith, it is called a "bad faith" contract or "bad faith" offer.


A) The money or bond put up to secure release of a person who is charged with a crime. Bail guarantees the appearance of the defendant in Court when required. In case of minor crimes bail is usually set by a schedule which will show the amount to be paid before any Court appearance and in case of more serious crimes the amount of bail is set by the Judge at the suspect's first Court appearance. Constitution guarantees the right to reasonable bail. However, Court may deny bail in cases charging murder or treason, or when there is a danger that the defendant will flee. B) Verb - To post money or bond to secure an accused/defendant's release. This is generally called "bailing out" a prisoner.

Bail bond

Bail Bond is provided to secure the release of an accused from jail pending trial or by an insurance company through a bail bondsman acting as agent for the company. Bail bond is "exonerated" and returned to the insurance company upon acquittal, conviction, or other conclusion of the case. Upon diappearance of person who is bailed out befor Court, the bond funds will be forfeited unless the person is found and returned.

Bail bondsman

Professional agent of an insurance company who possessses specialization in providing bail bonds for people charged with crimes and awaiting trial in order to have them released. If a bail bondsman has reason to believe a person he bailed out is about to flee, he may revoke the bond and surrender his client to jail. Bail bondsmen usually charge the suspect a fee of 10 percent of the amount of the bond.


Person with whom some article is left, usually pursuant to a contract (called a "contract of bailment"), who is responsible for the safe return of the article to the owner when the contract is fulfilled. He is also called custodian. These can include storage companies where furniture or files are deposited, a parking garage, a kennel or horse ranch where an animal is boarded and banks holding bonds.


A) Court official who is responsible to keep order in the Courtroom and handles various errands for the Judge and Clerk. B) a person appointed by the court to handle the affairs of an incompetent person or to be a "keeper" of goods or money pending further order of the Court.


A) It is an act of hand over of property in the custody and control of another, usually by agreement in which the holder (bailee) is responsible for the safekeeping and return of the property. Examples: animals lodged with a kennel, bonds left with the bank, vehicles parked in a garage, or a storage facility. B) the goods themselves which are held by a bailee. Thus, the "bailor" (owner) leaves the "bailment" (goods) with the "bailee" (custodian), and the entire transaction is a "bailment."


Person who leaves goods in the custody of another, generally under a "contract of bailment," in which the custodian ("bailee") is responsible for the safekeeping and return of the property.

Bait and switch

A dishonest sales practice in which a business advertises a bargain price for a product in order to draw customers into the store and then tells the prospective buyer that the advertised product is of poor quality or no longer available and attempts to switch the customer to a more expensive product. It can be electronic items such as telephones, stereos or televisions but there are also loan interest rates which turn out to be only for short term or low maximums, and then the switch is to a more expensive loan.

Balance due

The amount of a debt still owed on an account or the principal owed on a promissory note is called balance due. In the case of a promissory note, the balance due is not the sum of installments due, since these include amortized interest, but may be the principal due without further interest.

Balance sheet

The statement of the assets and the liabilities of a business at a particular time usually prepared monthly, quarterlly, annually, or upon sale of the business is called balance sheet. Overall condition of the business is showed in balance sheet.


A) An institution which is empowered to receive deposits on specified rate of interest, make loans, and provide savings account services, all at a profit. B) Group of judges sitting together as an appeals Court, referred to as "in bank" or "en banc."


This is a system of statutes and Courts which permits persons and businesses which are insolvent (debtors) or face potential insolvency, to place his/her/its financial affairs under the control of the bankruptcy Court. When the debtor's debts exceed his/her/its assets or ability to pay, the debtor can file a petition with the bankruptcy Court for voluntary bankruptcy or the debtor's unpaid creditors can file an "involuntary" petition to force the debtor into bankruptcy, although voluntary bankruptcy is far more common.

Bankruptcy proceedings

The bankruptcy procedure starts as follows: 1) filing a petition (voluntary or involuntary) to declare a debtor person or business bankrupt, to allow reorganization or refinancing under a plan to meet the debts of the party unable to meet his/her/its obligations. The petition includes a schedule of debts, assets and income potential. 2) A hearing called "first meeting of creditors" with notice to all known creditors. This is often brief and usually results in the judge assigning the matter to a professional trustee. 3) Later the trustee reports and there is a determination of what debts are dischargeable, what assets are exempt, and what payments are possible. 4) If there are assets available then the creditors are requested in writing to file a "creditor's claim." 5) There may be reports, proposals, hearings on claims of fraudulent debts, petitions for removing the stay on foreclosures and other matters. 6) Debts secured by property or by judgment lien are paid up to the amount of assets and funds available. 7) Last step is a hearing on discharge of the bankrupt, which wipes out unsecured debts (or a pro rata share of them).


A) All attorneys are called collectively as "the bar," which comes from the bar or railing which separates the general spectator area of the Courtroom from the area reserved for judges, attorneys, parties and Court officials. A party to a case is "before the bar" when he/she is inside the railing. B) Verb - To prevent some legal maneuver, as in "barring" a lawsuit due to the running out of the time to file and to prohibit and keep someone from entering a room, building, or real property.

Bar association

Organization of lawyers is called Bar Association

Bar examination

The examination which is given in each state by either the Highest Court or, if an "integrated" bar, by the State Bar Association (subject to appeal to the Supreme Court) for admission as an attorney.


A) Mutual and voluntary agreement or contract between two parties for exchange of consideration (money, goods, services).


For creating legal business by stirring up disputes and quarrels, generally for the benefit of the lawyer who sees fees in the matter. Barratry is illegal and subject to criminal punishment and/or discipline by the bar, but there must be a showing that the resulting lawsuit was totally groundless. There is a lot of border-line barratry in which advocates, in the name of being tough or protecting the client, fail to seek avenues for settlement of disputes or will not tell the client he/she has no legitimate claim.


In Great Britain, there is a two-tier bar made up of solicitors, who perform all legal tasks except appearance in Court, and barristers, who try cases. Some solicitors will "take the silk" (quaint expression) and become barristers. A fancy name for a lawyer or attorney in the United States


The original cost of an asset which is used to determine the amount of capital gain tax upon its sale. "Stepped up basis" means that the original basis of an asset (especially real property) will be stepped up to current value at the time of the death of the owner, and thus keep down capital gain taxes if the beneficiary of the dead person sells the asset. An "adjusted basis" includes expenses, improvements and damages between the time the original basis (price) is established and transfer (sale) of the asset.


The actual intentional striking of someone, with intent to harm, or in a "rude and insolent manner" even if the injury is slight. Battery is a crime and also the basis for a lawsuit as a civil wrong if there is damage. It is often coupled with "assault" (which does not require actual touching) in "assault and battery." Negligent or careless unintentional contact is not battery no matter how great the harm.

Beach bum trust provision

A requirement in a trust that a beneficiary can only receive profit from the trust equal to the amount he/she earns. This provision is intended to encourage the beneficiary to work, and not just lie around the beach and live off the trust.


Holder of check, promissory note, bank draft, or bond is called bearer. This document is generally called "negotiable instrument" when states it is "payable to bearer," which means whoever holds this paper can receive the funds due on it.

Bearer paper

Negotiable instrument which is payable to whoever has possession (the bearer).


Convinced of the truth of a statement or allegation is called belief. In a common phrase "upon information and belief," the so-called belief is based only on unconfirmed information, so the person declaring the belief is hedging his/her bet as to whether the belief is correct.


A) Combination of judges as in the bench or for the particular judge or panel of judges, as in an order coming from the "bench." B) The large, usually long and wide desk raised above the level of the rest of the Courtroom, at which the Judge or panel of Judges sit.

Bench warrant

A warrant issued by a Judge, often to command someone to appear before the Judge, with a setting of an amount of bail to be posted. Often a bench warrant is used in lesser matters to encourage the party to appear in Court.

Beneficial interest

The right of a party to some profit, distribution, or benefit from a contract or trust is called beneficial interest. A beneficial interest is distinguished from the rights of someone like a trustee or official who has responsibility to perform and/or title to the assets but does not share in the benefits.

Beneficial use

The right to enjoy the use of something like light, air, view, access, water in a stream even though the title to the property in which the user exists is held by another.


Any person or entity (like a charity) who is to receive assets or profits from an estate, a trust, an insurance policy or any instrument in which there is distribution. There is also an "incidental beneficiary" or a "third party beneficiary" who gets a benefit although not specifically named, such as someone who will make a profit if a piece of property is distributed to another.


A) Any acquired right or privilege or profit primarily through a contract. B) In income taxation, anything that brings economic gain. C) "fringe benefits" may be part of the compensation for employment other than salary or wages, and may include health or disability insurance. D) In worker's compensation the term "benefit" is used for the insurance payment resulting from a fatal accident on the job, while "compensation" is for injury without death. E) Verb - To gain something.

Benefit of counsel

Having the opportunity to have an attorney and legal advice in any legal matter, particularly while appearing in Court. If someone makes an appearance or agrees to a contract without benefit of counsel, when a lawyer would be either essential or at least quite valuable, he/she may challenge the Court rulings or the contract terms, usually without success since failure to have an attorney is the person's own fault.


A) The act of giving any asset by the terms of a Will. B) To give personal property under provisions of a Will.


The gift of personal property under the terms of a Will. Bequest can be of specific assets or of the "residue" (what is left after specific gifts have been made). Bequests are not always outright, but may be "conditional" upon the happening or non-happening of an event (such as death), or "executory" in which the gift is contingent upon a future event.

Best evidence rule

The legal doctrine that an original piece of evidence, particularly a document, is superior to a copy. If the original is available, a copy will not be allowed as evidence in a trial.


Slang for bona fide purchaser, which means someone who purchased something (e.g. promissory note or jewelry) with no reason to be suspicious that it was stolen, belonged to someone else, or was subject to another party's claim. The BFP must have paid a full and fair price and have received the item in the normal course of business, otherwise he/she might have some doubts.


The predisposition of a Judge, prospective juror, arbitrator, or anyone making a judicial decision, against or in favor of one of the parties or a class of persons. This can be shown by decisions contrary to fact, reason or law, or other unfair conduct. Bias can be toward women or men, defendants or plaintiffs, large corporations, or local parties. Obvious bias is a ground for reversal on appeal, but it is hard to prove, since judges are usually careful to display apparent fairness in their comments.


An offer to purchase something by quoting specific price. It includes offers during an auction in which people compete by raising the bid until there is no more bidding, or contractors offer to contract to build a project or sell goods or services at a given price, with usually the lowest bidder getting the job.


The order or ruling of a Judge that one issue in a case can be tried to a conclusion or a judgment given on one phase of the case without trying all aspects of the matter. A typical example is when the Judge will grant a divorce judgment without hearing evidence or making a ruling on such issues as division of marital property, child custody or spousal support (alimony). Thus the parties can be free of each other promptly while still fighting over other issues at their leisure.


The act of a Judge in dividing issues before a trial so that one issue will be ruled upon before hearing evidence on the other issue.


Having two wives or two husbands at the same time is called bigamy. A marriage in which one of the parties is already legally married is bigamous, void, and ground for annulment. The one who knowingly enters into a bigamous marriage is guilty of the crime of bigamy. Having several wives at the same time is called polygamy and being married to several husbands is polyandry.

Bilateral contract

An agreement in which the parties exchange promises for each to do something in the future.


A) It is document by which the signer requires the bank to pay a third party a sum of money. This is a holdover from the days when a person would draw up a "bill of exchange." B) a statement of what is owed. C) any paper money. D) A legislative proposal for enactment of a law. It is called a bill until it is passed and signed, at which time it is a law (statute) and is no longer referred to as a bill.

Bill of exchange

A written document prepared by a party (maker or drawer) ordering another (payer) to pay a certain amount to a third party (payee). It is the same as a draft.

Bill of lading

A receipt obtained by the shipper of goods from the carrier (trucking company, railroad, ship or air freighter) for shipment to a particular buyer. It is a contract protecting the shipper by guaranteeing payment and satisfies the carrier that the recipient has proof of the right to the goods. The bill of lading is then sent to the buyer by the shipper upon payment for the goods, and is thus proof that the recipient is entitled to the goods when received. Thus, if there is no bill of lading, there is no delivery.

Bill of particulars

A written itemization of claims which a defendant in a civil suit can demand from the plaintiff to find out what are the details of the claims.

Bill of sale

A written statement attesting to the transfer (sale) of goods, possessions, or a business to a buyer. A bill of sale may accompany an agreement which states the agreed-upon terms of sale, including the date of transfer, the price, timing of payment and other provisions. It is useful to show that the buyer now has ownership and to detail what was actually purchased.


A written statement of the key terms of an agreement, in particular insurance policies, so that the insured as well as lenders can be assured there is valid and adequate insurance coverage.


The crime of threatening to reveal embarrassing, disgraceful or damaging facts (or rumors) about a person to the public, family, spouse or associates unless paid off to not carry out the threat. It is one form of extortion (which may include other threats such as physical harm or damage to property).

Blank endorsement

Endorsement of a check or other negotiable paper without naming the person to whom it would be paid.

Board of directors

The policy managers of a corporation or organization elected by the shareholders or members of company. The board in turn chooses the officers of the corporation, sets basic policy, and is responsible to the shareholders.

Boiler room

A telephone bank operation in which fast-talking telemarketers or campaigners attempt to sell stock, services, goods, or candidates and act as if they are calling from an established company or brokerage. Often the telemarketers are totally fraudulent and in violation of security laws.


Slang for provisions in a contract, form or legal pleading which are apparently routine and often preprinted. The term comes from an old method of printing. Today "boilerplate" is commonly stored in computer memory to be retrieved and copied when needed. A layperson should beware that the party supplying the boilerplate form usually has developed supposedly "standard" terms (some of which may not apply to every situation) to favor and/or protect the provider.

Bona fide

In Latin "good faith," signifies honesty, the "real thing" and, in the case of a party claiming title as bona fide purchaser or holder, it indicates innocence or lack of knowledge of any fact that would cast doubt on the right to hold title.

Bona fide purchaser

A person who has purchased an asset (including bond, promissory note, or other negotiable instrument) for stated value, innocent of any fact which would cast doubt on the right of the seller to have sold it in good faith. This is vital if the true owner shows up to claim title, since the Bona fide purchaser will be able to keep the asset, and the real owner will have to look to the fraudulent seller for recompense.


A) Written evidence of debt issued by a company with the terms of payment spelled out. A bond differs from corporate shares of stock since bond payments are pre-determined and provide a final payoff date, while stock dividends vary depending on profitability and corporate decisions to distribute. There are two types of such bonds: "registered," in which the name of the owner is recorded by the company and "bearer," in which interest payments are made to whomever is holding the bond. B) Written guaranty or pledge which is purchased from a bonding company (usually an insurance firm) or by an individual as security (called a "bondsman") to guarantee some form of performance, including showing up in court ("bail bond"), properly complete construction or other contract terms ("performance bond"), that the bonded party will not steal or mismanage funds, that a purchased article is the real thing, or that title is good. If there is a failure then the bonding company will make good up to the amount of the bond.


A) Someone who sells bail bonds. B) a surety (guarantor or insurance company), who/which provides bonds for performance.

Booby trap

A device set up to be triggered to harm or kill anyone entering the trap, such as a shotgun which will go off if a room is entered, or dynamite which will explode if the ignition key on an auto is turned. If a person sets up such a trap to protect his/her property, he/she will be liable for any injury or death even to an unwanted intruder such as a burglar. Setting a booby trap to even protect one's property is a crime.

Book account

An account of a customer kept in a business ledger of debits and credits which shows the amount due at any given time. This can provide a clear basis for suing for a debt.

Book value

A determination of the value of a corporation's stock by adding up the stated value of corporate assets as shown on the books of a corporation and deducting all the liabilities of the corporation. This may not be the true value of the corporation or its shares since the assets may be under- or over-valued


A mortgage contract in which a ship and/or its freight is pledged as security for a loan for equipment, repair, or use of a vessel. The contract is generally called a "bottomry bond." If the loan is not paid back, the lender can sell the ship and/or its freight.


Organized refusal to purchase products or patronize a store to damage the producer or merchant monetarily, to influence its policy, and/or to attract attention to a social cause. This derives from Captain Charles C. Boycott, a notorious land agent whose neighbors ostracized him during Ireland's Land League rent wars in the 1880's.


A) Literally means a break. A breach may be a failure to perform a contract (breaking its terms), failure to do one's duty (breach of duty, or breach of trust), causing a disturbance, threatening, or other violent acts which break public tranquility (breach of peace), illegally entering property (breach of close), not telling the truth-knowingly or innocently-about title to property (breach of warranty), or, in past times, refusal to honor a promise to marry (breach of promise). B) The act of failing to perform one's agreement, breaking one's word, or otherwise actively violating one's duty to other.

Breach of contract

Failing to perform any term of a contract, written or oral, without a legitimate legal excuse. This may include not completing a job, not paying in full or on time, failure to deliver all the goods, substituting inferior or significantly different goods, not providing a bond when required, being late without excuse, or any act which shows the party will not complete the work ("anticipatory breach"). Breach of contract is one of the most common causes of law suits for damages and/or court-ordered "specific performance" of the contract.

Breach of the peace

Any act which disturbs the public or even one person. It can include almost any criminal act causing fear or attempting intimidation, such as displaying a pistol or shouting inappropriately.

Breach of trust

A) Any act which is in violation of the duties of a trustee or of the terms of a trust. Such a breach need not be intentional or with malice, but can be due to negligence. 2) breaking a promise or confidence.

Breach of warranty

Determination that a statement as to title of property, including real property or any goods, is proved to be untrue, whether intended as a falsehood or not. It can also apply to an assurance of quality of a product or item sold. The party making the warranty is liable to the party to whom the guarantee was made. In modern law the warranty need not be expressed in so many words, but may be implied from the circumstances or surrounding language at the time of sale.

Breaking and entering

A) The criminal act of entering a residence or other enclosed property through the slightest amount of force (even pushing open a door), without authorization. If there is intent to commit a crime, this is burglary. If there is no such intent, the breaking and entering alone is probably at least illegal trespass, which is a misdemeanor crime. B) the criminal charge for the above.


The crime of giving or taking money or some other valuable item in order to influence a public official (any governmental employee) in the performance of his/her duties. Bribery includes paying to get government contracts (cutting in the roads commissioner for a secret percentage of the profit), giving a bottle of liquor to ignore a violation or grant a permit, or selling stock at a cut-rate price. The definition has been expanded to include bribes given to corporate officials to obtain contracts or other advantages which are against company policy.


A) A written legal argument, usually in a format prescribed by the Courts, stating the legal reasons for the suit based on statutes, regulations, case precedents, legal texts, and reasoning applied to facts in the particular situation. A brief is submitted to lay out the argument for various petitions and motions before the court (sometimes called "points and authorities"), to counter the arguments of opposing lawyers, and to provide the judge or judges with reasons to rule in favor of the party represented by the brief writer. Ironically, although the term was originally intended to mean a brief or summary argument (shorter than an oral presentation), legal briefs are quite often notoriously long. B) To summarize a precedent case or lay out in writing a legal argument. Attentive law students "brief" each case in their casebooks, which means extracting the rule of law, the reasoning (rationale), the essential facts, and the outcome. C) To give a summary of important information to another person.


In general, a person who arranges contracts for particular transaction between a buyer and seller for a commission (a specified percentage of sales price). These include real estate brokers, insurance brokers, and stockbrokers, who are the upper-level of stock salespersons and/or the operators of brokerage houses. Brokers in the more technical fields (as above) are regulated and licensed and have a "fiduciary" duty to act in the best interests of the customer. Consumers should investigate whether the broker is representing the customer's best interest or just wants to make a sale. A "pawnbroker" is a lender for items left for security ("hocked") at high rates.

Brought to trial

The act of actually commencing a trial, usually signaled by swearing in the first witness (not the impanelling of the jury or commencing opening statements).

Bucket shop

An unofficial and usually illegal betting operation in which the prices of stocks and commodities are posted and the customers bet on the rise and fall of prices without actually buying stock, commodities, or commodity futures. Bucket shops are seldom seen today since there are many opportunities to gamble legally on the stock and commodities markets.

Building and loan

Another name for savings and loan association. These institutions are meant to provide loans for building a house after the depositor has saved enough for a down payment.

Bulk sale

The sale of large part of a merchant's goods as well as equipment. This generally applies to retailers, restaurants, and other businesses with inventories.

Bulk transfer

Sale of something in bulk


Anything that results in a restrictive load upon something. This includes a "burden" on interstate commerce (which is any matter which limits, restricts or is onerous such as a license or fee for passage), and "burdens" on land such as zoning restrictions or the right of a neighbor to pass over the property to reach his home (easement).

Burden of proof

In case of a civil suit, Plaintiff is required to show by a "preponderance of evidence" or "weight of evidence" that all the facts necessary to win a judgment are presented and are probably true. In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is on prosecutor to prove the guilt of the accused "beyond a reasonable doubt,". Unless there is a complete failure to present substantial evidence of a vital fact (usually called an "element of the cause of action"), the ultimate decision as to whether the plaintiff has met his/her burden of proof rests with the Jury or the Judge if there is no jury. Burden of proof may shift on defendant in some cases.


The crime of breaking and entering into a structure for the purpose of committing a crime. A burglary is not necessarily for theft. It can apply to any crime, such as assault or sexual harassment, whether the intended criminal act is committed or not. No great force is needed (pushing open a door or slipping through an open window is sufficient) if the entry is unauthorized.


Any enterprise entered into an agreement for profit. It does not only include a company, a corporation, partnership but it can also range from a street peddler to TATA. It is sometimes significant to determine if an accident, visit, travel, meal or other activity was part of "business" or for pleasure or no particular purpose.

Business invitee

A person entering commercial premises for the purpose of doing business, rather than just taking a short cut to the next street. It is important since a business is liable to a business invitee for injury caused by dangerous conditions such as bad floors or oil on the linoleum. There is a presumption that anyone entering a retail store or restaurant in which one may browse is a business invitee unless there is evidence to the contrary.

But for rule

One of several tests to determine if a defendant is responsible for a particular happening. In this test, was there any other cause, or would it have occurred "but for" the defendant's actions?

Buy-sell agreement

A contract among the owners of a business which provides terms for their purchase of a withdrawing partner's or stockholder's interest in the enterprise.


The written rules for conduction of business for a corporation, association, partnership or any organization. Bylaws generally provide for meetings, notices, types and duties of officers, committees, assessments, elections of a board of directors and officers, filling vacancies and other routine conduct. Bylaws are in effect a contract among members and must be formally adopted and/or amended.