A) The list of cases which is called for trial before a particular Court; B) To set and give a date and time for a case, petition or motion to be heard by a Court.

Calendar call

The hearing at which a case is set for trial.


The demand by a corporation that a stockholder pay an installment or assessment on shares already owned


The intentional and generally vicious false accusation of a crime or other offence designed to damage one's reputation.


To annul, destroy, void and/or rescind a document. Cancelling can be done in several ways: tear up the document or mark on its face that it is cancelled, void, or terminated if the debt for which it stood has been paid. It is important that the document (like a promissory note) itself become no longer operative either by destruction or marking, so that it cannot be used again.


Act of cancelling anything


A punishment for crimes employed in certain Asian countries even for misdemeanors (lesser crimes) in which the convicted receives several lashes with a flexible "cane" meted out by a husky and skilled whipper.

Canon law

Laws and Regulations over ecclesiastical (church) matters which are developed between circa 1100 and 1500 and used by the Roman Catholic Church in reference to personal morality, status and powers of the clergy, administration of the sacraments and church and personal discipline. Canon law includes ordinances of general councils of the church, decrees, bulls and epistles of the Popes, and the scriptures and writings of the early fathers of the church. Canon law has within the Vatican in Rome, Italy, and in those nations in which the Catholic Church is the "official" church and where it prevails in religious matters which may affect all citizens (such as abortion and divorce). In Great Britain there is also a body of canon law dating back to pre-reformation in the 16th Century, which is used by the Anglican (Episcopal) Church. Canon law is not to be confused with professional canons, which are rules of conduct with no religious connection.


Slang for maximum, as the most interest that can be charged on an "adjustable rate" promissory note


A) The basic assets of a business (particularly companies or partnerships) or of an individual, including actual funds, property and equipment as distinguished from stock in trade, payroll, maintenance, inventory, and services. B) Related to the basic assets or activities of a business or individual, such as capital account, capital assets, capital expenditure, and capital gain or loss. C) An amount of money a person owns, as in "how much capital do you have to put into this investment?" as distinguished from the amount which must be financed.

Capital account

The record which comprises all basic assets of a business, not including inventory or the alleged value of good will.

Capital assets

Property, funds owned by a business and equipment.

Capital expenditure

Payment by a business for basic assets such as machinery, fixtures or property but not for day-to-day operations such as inventory, maintenance, payroll and advertising. Capital expenditures supposedly increase the value of company assets and are usually intended to improve productivity.

Capital gains

The difference between the sales price and the original cost including improvements of property.

Capital offense

Any criminal charge which is punishable by the death penalty, called "capital" since the accused could lose his/her head.

Capital punishment

Execution (death) of an accused for a capital offense.

Capital stock

The original amount paid by investors into a corporation for its issued stock. Capital stock bears no direct relationship to the present value of stock, which can fluctuate after the initial issue or first stock offering. Capital stock also does not reflect the value of corporate assets, which can go up or down based on purchases of equipment, profits and losses. Capital stock remains as a ledger entry at the original price.


A) The act of counting anticipated earnings and expenses as capital assets (equipment, property and fixtures) for accounting purposes. B) The amount of anticipated net earnings which hypothetically can be used for conversion into capital assets.

Capitalized value

Anticipated earnings which are discounted (given a lower value) so that they represent a more realistic current value since projected earnings do not always turn out as favorably as expected or hoped.


Unpredictable and subject to whim, often used to refer to judges and judicial decisions which do not follow the law, logic or proper trial procedure. A semi-polite way of saying a judge is inconsistent or erratic.


The first section of any written legal pleading (papers) to be filed, which contains the name, address, telephone number of the attorney, the person or persons the attorney represents, the court name, the title of the case, the number of the case, and the title of the documents (complaint, accusation, answer, motion, etc.). Each jurisdiction has its own rules as to the exact format of the caption.


In law, to be vigilant, attentive and prudent. Care means that a person does everything he/she is supposed to do (to prevent an accident). It is the opposite of negligence or negligent, which makes the responsible person liable for damages to persons injured. Court cannot find careful person responsible for damages from an accident in which he/she is involved.


A) Negligent. B) A careless act can result in liability for damages to others.

Carnal knowledge

Sexual intercourse between a male and female in which there is at least some slight penetration of the woman's vagina by the man's penis. It is legally significant in that it is a necessary legal characteristic or element of rape, child molestation, or consensual sexual relations with a female below the age of consent ("statutory rape").


In general, any person or business which transports people or property by any means of conveyance (bus, truck, auto, taxi, ship, airplane, railroad), almost always for a charge. The carrier is the transportation system and not the owner or operator of the system. There are two types of carriers: common carrier (in the regular business or a public utility of transportation) and a private carrier (a party not in the business, which agrees to make a delivery or carry a passenger in a specific instance).


In taxation accounting, using a current tax year's deductions, business losses or credits to refigure and amend a previously filed tax return to reduce the tax liability.

Carrying for hire

The act of transporting individuals or goods for a fee. It is important to determine if the carrier has liability for safe delivery or is subject to regulation.

Carrying on business

Engaging in a particular occupation on a continuous and substantial basis. There need not be a physical or visible business "entity" as such.


In taxation accounting, using a tax year's deductions, business losses or credits to apply to the following year's tax return to reduce the tax liability.


A) An arrangement among supposedly independent corporations or national monopolies in the same industrial or resource development field organized to control distribution, set prices, reduce competition, and sometimes share technical expertise. Often the participants are multinational corporations which operate across numerous borders and have little or no loyalty to any home country, and great loyalty to profits. The most prominent cartel is OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), which represents all of the oil producing countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Venezuela. Many cartels operate behind a veil of secrecy. 2) a criminal syndicate like the international drug cartel headquartered in Colombia.


This is a basic form of cause of action, lawsuit, or the right to sue (as in "does he have a case against Rahul?"). It is also shorthand for the reported decisions which can be cited as precedents.

Case law

Reported decisions of Courts of appeals and other Courts which make new interpretations of the law. Case law can be cited as precedents. These interpretations are distinguished from "statutory law," which is the statutes and codes (laws) enacted by legislative bodies; "regulatory law," which is regulations required by agencies based on statutes. The rulings in trials and hearings which are not appealed and not reported are not case law and, therefore, not precedent or new interpretations. Law students principally study case law to understand the application of law to facts and learn the courts' subsequent interpretations of statutes.

Case of first impression

A case in which a question of interpretation of law is presented which has never arisen before in any reported case.

Case system

The method of studying law generally used in Indian law schools, in which the students read, outline (brief), discuss and hear lectures about the cases. Each case presented stands for a particular rule of law in the subject matter covered and is contained in "casebooks" on particular topics (contracts, torts, criminal law, constitutional law, agency, etc.). The system is useful since it relates the law to real and factual situations which assist students in memorization and encourages deductive reasoning. The case system is reinforced by textbooks and outlines on the subject matter, which were formerly the principal sources of learning.

Cashier's check

A check issued by a bank on its own account for the amount paid to the bank by the purchaser with a named payee, and stating the name of the party purchasing the check (the remitter). The check is received as cash since it is guaranteed by the bank and does not depend on the account of a private individual or business. Cashiers' checks are commonly used when payment must be credited immediately upon receipt for business, real estate transfers, tax payments and the like.


Defining something that happens by chance, without being foreseen, or informally. This includes "casual" employment or labor, which is someone hired to do a task just because he/she was available at the moment. "Casual laborer" carries the implication that the laborer does not belong to a union and that the employer and the laborer will not pay appropriate taxes on the wages paid.


A) An accident which could not have been foreseen or guarded against, such as a shipwreck caused by storm or fire caused by lightning. B) The loss, as of life, from such an unavoidable accident. The Courts remain inconsistent on the exact definition.

Casualty loss

In taxation, loss due to damage which qualifies for a casualty loss tax deduction. It must be caused by a sudden, unexpected or unusual occurrence such as a storm, flood, fire, shipwreck, earthquake or act of God, but would not include gradual damage from water seepage or erosion.


A) To make something happen. B) The reason something happens. A cause implies what is called a "causal connection" as distinguished from events which may occur but do not have any effect on later events. C) Short for cause of action.

Cause of action

The basis of a lawsuit founded on alleged facts and legal grounds which, if proved, would constitute all the "elements" required by statute. Examples: to have a cause of action for a tort (civil wrong) there must have been negligence or intentional wrong-doing and failure to perform and for libel there must have been an untruth published which is particularly harmful. In many lawsuits there are several causes of action stated separately, such as fraud, breach of contract, and debt, or negligence and intentional destruction of property.


(kah-vee-ott) in Latin caveat for "let him beware." A) A warning or caution. B) A popular term used by lawyers to point out that there may be hidden defect or problem.

Caveat emptor

(kah-vee-ott emptor) in Latin it means "let the buyer beware." The basic premise that the buyer buys at his/her own risk and therefore should examine and test a product himself/herself for obvious defects and imperfections. Caveat emptor still applies even if the purchase is "as is" or when a defect is obvious upon reasonable inspection before purchase. Since implied warranties (assumed quality of goods) and consumer protections have come upon the legal landscape, the seller is held to a higher standard of disclosure than "buyer beware" and has responsibility for defects which could not be noted by casual inspection (particularly since modern devices cannot be tested except by use and many products are pre-packaged).

Cease and desist order

An order of a Court or government agency to a person, business or organization to stop doing something upon a strong showing that the activity is harmful and/or contrary to law. The order may be permanent or hold until a final judicial determination of legality occurs. In many instances the activity is believed to cause irreparable damage such as receipt of funds illegally, felling of timber contrary to regulation, selling of shares of stock without a proper permit, or oil drilling which would damage the ecology.

Certificate of deposit (CD)

A document issued by a bank in return for a deposit of money which pays a fixed interest rate for a specified period. Interest rates on CD's are usually higher than savings accounts because banking institutions require a commitment to leave money in the CD for a fixed period of time. Often there is a financial penalty (fee) for cashing in a CD before the pledged time runs out.

Certificate of incorporation

Document which proves a company's existence upon the filing of articles of incorporation.

Certificate of title

Generally, the title document for a motor vehicle issued by the state in which it is registered, describing the vehicle by type and engine number, as well as the name and address of the registered owner and the lienholder (financial institution that loaned money to buy the car).

Certified check

A check issued by a bank which certifies that the maker of the check has enough money in his/her account to cover the amount to be paid. The bank sets aside the funds so that the check will remain good even if other checks are written on the particular account. Like a cashier's check, a certified check guarantees that it is immediately good since it is guaranteed by the bank and the recipient does not have to wait until it "clears."


(Sersh-oh-rare-ee) Awrit issued by higher Court to a lower Court to send all the documents in a case to it so the higher Court can review the lower Court's decision.

Cestui que trust

(ses-tee kay, but lawyers popularly pronounce it setty kay) A) An old-fashioned expression for the beneficiary of a trust. V) "The one who trusts" or the person who will benefit from the trust and will receive payments or a future distribution from the trust's assets.

Cestui que use

(pronounced ses-tee kay use or setty kay use) n. an old-fashioned term for a person who benefits from assets held in a trust for the beneficiary's use. The term "beneficiary" is now used instead

Chain of title

The succession of ownership or title to real property from the present owner back to the original owner at some distant time. Chains of title include judgments of distribution from estates, certificates of death of a joint tenant, notations of deeds, foreclosures, judgments of quiet title (lawsuit to prove one's right to property title) and other recorded transfers (conveyances) of title to real property. Usually title companies or abstractors are the professionals who search out the chain of title and provide a report so that a purchaser will be sure the title is clear of any claims.


The private office of a Judge, usually close to the Courtroom so that the Judge can enter the Court from behind the bench and not encounter people on the way. Judges hear some motions, discuss formal legal problems like jury instructions, or conduct hearings on sensitive matters such as adoptions in chambers.


An agreement between the party suing in a lawsuit and another person, usually an attorney, who agrees to finance and carry the lawsuit in return for a percentage of the recovery (money won and paid). In common law this was illegal on the theory that it encouraged lawsuits.


In old English legal system, a chancellor is called a Judge who sits in what is called a chancery (equity) Court with the power to order something be done (as distinguished from just paying damages).


A Court that can order acts performed.

Change of circumstances

The principal reason for a Court modifying (amending) an existing order for the payment of alimony and/or child support. The change may be an increase or decrease in the income of either the party obligated to pay or the ex-spouse receiving payment, or the health, the employment, or needs of either party. Thus, if an ex-husband's income is substantially increased or the ex-wife becomes ill and cannot work, the judge may order the ex-husband to pay her more. Remarriage of a spouse who is receiving alimony automatically terminates the alimony order, unless there is a special provision that it continue, which is rare

Character witness

A person who testifies in a trial on behalf of a person (usually a criminal person) as to that person's good ethical qualities and morality both by the personal knowledge of the witness and the person's reputation in the community. Such testimony is primarily relevant when the party's honesty or morality is an issue, particularly in most criminal cases and civil cases such as fraud.


A) In jury trials, the oral instructions by the Judge to the jurors just before the jury begins deliberations. This charge is based on jury instructions submitted by attorneys on both sides and agreed upon by the trial judge. B) In a criminal case, the specific statement of what crime the party is accused charged with contained in the indictment or criminal complaint. C) A fee for services provided to any person.

Charitable contribution

In taxation, a contribution to an organization which is officially created for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, artistic, literary, or other good works. Such contributions are deductible from gross income, and thus lower the taxes paid.

Charitable remainder trust (charitable remainder irrevocable unitrust)

A form of trust in which the donor (trustor or settlor) places substantial funds or assets into an irrevocable trust (a trust in which the basic terms cannot be changed or the gift withdrawn) with an independent trustee, in which the assets are to go to charity on the death of the donor, but the donor (or specific beneficiaries) will receive regular profits from the trust during the donor's lifetime. The disadvantage is that the assets are permanently tied up or committed.


A) In general the sentiment of benevolence, doing good works, assisting the less fortunate, philanthropy and contributing to the general public. B) An organization which exists to help those in need or provide artistic, educational, scientific, religious assistance to members of the public. Charities are usually corporations established under state guidelines and require government approval in order for contributions to them to be deductible from gross income by donors.


The name for articles of incorporation as in a corporate charter.


An item of personal property which is movable, as distinguished from real property (land and improvements).

Chattel mortgage

An outmoded written document which made a chattel (tangible personal asset) security for a loan of a certain amount.


A draft upon a particular account in a bank, in which the drawer or maker (the person who has the account and signs the check) directs the bank to pay a certain amount to the payee (which may include the drawer, "cash," or someone else). Other checks include cashier's checks issued by the bank for a sum paid to the bank, and certified checks in which the bank sets aside an amount from the maker's bank account and then guarantees the check can be cashed immediately.

Chief justice

The presiding judge of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is appointed by the President as per procedure established by Constitution of India.


Aa person's natural offspring.

Child custody

A Court's determination of which parent, relative or other adult should have physical and/or legal control and responsibility for a minor (child) under eighteen. Child custody can be decided by a local Court in a divorce or if a child, relative, close friend or state agency questions whether one or both parents is unfit, absent, dead, in prison or dangerous to the child's well-being. In such cases custody can be awarded to a grandparent or other relative, a foster parent or an orphanage or other organization or institution. While a divorce is pending the Court may grant temporary custody to one of the parents, require conferences or investigation (if the parents cannot agree, custody is automatically referred to a mediator, commissioner or social worker) before making a final ruling. If the parents agree, the Court can award joint custody, physical and/or legal. Joint legal custody is becoming increasingly common. In most cases the non-custodial parent is given visitation rights, which may include weekends, parts of vacations and other occasions. The Court can always change custody if circumstances warrant.

Child support

Court ordered funds to be paid by one parent to the custodial parent of a minor child after divorce (dissolution) or separation. It may also include health plan coverage, school tuition or other expenses, and may be reduced during periods of extended visitation such as summer vacations. Child support generally continues until the child reaches eighteen years, graduates from high school, is emancipated (no longer lives with either parent), or, in some cases, for an extended period such as college attendance. The amount and continuation of support may be changed by the Court upon application of either party depending on a proved change of circumstance of the parents or child. Child support is not deductible from gross income for tax purposes (but may allow a dependent exemption) nor is it taxed as income, unlike alimony, which is deductible by the payer and taxed as the adult recipient's income.


The unethical and usually illegal practice of excessive buying and selling of shares of stock for a customer by a stockbroker or sales agent for the purpose of obtaining high sales commissions.

Circumstantial evidence

Evidence in a trial which is not of an eyewitness or participant and requires some reasoning to prove a fact. Such evidence is weak, but the probable conclusion from the circumstances may be so strong that there can be little doubt as to a vital fact ("beyond a reasonable doubt" in a criminal case, and "a preponderance of the evidence" in a civil case). Particularly in criminal cases, "eyewitness" ("I saw Amit looted to Manish") type evidence is often lacking and may be unreliable, so circumstantial evidence becomes essential. Prior threats to the victim, fingerprints found at the scene of the crime, ownership of the murder weapon, and the accused being seen in the neighborhood, certainly point to the suspect as being the killer, but each bit of evidence is circumstantial.


A) A notice to appear in Court in a civil matter in which the presence of a party appears necessary, usually required by statute, such as a person whose relatives wish to place him/her under a conservatorship (take over and manage his/her affairs). B) A notice to appear in Court due to the probable commission of a minor crime such as a traffic violation, drinking liquor in a park where prohibited, etc. Failure to appear can result in a warrant for the citee's arrest. C) The section of the statute or the name of the case as well as the volume number, the report series and the page number of a case referred to in a brief, points and authorities, or other legal argument. D) The act of referring to (citing) a statute, precedent-setting case or legal textbook, in a brief (written legal court statement) or argument in court, called "citation of authority."


A) To give notice of being charged with a minor crime and a date for appearance in Court to answer the charge rather than being arrested. B) To make reference to a decision in another case to make a legal point in argument.


Person who by place of birth, nationality of one or both parents, or by going through the naturalization process has sworn loyalty to a nation.


A) Referring to one's basic rights guaranteed under the Constitution (and the interpretations and statutes intended to implement the enforcement of those rights) such as equitable taxation, freedom of speech, press, voting, religion and assembly. B) That part of the law that encompasses business, contracts, estates, domestic (family) relations, accidents, negligence and everything related to legal issues, statutes and lawsuits, that is not criminal law. In a few areas civil and criminal law may overlap or coincide.

Civil action

Any lawsuit relating to civil matters but does not include criminal prosecution.

Civil calendar

The list of lawsuits (cases) that are approaching trial in any Court. Attorneys and/or parties whose cases are coming to the top of the list receive notice of the "calling" of the civil calendar on a particular day for setting a trial date.

Civil code

The name for the collection of statutes and laws which deal with business and negligence lawsuits and practices.

Civil law

A) Generic term for non-criminal law. B) A system of laws and legal concepts which come down from old Roman laws established by Emperor Justinian, and which differ from English common law.

Civil liability

Responsibility for payment of damages or other Court-enforcement in a civil suit, as differed from criminal liability, which means open to punishment for a crime.

Civil liberties

Freedoms or Rights which are given to the people by legislation or Common Law, allowing the individual to be free to think, speak, organize, assemble, worship, or petition without government (or even private) interference or restraints. These liberties are protective in nature. While civil rights form a broader concept and include positive elements such as the right to an equal education, the right to participate in government or the right to use facilities.

Civil penalties

Surcharges or fines which are imposed by a Governmental Agency to enforce Regulations such as late payment of statutory fees, failure to obtain a license, etc.

Civil procedure

The complex and often confusing body of Rules and Regulations which establish the format under which civil lawsuits are filed, pursued and tried. Civil procedure refers only to form and procedure, and not to the substantive law which gives people the right to sue or defend a lawsuit.

Civil rights

Those rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution, including the right to equal treatment under the law of all people regarding enjoyment of life, liberty, property, protection and due process. Positive civil rights include the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a democratic society, such as equal access to public schools, recreation, transportation, public facilities, and housing, equal and fair treatment by law enforcement and the Courts and the right to vote.


A) The making of a demand for money due, for property, for enforcement of a right or from damages. If such a demand is not honored, it may result in a lawsuit. In order to enforce a right against a government agency (ranging for damages from a negligent bus driver to a shortage in payroll) a claim must be filed first. If rejected or ignored by the government, it is lawsuit time. B) To make a demand for money, for property, or for enforcement of a right provided by law.

Claim against a governmental agency

Any time one believes he/she has a right to payment for damages from the government or on an unpaid contract with a government agency (including city, county, state, school district) the first step is to file a written claim. Usually the time to file a claim is relatively brief. If the claim is rejected or ignored and the claimant wants to try again, the claimant must file a lawsuit within a time period usually shorter than other types of lawsuits.

Claim against an estate

Upon the death of a person and beginning of probate (filing of will, etc.), a person believing he/she is owed money should file a written claim promptly with the executor or administrator of the estate, who will then approve it, in whole or in part, or deny the claim. If the claim is not approved the claimant can demand a hearing to have the court determine his/her rights. The period for filing a claim begins upon publication of a death notice or a date specified by state law and continues for a few months (four in California, for example). If there is no probate the claim should be made to the heirs.

Claim in bankruptcy

The written claim which is filed by businesses or persons owed money (creditors) by a party who files for bankruptcy (debtor) to benefit from the distribution if money becomes available. The known creditors receive written notice of the bankruptcy and will receive a creditor's claim form. They may also receive notice that the bankrupt party has no assets to distribute and that they should not file a claim until further notice (this is bad news for the creditor).


All those persons in the same category, level of rights or who have suffered from the same incident. Whether a person is part of a class is often crucial in determining who can sue on behalf of the people who have been similarly damaged or collect his/her share if a class action judgment is given.

Class action

A lawsuit which is filed by one or more people on behalf of themselves and a larger group of people "who are similarly situated." For examples: all those overcharged by a public utility during a particular period, all those who were underpaid by an employer in violation of the Labor Act. Class actions are difficult and expensive to file and follow through, but the results can be helpful to people who could not afford to carry a suit alone. They can force businesses that have caused broad damage or have a "public be damned" attitude to change their practices and/or pay for damages. They often result in high fees for the winning attorneys, although often attorneys do not collect a fee at the beginning of a class action suit but might charge a contingent fee (such as one-third of the final judgment), which, occasionally, can be millions of dollars. Such fees usually require Court approval. If a class action is successful, a period of time is given for those who can prove they fit the class to file claims to participate in the judgment amount.

Clean hands doctrine

A rule of law that a person coming to court with a lawsuit or petition for a court order must be free from unfair conduct (have "clean hands" or not have done anything wrong) in regard to the subject matter of his/her claim. His/her activities not involved in the legal action can be abominable because they are considered irrelevant. As an affirmative defense (positive response) a defendant might claim the plaintiff (party suing him/her) has a "lack of clean hands" or "violates the clean hands doctrine" because the plaintiff has misled the defendant or has done something wrong regarding the matter under consideration.

Clear and convincing evidence

Evidence that proves a matter by the "preponderance of evidence" required in civil cases and beyond the "reasonable doubt" which is needed to convict in a criminal case.

Clear title

Holding ownership of real property without any claims by others on the owner's title and no history of past claims which might affect the ownership.


A) A person who works in an office or a store who performs physical work such as filing, stocking shelves, or counter sales. B) An official or employee who handles the business of a Court or a system of Courts, maintains files of each case, and issues routine documents. C) A young lawyer who assists a judge or a senior attorney in research and drafting of documents, usually for a year or two, and benefits in at least two ways: learning from the judge or attorney and enjoying association with them.

Close corporation

A corporation which is permitted by law to operate more informally than most corporations (allowing decisions without meetings of the board of directors) and has only a limited number of shareholders. Usually a close corporation's shareholders are involved in the actual operation of the business and often are family members.

Closed shop

A business that will hire only union members by choice or by agreement with the unions.


The final step in the sale and purchase of real estate in which a deed of title, financing documents, title insurance policies, and remaining funds due are exchanged. Some of the final documents, including the deed and mortgage or deed of trust, are then delivered to the county recorder to be recorded. Depending on local practice, the closing is handled by a title company, escrow holder or attorney.

Closing argument

The final argument by an attorney on behalf of his/her client after production of all evidence on behalf of both sides. The lawyer for the plaintiff or prosecution (in a criminal case) makes the first closing argument, followed by counsel for the defendant, and then the plaintiff's attorney can respond to the defense argument. Closing argument may include opinions on the law, comment on the opposing party's evidence, and usually requests a judgment or verdict favorable to the client.

Cloud on title (cloud)

An actual or apparent outstanding claim on the title to real property. "Clouds" can include an old mortgage or deed of trust with no recording showing the secured debt was paid off, a failure to properly transfer all interests in the real property (such as mineral rights) to a former owner, a previous deed which was improperly written or signed, an unresolved legal debt or levy by a creditor or a taxing authority, or some other doubtful link in the chain of title. Often the "cloud" can be removed by a quiet title action, by finding a person to create or execute a document to prove a debt had been paid or corrected. Title companies will refuse to insure title to be transferred with a "cloud," or they will insure ownership except for ("insure around") the "cloud."


When two or more people sign a check or a promissory note, each is a comaker, and each is liable for the entire amount to be paid.


One more than one trustee of a trust serving at the same time, usually with the same powers and obligations is called co-trustee. The co-trustee must act in consultation with the other trustee(s), unless the language of the trust allows one co-trustee to act alone.


A collection of written laws, usually covering specific subject matter. Some codes are administrative and have the force of law even though they were created and adopted by regulatory agencies and are not actually statutes or laws. Despite their apparent permanence, codes are constantly being amended by legislative bodies.

Code of professional responsibility

A set of rules which is made for governing the ethical conduct of attorneys in the practice of the law. It covers such topics as conflicts of interest, honesty with clients, confidentiality and conduct toward other attorneys and the courts.


When more than one person or entity is sued in one lawsuit, each party sued is called a codefendant.


A written amendment to a person's Will, which must be dated, signed and witnessed just as a will would be, and must make some reference to the will it amends. A codicil can add to, subtract from or modify the terms of the original will. When the person dies, both the original will and the codicil are submitted for approval by the Court (probate) and form the basis for administration of the estate and distribution of the belongings of the writer.


To arrange and list of system of laws.


Living together in the same residence, generally either as husband and wife or for an extended period of time as if the parties were married. Cohabitation implies that the parties are having sexual intercourse while living together, but the definition would not apply to a casual sexual encounter. Legal disputes have arisen as to whether cohabitation would refer to same sex partners, which is important to those involved since "cohabitation" is the basis of certain rights and privileges under various laws, regulations and contracts. The findings of the courts vary on this question, but the trend is to include long-standing homosexual relationships as cohabitation.


An insurance policy in which the insurance company insures only a partial value of the property owned by the insured owner. Essentially the owner and the insurance company share the risk.

Collateral attack

A legal action to challenge a ruling in another case. For example, Amit has been ordered to pay child support in a divorce case, but he then files another lawsuit trying to prove a claim that he is not the father of the child. A "direct attack" would have been to raise the issue of paternity in the divorce action.

Collateral descendant

A relative descended from a brother or sister of an ancestor, and thus a cousin, niece, nephew, aunt or uncle.

Collateral estoppel

The situation in which a judgment in one case estops a party to that suit from trying to litigate the issue in another legal action. In effect, once decided, the parties are permanently bound by that ruling.


Where two persons or business entities through their officers or other employees enter into a deceitful agreement, usually secret, to defraud and/or gain an unfair advantage over a third party, competitors, consumers or those with whom they are negotiating. Collusion can include wage fixing, secret rebates, secret price or pretending to be independent of each other when actually conspiring together for their joint ends. It can range from small-town shopkeepers or heirs to a grandma's estate, to gigantic electronics companies.

Collusive action

A lawsuit brought by parties pretending to be adversaries in order to obtain by subterfuge an advisory opinion or precedent-setting decision from the court. If a Judge determines the action does not involve a true controversy he/she will dismiss it.

Color of law

The appearance of an act being performed based upon legal right or enforcement of statute, when in reality no such right exists. An outstanding example is found in the civil rights acts which penalize law enforcement officers for violating civil rights by making arrests "under color of law" of peaceful protesters or to disrupt voter registration. It could apply to phony traffic arrests in order to raise revenue from fines or extort payoffs to forget the ticket.

Color of title

The appearance of having title to personal or real property by some evidence, but in reality there is either no title or a vital defect in the title. One might show a title document to real property, but in reality he/she may have deeded the property to another; a patent to an invention may have passed to the inventor's widow, who sells the rights to one party and then, using the original patent documents, sells the patent to a second party based on this "color of title."


When one Court defers to the jurisdiction of another in a case in which both would have the right to handle the case.

Commencement of action

An action (a lawsuit) commences when the party suing files a written complaint or petition with the clerk of the Court.


A statement made by a Judge or an Attorney during a trial which is based on an alleged fact, but not a proven fact. If a comment is made in the presence of the jury, the jurors should be reminded it is not evidence and should not be considered.

Commercial frustration

An unforeseen uncontrollable event which occurs after a written or oral contract is entered into between parties, and makes it impossible for one of the parties to fulfill his/her duties under the contract. This circumstance allows the frustrated party to rescind the contract without penalty. Such frustration (called frustration of purpose) could include the destruction by fire of the goods to be purchased, the denial of a permit to construct a building by a potential buyer, or denial of an application for a zoning variance to allow expansion by a contractor.

Commercial law

All the law which applies to the rights, relations and conduct of persons and businesses engaged in commerce, merchandising, trade and sales.


The act of mixing the funds belonging to one party with those of another party, or, most importantly with funds held in trust for another. Spouses or business partners may commingle without a problem, except that a spouse may thus risk turning separate property into community property, and a business partner may have to account to the other. However, trustees, guardians or lawyers holding client funds must be careful not to commingle those funds with their own, since commingling is generally prohibited as a conflict of interest. Use of commingled funds for an investment, even though it might benefit both the trustee and the beneficiary, is still improper. Inadvertent commingling or temporary commingling requires prompt separation of funds and accounting to the client or beneficiary. To avoid commingling, trustees, lawyers, guardians and those responsible for another's funds set up trust accounts for funds of another.


A) A group appointed pursuant to law to conduct certain government business, especially regulation. B) A fee paid based on a percentage of the sale made by an employee or agent, as distinguished from regular payments of wages or salary.


A judge's order sending someone to jail or prison, upon conviction or before trial, or directing that a mentally unstable person be confined to a mental institution. Technically the judge orders law enforcement personnel to take the prisoner or patient to such places.

Common area

In condominium and some cooperative housing projects, the areas not owned by an individual owner of the condominium or cooperative residence, but shared by all owners, either by percentage interest or owned by the management organization. Common areas may include outdoor space, parking, recreation facilities, landscaping, laundry rooms, fences and all other jointly used space. Management is by a homeowners' association or cooperative board, which collects assessments from the owners and pays for upkeep, some insurance, maintenance and reserves for replacement of improvements in the common area. This can also refer to the area in a shopping center or mall outside of the individual stores, for which each business pays a share of maintenance based on percentage of total store space occupied.

Common carrier

An individual, a company or a public utility (like municipal buses) which is in the regular business of transporting people and/or freight. This is differed from a private carrier, which only transports occasionally or as a one-time-only event.

Common counts

Claims for debt alleged in a lawsuit (included in the complaint) which are general and alleged together so that the defendant cannot squirm out of liability on some technicality on one of the counts. Common counts may include claims of debt for goods sold and delivered, for work performed, for money loaned or advanced, for money paid requiring repayment, for money received on behalf of the plaintiff, or for money due on an account stated or on an open book account.

Common law

The traditional unwritten law of England, based on custom and usage. With a book on the "law of the monarchy" by a Duke of Cornwall, Queen Martia's work was translated into the emerging English language by King Alfred (849-899 A.D.). When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066, he combined the best of this Anglo-Saxon law with Norman law, which resulted in the English common law, much of which was by custom and precedent rather than by written code. By the 14th century legal decisions and commentaries on the common law began providing precedents for the courts and lawyers to follow. It did not include the so-called law of equity (chancery), which came from the royal power to order or prohibit specific acts.

Common property

A) Lands owned by the government for public (common) use, like parks and rivers. B) Real property owned by "tenants in common," who each have an "undivided interest" in the entire property. C) Property managed by a homeowners' association in a condominium project or a subdivision development, which all owners may use and each owns a percentage interest in.

Common stock

Stock in a corporation in which dividends are calculated upon a percentage of net profits, with distribution determined by the board of directors. Usually holders of common stock have voting rights. These are distinguished from preferred stock in which the profits are a predetermined percentage and are paid before the common shareholders who gamble on higher profits, and collectively have voting control of the corporation

Common-law marriage

An agreement between a man and woman to live together as husband and wife without any legal formalities, followed and/or preceded by cohabitation on a regular basis.

Community property

Profits and property received by a husband and wife during the marriage, with the exception of inheritances, specific gifts to one of the spouses, and property and profits clearly traceable to property owned before marriage, all of which is separate property. Community property recognizes the equal contribution of both parties to the marriage even though one or the other may earn more income through employment. By agreement or action the married couple can turn (transmute) separate property into community property, including by commingling community and separate funds in one account. Community property is recognized based on fact or agreement of the parties, rather than holding of title. Upon divorce community property is divided equally without regard to fault.


The act of reducing a criminal sentence resulting from a criminal conviction by the executive clemency of the Governor of the state, or President. This is not the same as a pardon, which wipes out the conviction or the actual or potential charge A pardon implies either that the conviction was wrong, that there has been complete rehabilitation of the party, or that he/she has lived an exemplary life for many years and deserves to have his/her name cleared in old age. Commutation implies the penalty was excessive or there has been rehabilitation, reform or other circumstances such as good conduct or community service. Commutation is sometimes used when there is evidence that the defendant was not guilty, but it would prove embarrassing to admit an outright error by the courts.

Commute a sentence

Please refer: commutation


Any business entity for profit, which may be a partnership, association or individual proprietorship or a corporation. Often people think the term "company" means the business is incorporated, but that is not true. In fact, a corporation usually must use some term in its name such as "corporation," "incorporated," "corp." or "inc." to show it is a corporation.

Comparative negligence

A rule of law applied in accident cases to determine responsibility and damages based on the negligence of every party directly involved in the accident.


A) The amount received to "make one whole" (or at least better) after an injury or loss, particularly that paid by an insurance company either of the party causing the damage or by one's own insurer. B) Payment for work performed, by salary, wages, commission or otherwise. It can include giving goods rather than money.

Compensatory damages

Damages recovered in payment for actual injury or economic loss, which does not include punitive damages (as added damages due to malicious or grossly negligent action).


A) In general senses, able to act in the circumstances, including the ability to perform a job or occupation, or to reason or make decisions. B) In criminal law, sufficiently mentally able to stand trial, if he/she understands the proceedings and can rationally deal with his/her lawyer. This is often broadly interpreted by psychiatrists whose testimony may persuade a court that a party is too psychotic to be tried. If the Court finds incompetency then the defendant may be sent to a mental facility until such time as he/she regains sanity. At that time a trial may be held, but this is rare. C) In Wills, trusts and contracts, sufficiently mentally able to understand and execute a document. To be competent to make a Will a person must understand what a will is, what he/she owns (although forgetting a few items among many does not show incompetency), and who are relatives who would normally inherit such as children and spouse (although forgetting a child in a will is not automatic proof of lack of competency, since it may be intentional or the child has been long gone). D) In evidence, "competent" means "relevant" and/or "material.


A person or entity who begins a lawsuit by filing a complaint and is usually called the plaintiff, or in some cases the petitioner.


The first document filed with the Court by a person or entity claiming legal rights against another. The party filing the complaint is usually called the complainant or plaintiff and the party against whom the complaint is filed is called the defendant or defendants. Complaints are pleadings which must be drafted carefully and stated the factual as well as legal basis for the claim. When the complaint is filed, the court clerk will issue a summons, which gives the name and file number of the lawsuit and the address of the attorney filing the complaint, and instructs the defendant that he/she/it has a specific time to file an answer or other response. A copy of the complaint and the summons must be served on a defendant before a response is required.

Compos mentis

(Com-pose-men-tis) In Latin it means "having a sound mind."

Compound interest

Payment of interest upon principal and previously accumulated interest, which increases the amount paid for money use above simple interest. Thus, it can increase more rapidly if compounded daily, monthly or quarterly.

Compound question

The combination of more than one question into what seems to be a single question asked of a witness during a trial or deposition. A compound question can be objected to by opposing counsel since it is confusing to the witness, who is entitled to answer each question separately. If the objection is sustained the question must be withdrawn and asked in a series of separate questions.

Compounding a felony

When a person injured by a felony (being robbed or shot) reaches an agreement with the one causing the harm that the injured party (victim) will not prosecute (complain to law authorities or testify) the apparent felon in return for money payment, reparations, return of stolen goods or other recompense.


An agreement between opposing parties to settle a dispute or reach a settlement in which each gives some ground, rather than continue the dispute or go to trial. Judges encourage compromise and settlement, which is often economically sensible, since it avoids mounting attorneys' fees and costs.

Compromise verdict

A decision made by a jury in which the jurors split the difference between the high amount of damages which one group of jurors feel is justified and the low amount other jurors favor. Since this is a "chance" verdict not computed on a careful determination of the damages, it may do an injustice to one party or the other, and is thus misconduct, which can result in an appeals court overturning the verdict.

Concealed weapon

A weapon which is kept hidden on one's person, or under one's control (in a glove compartment or under a car seat).


Failure in revealing information which someone knows and is aware that in good faith he/she should communicate to another. Examples include failure to disclose defects in goods sold, leaving out significant liabilities in a credit application, or omitting assets from a bankruptcy schedule to keep them from being available for distribution to creditors.


A) In general sense, the end. B) In a trial or Court hearing, a final determination of the facts by the jury or judge) and/or a judge's decision on the law. C) In a trial, when all evidence has been introduced and final arguments made, so nothing more can be presented, even if a lawyer thinks of something new or forgotten.

Conclusion of fact

In a trial, the final result of an analysis of the facts presented in evidence, made by the trier of fact. When a judge is the trier of fact he/she will present orally in open court or in a written judgment his/her findings of fact to support his/her decision. In most cases either party is entitled to written conclusion of facts if requested.

Conclusion of law

A Judge's final decision on a question of law which has been raised in a trial or a Court hearing, particularly those issues which are vital to reaching a statement. These may be presented orally by the Judge in open Court, but are often contained in a written judgment in support of his/her judgment such as an award of damages or denial of a petition. In most cases either party is entitled to written conclusions of law if requested.

Concurrent sentences

Sentences for more than one crime which are to be served at one time. When a criminal defendant is convicted of two or more crimes, a judge sentences him/her to a certain period of time for each crime. Then out of compassion, leniency, plea bargaining or the fact that the several crimes are interrelated, the judge will rule that the sentences may all be served at the same time, with the longest period controlling.


A) For a governmental agency to take private property for public use under the right of eminent domain, but constitutionally the property owner must receive just compensation. If an agreement cannot be reached then the owner is entitled to a court determination of value in a condemnation action (lawsuit), but the public body can take the property immediately upon deposit of the estimated value. B) To sentence a convicted defendant to death. C) To send to prison. D) for a public agency to determine that a building is unsafe or unfit for habitation and must be torn down or rebuilt to meet building and health code requirements.


The legal process by which a governmental body exercises its right of "eminent domain" to acquire private property for public uses (schools, redevelopment, etc.). Condemnation includes a resolution of public need, an offer to purchase, and, if a negotiated purchase is not possible, then a condemnation suit. The government may take the property at the time of suit if it deposits money with the court in the amount of the government's appraisal.

Condemnation action

A lawsuit brought by a public agency to acquire private property for public purposes for example highways, hospitals, schools, parks, redevelopment, civic buildings and a determination of the value to be paid. While the government has the right to acquire the private property (eminent domain), the owner is entitled under the Constitution to receive just compensation to be determined by a court.


A requirement stated in a contract, which must be fulfilled for the other party to have the duty to fulfill his/her obligations.

Condition precedent

A) In a deed to real property, an event which has to occur before the title (or other right) to the property will actually be in the name of the party receiving title. B) In a contract, an event which must take place before a party to a contract must perform or do their part.

Condition subsequent

A) In a deed to real property, an event which terminates a person's interest in the property. B) In a contract, a happening which terminates the duty of a party to perform or do his/her part.

Conditional bequest

In a Will, a gift which will take place only if a particular event has happend by the time the maker of the Will dies.

Conditional sale

A sale of property or goods which will be completed if certain conditions are fulfilled (as agreed) by one or both parties to the transaction.


Title to a unit of real property which, in reality, is the airspace which an apartment, office or store occupies. An increasingly common form of property title in a multi-unit project, condominiums actually date back to ancient Rome, hence the Latin name. The owner of the condominium also owns a common tenancy with owners of other units in the common area, which includes all the driveways, parking, elevators, outside hallways, recreation and landscaped areas, which are managed by a homeowners' or tenant's association. If the condominium unit is destroyed by fire or other disaster, the owner has the right to rebuild in his/her airspace.


A) To forgive the marital infidelity of one's spouse and resume marital sexual relations on the condition that the sin is not repeated. B) To forgive, support, and/or overlook moral or legal failures of another without protest, with the result that it appears that such breaches of moral or legal duties are acceptable. An employer may overlook an employee overcharging customers or a police officer may look the other way when a party uses violent self-help to solve a problem.


In criminal law, making statement voluntarily that one is guilty of a criminal offense. This admission may be made to a law enforcement officer or in court either prior to or upon arrest, or after the person is charged with a specific crime. A confession must be truly voluntary and not forced by threat, torture, or trickery.


The statement of someone charged with a crime that he/she committed the crime. Such an admission is generally put in writing by the confessor, law enforcement officers or their stenographer and then read and signed by the confessor. If the confessor cannot read English, he/she has the right to have his/her confession read aloud or translated. It can be used against the confessor in trial (and his/her co-accused) if it is truly voluntary.

Confession and avoidance

When a person admits the allegations in a complaint against him/her in a lawsuit or accusations in a criminal case but alleges other facts (affirmative defenses) to show that the original allegations do not prove a case against him/her. Often this means the person confesses to the accuracy of the stated facts and tries to avoid their legal impact.

Confession of judgment

A written agreement in which the defendant in a lawsuit admits liability and accepts the amount of agreed-upon damages he/she must pay to plaintiff (person suing him/her), and agrees that the statement may be filed as a court judgment against him/her if he/she does not pay or perform as agreed. This avoids further legal proceedings and may prevent a legal judgment being entered if the terms are fulfilled by the defendant.

Confidence game

The obtaining of money from others through trick or swindle, generally by gaining the victim's trust and confidence

Confidential communication

Written communications which can be kept confidential and need not be disclosed in Court as evidence, answered by a witness either in depositions or trial, or provided to the parties to a lawsuit or their attorneys. This is based on the inherent private relationship between the person communicating and the confidant's occupation or relationship to him/her. They include communications between husband and wife, lawyer and client, physician or other medical person (most therapists) and patient, minister or priest and parishioner (or anyone seeking spiritual help), and journalist.

Confidential relation

A relationship in which one person has confidence in and beiefs on another because of some combination of a history of trust, older age, family connection and/or superior training and knowledge, to a point where the party relied upon dominates the situation, for good or bad. While it may include attorney and client, stockbroker and customer, real estate agent and buyer, a senior family member and an unsophisticated relative, the relationship is defined on a case-by-case basis, with reliance and dominance the key factors. In this situation, the trusting party does not have to be as vigilant or suspicious as with strangers or people who are not relied upon.


To take one's goods or property without legal right, although there may appear to be some lawful basis. In the case of a government seizing property, it may include taking without the just compensation as guaranteed by the Constitution.

Conflict of interest

A situation in which a person has a duty to more than one person or organization, but cannot do justice to the actual or potentially adverse interests of both parties. This includes when an individual's personal interests or concerns are inconsistent with the best for a customer, or when a public official's personal interests are contrary to his/her loyalty to public business. An attorney, an accountant, a business adviser or realtor cannot represent two parties in a dispute and must avoid even the appearance of conflict. He/she may not join with a client in business without making full disclosure of his/her potential conflicts.


A) The right of a criminal defendant "to be confronted with the witnesses against him". Confrontation includes the right to object to the witness against him/her and to cross-examine that witness. B) Fight or argument.

Confusingly similar

In the law of trademarks, when a trademark, logo or business name is so close to that of a pre-existing trademark, logo or name that the public might misidentify the new one with the old trademark, logo or name. Such confusion may not be found if the products or businesses are clearly not in the actual or potential product markets or geographic area of the other.

Conjugal rights

A spouse's so-called "rights" to the comforts and companionship from his/her mate, relating to sexual relations.

Conscientious objector

A person who refuses to serve in the military due to religious or strong philosophical views against war or killing.

Conscious parallelism

An undiscussed imitation by a business of a competitor's action, such as changing prices up or down without the active conspiracy between business rivals, which would make this coincidental activity a violation of anti-trust laws.


A) To agree to an act or proposal of another voluntarily, which may range from contracts to sexual relations. B) Voluntary agreement to another's proposition.

Consent decree

An order of a judge based upon an agreement, almost always put in writing, between the parties to a lawsuit instead of continuing the case through trial or hearing. It cannot be appealed unless it was based upon fraud by one of the parties, mutual mistake or if the Court does not have jurisdiction over the case or the parties. A consent decree is a common practice when the government has sued to make a person or corporation comply with the law or the defendant agrees to the consent decree (often not to repeat the offense) in return for the government not pursuing criminal penalties. In general a consent decree and a consent judgment are the same.

Consent judgment

A judgment which is adjudicated by a Judge based on an agreement between the parties to a lawsuit to settle the matter, aimed at ending the litigation with a judgment that is enforceable.

Consequential damages

Damages claimed and/or awarded in a lawsuit which were caused as a direct foreseeable result of wrongdoing.


A person whom a court has determined because of physical or mental limitations or just plain old age requires a conservator to handle his/her financial affairs, and/or his/her actual personal activities such as arranging a residence, health care and the like.


A guardian and protector appointed by a judge to protect and manage the financial affairs and/or the person's daily life due to physical or mental limitations or old age. The conservator may be only of the "estate" (meaning financial affairs), but may be also of the "person," when he/she takes charge of overseeing the daily activities, such as health care or living arrangements of the conservatee. The process is that a relative or friend petitions the appropriate local court for appointment of a specific conservator, with written notice served on the potential conservatee. The object of this concern is interviewed by a court-appointed investigator to determine need, desire and understanding of the potential conservatee as well as the suitability of the proposed conservator. An open hearing is held before the appointment is made. The conservator is required to make regular accountings which must be approved by the court. The conservator may be removed by order of the court if no longer needed, upon the petition of the conservatee or relatives, or for failure to perform his/her duties.


A) payment or money. B) Consideration is a benefit which must be bargained for between the parties, and is the essential reason for a party entering into a contract. Consideration must be of value and is exchanged for the performance or promise of performance by the other party (such performance itself is consideration). In a contract, one consideration (thing given) is exchanged for another consideration. Contracts may become unenforceable or rescindable (undone by rescission) for "failure of consideration" when the intended consideration is found to be worth less than expected, is damaged or destroyed, or performance is not made properly. Acts which are illegal or so immoral that they are against established public policy cannot serve as consideration for enforceable contracts.


A) To deliver to a carrier to be taken to an agent of the sender. C) To deliver goods to a merchant to sell on behalf of the party delivering the items, as distinguished from transferring to a retailer at a wholesale price for re-sale. C) When a debtor has belongings but no money to pay his/her creditors and deposits his/her goods with a trustee who will sell them to raise money to pay the owner's debts and creditors. This is done by agreement between a debtor and his/her creditors or by order of a judge.


A person or business holding another's goods for sale or for delivery to a designated agent.


The act of consigning goods to one who will sell them for the owner or transport them for the owner.


A) The marital relationship, particularly sexual intimacies, between husband and wife. Consortium arises in a lawsuit as a claim of "loss of consortium." Often it means that due to one spouse's injuries or emotional distress he/she cannot have sexual relations for a period of time or permanently, which is a loss to the mate for which he/she should be awarded damages. B) A group of separate businesses or business people joining together and cooperating to complete a project, work together to perform a contract or conduct an on-going business.


When people agrees together by agreement to commit an illegal act then it is called conspiracy. A conspiracy may exist when the parties use legal means to accomplish an illegal result, or to use illegal means to achieve something that in itself is lawful. A conspiracy can be criminal for planning and carrying out illegal activities, or give rise to a civil lawsuit for damages by someone injured by the conspiracy.


A person or entity who enters into an agreement with one or more other people or entities to commit illegal acts, legal acts with an illegal object, or using illegal methods, to the harm others.

Constitutional rights

Rights which are provided to the people by the Constitution.


The act of a lawyer or Court in interpreting and giving meaning to a statute or the language of a document such as a contract or will when there is some ambiguity or question about its meaning. In constitutional law, distinction between liberal construction (broad construction) and strict construction (narrow construction) are existed. Liberal construction adds modern and societal meanings to the language, while strict construction adheres closely to the original language and intent without interpretation.


A legal fiction for treating a situation as if it were actually so. For examples: although amit does not have the jewelry in his possession, he has the key to the safe deposit box and the right to enter so he has "constructive possession".

Constructive eviction

When the landlord does not go through a legal eviction of a tenant but takes steps which keep the tenant from continuing to live in the premises. This could include changing the locks, turning off the drinking water, blocking the driveway, yelling at the tenant all the time or nailing the door shut.

Constructive fraud

When the circumstances show that someone's actions give him/her an unfair advantage over another by unfair means, the Court may decide from the methods used and the result that it should treat the situation as if there was actual fraud even if all the technical elements of fraud have not been proven.

Constructive notice

A fiction that a person got notice even though actual notice was not personally delivered to him/her. The law may provide that a public notice put on the courthouse bulletin board is a substitute for actual notice.

Constructive possession

When a person does not have actual possession, but has the power to control an asset, he/she has constructive possession.

Constructive trust

When a person has title to property and/or takes possession of it under circumstances in which he/she is holding it for another, even though there is no formal trust document or agreement. The court may determine that the holder of the title holds it as constructive trustee for the benefit of the intended owner. This may occur through fraud, breach of faith, ignorance or inadvertence.


To determine the meaning of the words of a written document, statute or legal decision, based upon rules of legal interpretation as well as normal, widely accepted meanings.

Consumer protection laws

Laws made to protect the consumer (the retail purchasers of goods and services) from inferior, adulterated, hazardous or deceptively advertised products, and deceptive or fraudulent sales practices.

Contemplation of death

The anticipation of death in a relatively short time due to age, injury, illness or great danger, which causes a person to make a gift, transfer property or take some other dramatic action.

Contempt of court

There are two types of contempt: A) Willful failure to obey an order of the Court; B) Being rude, disrespectful to the Judge or other Attorneys or causing a disturbance in the Courtroom, particularly after being warned by the Judge. This former can include failure to pay child support or alimony. Since the judge has discretion to control the courtroom, contempt citations are generally not appealable unless the amount of fine or jail time is excessive. "Criminal contempt" involves contempt with the aim of obstruction of justice, such as threatening a judge or witness or disobeying an order to produce evidence.


Connected or "next to", usually meaning adjoining pieces of real estate.


An event that might not occur.


Possible, but uncertain.

Contingent beneficiary

A person or entity named to receive a gift under the terms of trust, insurance policy or a will, who will only receive that gift if a certain event occurs or a certain set of circumstances happen.

Contingent fee

A fee to a lawyer which will be due and payable only if there is a successful conclusion of the legal work, usually winning or settling a lawsuit in favor of the client (particularly in negligence cases), or collecting funds due with or without filing a lawsuit. The fee is generally a percentage of the recovery, but may be partly a fee for time worked and partly a percentage.

Contingent interest

An interest in real property which, according to the deed (or a will or trust), a party will receive only if a certain event occurs or certain circumstances happen.

Contingent remainder

An interest, particularly in real estate property, which will go to a person or entity only upon a certain set of circumstances existing at the time the title-holder dies.


A postponement of a date of a trial, hearing or other Court appearance to a later fixed date by order of the Court, or upon a stipulation (legal agreement) by the attorneys and approved by the Court or by the clerk of the Court.

Continuing objection

An objection to certain questions or testimony during a trial which has been "overruled" by the judge, but the attorney who made the objection announces he/she is "continuing" the objection to all other questions on the same topic or with the same legal impropriety in the opinion of the attorney. Thus a "continuing" objection does not require an objection every time the same question or same subject is introduced. Example: the attorney for the plaintiff (the person suing) begins asking questions about emotional distress, which the defendant's attorney objects to as "immaterial," but the judge allows the first questions. The defense attorney states he has a "continuing" objection to all questions about the emotional distress.

Continuing trespass

The repeated unauthorized use of another's real property, as compared to an occasional illegal entry.


It means "against" or "opposite to".


A) To enter into an agreement. B) An agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as consideration. The existence of a contract requires finding the following factual elements: 1) an offer; 2) an acceptance of that offer which results in a meeting of the minds; 3) a promise to perform; 4) a valuable consideration (which can be a promise or payment in some form); 5) a time or event when performance must be made (meet commitments); 6) terms and conditions for performance, including fulfilling promises; 7) performance, if the contract is "unilateral". A unilateral contract is one in which there is a promise to pay or give other consideration in return for actual performance. A bilateral contract is one in which a promise is exchanged for a promise. Contracts can be either written or oral, but oral contracts are more difficult to prove. There are can be many types of contracts: "conditional" on an event occurring; "joint and several," in which several parties make a joint promise to perform, but each is responsible; "implied," in which the courts will determine there is a contract based on the circumstances.

Contract of adhesion

Refer also: adhesion contract


A) A person or entity that enters into a contract. B) A person who performs services but is not an employee, often called an "independent contractor." C) Commonly, a person or entity that agrees to construct a building or to provide or install specialized portions of the construction.


A) The sharing of a loss by each of several persons who may have been jointly responsible for injury to a third party, who entered into a business which lost money or who owe a debt jointly. Quite often this arises when one responsible party pays more than his share and then demands contribution from the others in proportion to their share of the obligation. B) Donation to a charity or political campaign.

Contributory negligence

A doctrine of common law that if a person was injured in part due to his/her own negligence (his/her negligence "contributed" to the accident), the injured party would not be entitled to collect any damages (money) from another party who supposedly caused the accident. Under this rule, a badly injured person who was only slightly negligent could not win in court against a very negligent defendant.


A) To exercise the power of control. B) The power to direct, manage, oversee and/or restrict the affairs, business or assets of a person or entity.

Controlled substance

A drug which has been declared to be illegal for sale or use, but may be dispensed under a physician's prescription. The basis for control and regulation is the danger of addiction, abuse, physical and mental harm (including death), the trafficking by illegal means, and the dangers from actions of those who have used the substances.


A) A dispute, which must be an actual contested issue between parties in order to be heard by a Court. B) Disagreement, argument or quarrel.


A civil wrong (tort) in which one converts another's property to his/her own use, which is a fancy way of saying "steals." Conversion includes holding onto such property which accidentally comes into the convertor's (taker's) hands, purposely giving the impression the assets belong to him/her or treating another's goods as one's own. This gives the true owner the right to sue for his/her own property or the value and loss of use of it, as well as going to law enforcement authorities since conversion usually includes the crime of theft.


To transfer title or official ownership to real property (or an interest in real property) from one (grantor) to another (grantee) by a written deed (or an equivalent document such as a judgment of distribution which conveys real property from an estate). It only applies to real property.


A generic term for any written document which transfers (conveys) real property or real property interests from one party to another. A conveyance must be acknowledged before a notary (or if a court judgment be certified as the same as the document on file) and recorded with the Recorder of Deeds.


A) A person who has been convicted for an offence and sent to prison. B) To find guilty of a crime after a trial.


The result of a criminal trial in which the accused has been found guilty of a crime.


A group of individual businesses, ranchers, farmers or manufacturers with similar interests, intending to cooperate in marketing, shipping and related activities (sometimes under a single brand name) to sell their products efficiently, and then share the profits based on the production, capital or effort of each. Cooperatives include cotton gins and thousands of other enterprises of all sizes. There are also cooperatives in which consumers form retail outlets like grocery stores and share the profits based on the amount of patronage of each member, but they have found it difficult to compete with the giant supermarket chains. Some cooperatives exist to operate housing complexes.

Cooperative housing

An arrangement in which an association or corporation owns a group of housing units and the common areas for the use of all the residents. The individual participants own a share in the cooperative which entitles them to occupy an apartment as if they were owners, to have equal access to the common areas and to vote for members of the board of directors which manages the cooperative. A cooperative differs from a condominium project in that the owners of the condominium units actually own their space and a percentage interest in the common area. In a cooperative there are often restrictions on transfer of shares such as giving priority to other members, limits on income or maximum sales price.

Cop a plea

Slang for a "plea bargain" in which an accused in a criminal case agrees to plead guilty or "no contest" to a crime in return for a promise of a recommendation of leniency in sentencing to be made by the prosecutor to the Judge and/or an agreement by the prosecutor to drop some of the charges. Often the judge agrees to the recommendation before the plea is entered.


One who is a member of a partnership. The prefix "co" is a redundancy, since a partner is a member of a partnership. The same is true of the term "co-partnership."


The exclusive right of the author or creator of a literary or artistic works (such as a book, movie or musical composition) to print, copy, sell, license, distribute, transform to another medium, translate, record or perform or otherwise use (or not use) and to give it to another by Will. As soon as a work is created and is in a tangible form (such as writing or taping) the work automatically has copyright protection. On any distributed and/or published work a notice should be affixed stating the word copyright, copy or with the name of the creator and the date of copyright (which is the year of first publication).


A county official with the responsibility to determine the cause of death of anyone who dies violently (by attack or accident), suddenly, or suspiciously. The coroner or one of his/her staff must examine the body at the scene of such a death and make a report. If the cause is not obvious or certified by an attending physician, then the coroner may order a "coroner's inquest" which requires an autopsy (postmortem). If that is not conclusive, the coroner may hold a hearing as part of the inquest, although this is rare due to scientific advances in pathology.

Corporate opportunity

A business opportunity which becomes known to a corporate official, particularly a director or other upper management, due to his/her position within the corporation. In essence, the opportunity or knowledge belongs to the corporation, and the officials owe a duty not to use that opportunity or knowledge for their own benefit. The corporation may obtain an injunction (court order) to prevent someone's use of the knowledge or opportunity. In such cases angry stockholders may bring their own legal action for their benefit in what is called a derivative action. Such insider misappropriation (inappropriate use of information) may also be criminal theft, or be violative of securities laws.


An organization which is formed with state governmental approval to act as an artificial person to carry on business (or other activities). It can sue or be sued, and (unless it is non-profit) can issue shares of stock to raise funds with which to start a business or increase its capital. One benefit is that a corporation's liability for damages or debts is limited to its assets, so the shareholders and officers are protected from personal claims, unless they commit fraud. For private business corporations the articles of incorporation filed with the Secretary of State of the incorporating state must include certain information, including the name of the responsible party or parties (incorporators and agent for acceptance of service), the amount of stock it will be authorized to issue, and its purpose Corporation shareholders elect a board of directors, which in turn adopts bylaws, chooses the officers and hires top management (which in smaller corporations are often the directors and/or shareholders).


A) It means body. B) The principal (usually money, securities and other assets) of a trust or estate as distinguished from interest or profits.

Corpus delicti

(corpus dee-lick-tie) Latin means for the substantial fact that a crime has been committed, and in popular crime jargon, the body of the murder victim.

Corpus juris

The body of the law, meaning a compendium of all laws, cases and the varied interpretations of them.


To confirm and sometimes add substantiating testimony to the testimony of another witness or a party in a trial

Corroborating evidence

Evidence which strengthens or confirms already existing evidence.


To sign a promissory note or other obligation in order to share liability for the obligation

Cost bill

A list of claimed Court costs submitted by the prevailing (winning) party in a lawsuit after the Judge states his/her judgment formally called a "memorandum of costs." Statutes limit what can be included in these costs

Cost of completion

The amount of money (damages) required to complete performance (finish the job) when a contract has been breached by the failure to perform.


It means Court costs.


The situation when more than one person has an interest in real property at the same time, which may include tenancy in common, joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.


Holder of an interest in real property together with one or more others.


A) To give legal advice. B) A attorney, attorney-at-law, lawyer, counsellor, counsellor-at-law, solicitor, advocate, barrister or proctor (a lawyer in admiralty court), licensed to practice law.


A licensed attorney.


Each separate statement in a complaint which states a cause of action which, standing alone, would give rise to a lawsuit, or each separate charge in a criminal action. For example, in a criminal case each count would be a statement of a different alleged crime. There are also so-called common counts which cover various types of debt.

Counter offer

An offer which is made in response to a previous offer by the other party during negotiations for a final contract. Making a counter offer automatically rejects the prior offer, and requires an acceptance under the terms of the counter offer or there is no contract.


A retaliatory claim by a defendant against a plaintiff in a civil suit included in the defendant's answer and intending to off-set and/or reduce the amount of the plaintiff's original claim against the defendant.


A) To criminally forge or print a false copy of money, bonds, or other valuable documents, intending to profit from the falsity. B) Shorthand for phoney money passed for real. C) Describing a document, particularly money, which is forged or created to look real and intended to pass for real.


In the law of contracts, a written paper which is one of several documents which constitute a contract, such as a written offer and a written acceptance. Often a contract is in several counterparts which are the same but each paper is signed by a different party, particularly if they are in different localities.


In the midst of or actively involved in at that time, as "in course of employment, course of trade and course of business."

Course of employment

Actively engaged in a person's employment at a particular time, most likely when an accident occurred, which is required to make a claim for work-related injury under Worker's Compensation Acts.


A) Any official tribunal (court) presided over by a Judge or Judges in which legal issues and claims are heard and determined. B) The judge, as in "The Court rules in favor of the plaintiff."

Court calendar

The list of matters to be heard or set for trial or hearing by a Court.

Court costs

Fees for expenses in Court proceedings that the Courts pass on to attorneys, who then pass them on to their clients or to the losing party. Court costs usually include: filing fees, charges for serving summons and Court reporter charges for depositions, court transcripts and copying papers and exhibits. The prevailing party in a lawsuit is usually awarded Court costs. Attorneys' fees can be included as Court costs only if there is a statute providing for attorneys' fee awards in a particular type of case, or if the case involved a contract which had an attorneys' fee clause (commonly found in promissory notes, mortgages and deeds of trust).

Court docket

Refer : docket

Court of appeals

Any Court which hears appeals against judgments and rulings of trial Courts or lower appeals courts.

Court of law

Any tribunal within a judicial system.

Court trial

("non-jury trial"): a trial with a judge but no jury.


A) To charge a member of the military with an offense against military law or to find him/her guilty of such a violation. B) A military Court for trying offenses in violation of navy, army or other armed service rules and regulations, made up for military officers, who act as both finders of fact, a jury) and as judges of the law applying to the case.


A) To promise something. B) A promise in a written contract or a deed of real property. The term is used only for certain types of promises such as a covenant of warranty, which is a promise to guarantee the title to property, a promise agreeing to joint use of an easement for access to real property, or a covenant not to compete, which is commonly included in promises made by a seller of a business for a certain period of time. Mutual covenants among members of a homeowners association are promises to respect the rules of conduct or restrictions on use of property to insure peaceful use, limitations on intrusive construction, etc., which are usually part of the recorded covenants, conditions and restrictions which govern a development or condominium project. Covenants which run with the land, such as permanent easement of access or restrictions on use, are binding on future title holders of the property. Covenants can be concurrent, dependent, or independent.

Covenant not to compete

A common provision in a contract for sale of a business in which the seller agrees not to compete in the same business for a period of years or in the geographic area. This covenant is usually allocated (given) a value in the sales price.

Covenant that runs with the land

A promise which is contained in a deed to real estate or land which is binding upon the current owner and all future owners.


Whether testimony is worthy of belief, based on competence of the witness and likelihood that it is true. Unless the testimony is contrary to other known facts or is extremely unlikely based on human experience, the test of credibility is purely subjective.

Credible witness

A witness whose testimony is more than likely to be true based on his/her experience, knowledge, training and appearance of honesty and forthrightness, as well as common human experience. This is subjective in that the judge or jury may be influenced by the demeanor of the witness or other factors.


A person or entity to whom a debt is owed.

Creditor's claim

A claim which is required to be filed in writing, in a proper form by a person or entity owed money by a debtor who has filed a petition to declare the debtor bankrupt, or is owed money by a person who has died. Notice of the need to file a creditor's claim in the estate of a person who has died must be printed in a legal advertisement giving notice of death. Then a creditor has only a few months to file the claim, and it must be in a form approved by the courts.

Creditor's rights

Law which is dealing with the legal means and procedures to collect debts and judgments.


A violation of a law in which there is some injury to any member of the public and a term in jail or prison, and/or a fine as possible penalties. There is some sentiment for excluding from the "crime" category crimes without victims, such as consensual acts, or violations in which only the perpetrator is hurt or involved such as personal use of illegal drugs.

Crime against nature

An oldfashioned term for sodomy.

Crime of passion

An accused's excuse for committing a crime due to sudden anger or heartbreak, in order to eliminate the element of "premeditation." To make this claim the accused must have acted immediately upon the rise of passion, without the time for contemplation or allowing for "a cooling of the blood." The benefit of eliminating premeditation is to lessen the provable homicide to manslaughter with no death penalty and limited prison terms.


A) Describing certain acts or people involved in or relating to a crime. B) A popular term for anyone who has committed a crime, whether convicted of the offense or not. More properly it should apply only to those actually convicted of a crime. Repeat offenders are sometimes called habitual criminals.

Criminal attorney

An attorney who experts in defending people charged with crimes. Many advocates handle criminal defense but also have other clientele.

Criminal calendar

The list of criminal cases which is to be called in Court on a particular time and date. The criminal calendar may list arraignments, cases continued (put off) awaiting a plea of guilt or innocence, changes of pleas, bail settings, setting of hearing or trial dates, motions brought by attorneys, pronouncing sentences, appointment of public defenders or other attorneys, hearing reports of probation officers, and other business concerning criminal cases.

Criminal justice

A procedure by which criminal conduct is investigated, evidence gathered, arrests made, charges brought, defenses raised, trials conducted, sentences rendered and punishment carried out.

Criminal law

Those statutes which are dealing with crimes against the members of the public, with penalties and all the procedures connected with charging, trying, sentencing and imprisoning defendants convicted of crimes


After filing of complaint against a defendant for damages or other orders of the Court, the defendant may file a written complaint against the party suing him/her or against a third party as long as the subject matter is related to the original complaint. The defendant's filing of a complaint is called a cross-complaint, and the defendant is then called a cross-complainant and the party he/she sues is called a cross-defendant. The defendant must still file an answer or other response to the original complaint. If the cross-complaint is against the original plaintiff then it can be served on the plaintiff's attorney by mail, but a third party must be served in person with the cross-complaint and a new summons issued by the clerk of the court. The cross-defendants must then file answers or other responses. These are called pleadings which must be drafted very carefully.


The opportunity which is given to the attorney (or an unrepresented party) to ask questions in Court of a witness who has testified in a trial on behalf of the opposing party. The questions on cross-examination are limited to the subjects covered in the direct examination of the witness, but importantly, the attorney may ask leading questions, in which he/she is allowed to suggest answers or put words in the witness's mouth. A strong cross-examination (often called just "cross" by lawyers and judges) can force contradictions, expressions of doubts or even complete obliteration of a witness's prior carefully rehearsed testimony. On the other hand, repetition of a witness' story, vehemently defended, can strengthen his/her credibility.

Cruel and unusual punishment

Governmental penalties imposed upon convicted criminal defendants which are barbaric, involve torture and/or shock the public morality. Tortures like dismemberment, breaking bones, the rack or the thumbscrew, maiming, actions involving deep or long-lasting pain are all not allowed. But solitary confinement, enforced silence, necessary force to prevent injury to fellow prisoners or guards, psychological humiliation and bad food are generally allowed.


The intentional and malicious infliction of physical, psychological or mental pain on another is called cruelty.

Cruelty to animals

The crime of inflicting physical suffering, pain or death on an animal beyond necessity for normal discipline. It can include neglect that is withholding food and water.


Responsible for criminal acts or negligence to be at fault and liable for the conduct. Sometimes culpability rests on whether the person realized the wrongful nature of his/her actions and thus should take the blame.

Cumis counsel

An attorney employed by a defendant in a case when there is an insurance policy supposedly covering the claim, but there is a conflict of interest between the insurance company and the insured. Such a conflict might arise if the insurance company is denying full coverage.

Cumulative sentence

When a criminal defendant has been found guilty of more than one offense, the judge may sentence him/her to prison for successive terms for each crime. The other choice would be to sentence the defendant to a concurrent sentence, in which the lesser term would be merged with the longer, they would run at the same time, and thus result in a five-year term in the example.

Cumulative voting

In corporations, a system of voting by shareholders for directors in which the shareholder can multiply his voting shares by the number of candidates and vote them all for one person for director. This is intended to give minority shareholders a chance to elect at least one director whom they favor.


In old common law, the right of a surviving husband to a life estate in the lands of his deceased wife, if they had a surviving child or children who would inherit the land.


A) Law enforcement officials' act of holding an accused or convicted person in criminal proceedings, beginning with the arrest of that person. B) In domestic relations (divorce, dissolution of marriage) a Court's determination in respect of physical and/or legal control and responsibility for a minor child. C) Possession of property under one's control.

Cut a check

To write (prepare) and sign a check.

Cy pres doctrine

(see-pray doctrine) It means "as close as possible." When a gift is made by will or trust and the named recipient of the gift does not exist, has dissolved or no longer conducts the activity for which the gift is made, then the estate or trustee must make the gift to an organization which comes closest to fulfilling the purpose of the gift. Sometimes this results in heated court disputes in which a judge must determine the appropriate substitute to receive the gift.