In law, a termination or diminishment. Commonly used to refer to a reduction
of something owed by the person to whom it is owed. A landlord might grant
abatement in rent by reducing the amount owed. Estate law may use the term more
specifically. When an estate is settled, debts must be paid off before any
willed property can be distributed. If property has to be sold to pay off the
deceased's debts, it cannot then be gifted to the beneficiary. It is then said
to "abate". The gift has been terminated or diminished before it could be given.
See also "ademption".
To carry a person away by force or fraud. This term applies only to a person
- a thing cannot be abducted. See also "kidnapping".
To aid, encourage or incite another to do wrong. "Aiding and abetting" is a
crime in many countries.
A Latin term meaning "from the beginning".
A clause in a contract that allows the terms of the contract to become fully
due immediately if a payment is missed, or some other default in the debtor's
obligation occurs (such as the debtor becoming insolvent).
In law, acceptance is an express or implied act that accepts the terms and
obligations of a contract or agreement. It is one of three requisites to a valid
contract under common law (the other two being an offer and consideration). No
contract can exist until it is accepted, but the contract begins at the moment
of acceptance. See also "acquiescence".
Accord and Satisfaction
To quote from the case of British Russian Gazette & Trade Outlook Ltd. v.
Associated Newspapers Ltd. (1933) 2 K.B. 616: "Accord and satisfaction is the
purchase of a release from an obligation arising under contract or tort by means
of any valuable consideration, not being the actual performance of the
obligation itself. The accord is the agreement by which the obligation is
discharged. The satisfaction is the consideration which makes the agreement
operative." An example of this would be to buy out the contract of an employee,
rather than insisting the contract be fulfilled. In this example, the accord
would be the agreement that the employee leave and not pursue legal action
against the employer, and the satisfaction would be the money paid to buy out
The addition to land by the gradual addition of soil. This can happen by
erosion washing soil onto an area; by flooding doing the same; or by a permanent
retreat of water from land. A similar term is avulsion, but this refers more to
a sudden transference rather than a gradual one.
To consent or agree without action or protest. Inaction can bind a person
legally just as direct action can. Implied recognition of the terms of a
contract can be as binding as direct acceptance of that contract. For instance,
if one reads a magazine at a magazine stand and tears out a page or coupon, one
is obligated to pay for the magazine since that is an implied acceptance of the
magazine. Acquiescence can also occur by failure to take action in a timely
fashion. Failure to act before a known deadline can create a contractual
A bill which has passed through the various legislative steps required for it
and which has become law.
Act of God
An event, usually a disaster, caused solely by the effect of nature or
natural causes. Insurance contracts often waive their obligations for damage
caused by hurricanes, floods or earthquakes, calling them "acts of God". See
also "force majeure".
Latin: refers to the parts or sections of a petition that speaks to the
damages that were suffered and claimed by the plaintiff. The ad damnum part of a
petition will usually suggest an amount in dollars that the plaintiff asks the
court to award.
An addition to a written document. A petition maybe added to a writ and thus
become an addendum.
From the Latin meaning "to take away". This refers to a legacy that is
extinguished by the testator by disposal of the property before his death.
Property not in the possession of the testator at the time of death cannot be
A contract presenting at the point of sale, setting out the terms and
conditions of the sale. There is no opportunity for negotiation and the terms
are usually to the advantage of the seller. Known as the "fine print".
Latin: for this purpose; for a specific purpose; a special case only. An ad
hoc committee, for example, is created with a unique and specific purpose or
task and once it has studied and reports on the matter, it stands disbanded
(compare with standing committee).
Latin: endlessly; without limit; indefinitely. Abbreviated "ad inf".
Latin: for the suit. A person appointed only for the purposes of prosecuting
or defending an action on behalf of another such as a child or mentally
challenged person. Also called a guardian ad litem.
Synonymous with "natural justice." Administrative law is that body of law
that applies for hearings before quasi-judicial or administrative tribunals.
This would include, as a minimum, the principles of natural justice as embodied
in audi alteram partem and nemo judex in sua causa. Many quasi-judicial
organizations or administrative tribunals supplement the rules of natural
justice with their own detailed rules of procedure.
Hybrid adjudicating authorities that straddle the line between government and
the courts. Between routine government policy decision-making bodies and the
traditional court forums lies a hybrid, sometimes called a "tribunal" or
"administrative tribunal" and not necessarily presided by judges. These operate
as a government policy-making body at times but also exercise a licensing,
certifying, approval or other adjudication authority which is "quasi-judicial"
because it directly affects the legal rights of a person. Administrative
tribunals are often referred to as "Commission", "Authority" or "Board."
A person assigned by a court to manage and settle an estate in which the
deceased died without a will, or intestate. A female administrator is called an
"administratrix". See also "executor".
Abbreviation for alternative dispute resolution (which see).
Voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and another person who
is not the spouse. This is a legal ground for divorce in most countries. The
person who seduces another's spouse is known as the "adulterer."
Also often called "squatter's rights". The possession of land, without legal
title, for a period of time sufficient to become recognized as legal owner.
Different states stipulate different periods of time after which a squatter can
acquire legal title. Some states prohibit adverse possession.
Literally, "he who has made an oath". A statement in writing which the signer
swears to be true upon oath. The affidavit must be made before a notary public
or other official authorized to administer oaths. Courts will frequently accept
an affidavit instead of the testimony of a witness.
In law, a person who has received the power to act on behalf of another,
referred to as the "principal." The principal is bound as if he or she were
themselves making the decisions.
In tort law, special and highly exceptional damages awarded by a court to a
plaintiff or victim who has suffered particularly humiliating or malicious acts.
To transfer the ownership of property, especially real property, to another.
Literally, "food" or "support". An allowance paid to one spouse to another by
court order while they are separated or divorced. At one time, "alimony"
referred to support paid while the couple were separated but still married,
while "maintenance" referred to support paid after divorce. Today, "alimony" is
used for both circumstances.
A military treaty between two or more entities, providing for a mutually
planned offensive, or for assistance in the case of attack on any member.
Land ownership that is free of any superior claim and independent of rent,
payment in service, or any other kind of payment. Also known as "freehold".
A piece of paper which has been attached to a legal document to allow
signatures to be added because there is not enough room on the main document.
Alternative dispute resolution
Also known as "ADR"; resolution of legal conflicts and disputes other than
through litigation in the public courts. This is usually done through mediation
or arbitration (which see). A third party is appointed to preside over a hearing
between the parties, which is less formal than the court process. It is quicker
and less costly than court litigation and has the advantage of being private.
Its disadvantage is that it often involves compromise.
To join together into one, such as the amalgamation of different companies to
form a single company.
The highest ranking diplomatic position; a citizen officially appointed by
their country's government to legally represent it in another country.
Literally, "to walk". In law, something which can be changed or revoked, such
as a will.
In law, to change or to revise a written document.
Literally: friend of the court. Specifically, person or persons asking for
permission to intervene in a case in which they are not otherwise involved,
usually to present their point of view (or that of their organization) in a case
which has the potential of setting a legal precedent in their area of activity,
for example, in civil rights cases. In some instances, this can only be done
with the permission of the parties or the court.
Latin: an intention to contract.
To invalidate by court action; make void; to make as if it never had been.
For instance, a marriage can be annulled. It is struck from all records and
stands as having never transpired in law, unlike a divorce, which cancels a
valid marriage only from the date of the divorce. An action annulled stands, in
law, as if never performed.
Literally, "before date". To set an earlier date for an event, for instance
to date a check earlier than it was written.
Literally, "before marriage". An event or document which pre-dates a
marriage, such as an "antenuptial agreement" that is signed before the marriage.
Legislation which regulates business monopolies by preventing businesses from
price-setting or any other secret collaboration which circumvents the natural
forces of a free market economy and gives those engaging in the anti-trust
conduct, a covert competitive edge. Also known as "anti-combines" or
To transfer a case to a more senior court or person to rehear or review a
lower court ruling. In the USA, appeals can continue all the way up to the
Supreme Court, where the decision is final in that it can no longer be appealed.
To attend in court as any party to a civil or criminal suit. Appearance
implies your acceptance of the power of the court to try the matter (i.e.
"jurisdiction"). Most commonly appearances are made by lawyers on their clients'
behalf and any appearance by a lawyer binds the client. A limited appearance,
called a "special appearance", can be used to challenge the jurisdiction of the
court rather than imply acceptance. For instance, if you wished to raise the
fact that you were never properly served with the court papers you would make a
To divide and distribute something into proportionate parts; according to a
set plan. For example, if a court ordered apportionment of a contract, the party
would be required to perform only to an extent equal to the performance of the
Something that, although detached, stands as part of another thing. An
attachment or appendage to something else. Used often in a real estate context
where an "appurtenance" may be, for example, a right-of-way over water, which,
although physically detached, is part of the legal rights of the owner of
An alternative dispute resolution method by which an independent, neutral
third person ("arbitrator") is appointed to hear and consider the merits of the
dispute and renders a final and binding decision called an award. The process is
similar to the litigation process as it involves adjudication, except that the
parties choose their arbitrator and the manner in which the arbitration will
proceed. The decision of the arbitrator is known as an "award." Compare with
mediation. See also "alternative dispute resolution".
In USA criminal law, the formal appearance of an accused person to hear, and
to receive a copy of, the charge against him or her, in the presence of a judge,
and to then enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The arraignment is the final
preparatory step before the criminal trial.
A debt that is not paid on the due date adds up and accumulates as "arrears".
For example, if you do not pay your rent, the debt still exists and is referred
to as "arrears". The same word is used to describe child or spousal maintenance
or support which is not paid by the due date.
Some countries define "arson" as the intentional setting of a fire to a
building in which people live; others include as "arson" the intentionally
setting of a fire to any building. In either case, this is a very serious crime
and is punishable by a long jail sentence.
The touching of another person with intent to harm, without that person's
To give, to transfer responsibility, to another. The assignee (sometimes also
called "assigns") is the person who receives the right or property being given
and the assignor is the person giving.
Attorn or Attornment
To consent, implicitly or explicitly, to a transfer of a right. Often used to
describe a situation where a tenant, by staying on location after the sale of
the leased property, accepts to be a tenant of the new landlord; or where a
person consents to ("attorns to") the jurisdiction of a court which would not
have otherwise had any authority over that person.
An alternate word for lawyer or "barrister & solicitor", used mostly in the
USA. A person that has been trained in the law and that has been certified to
give legal advice or to represent others in litigation.
Audi alteram partem
Latin: a principle of natural justice which prohibits a judicial decision
which impacts upon individual rights without giving all parties in the dispute a
right to be heard. Habeas corpus was an early expression of the audi alteram
partem principle. In more recent years, it has been extended to include the
right to receive notice of a hearing and to be given an opportunity to be
represented or heard.
French word now part of English criminal law terminology. Refers to an
accused who cannot be tried for a crime because the record shows he has already
been subjected to trial for the same conduct and was acquitted. If the accused
maintains that the previous trial resulted in conviction, he or she pleads "autrefois
convict." "Autrefois attaint" is another similar term; "attainted" for a felony,
a person cannot be tried again for the same offence.
A vinculo matrimonii
Latin: of marriage. The term is now used to refer to a final and permanent
Land accretion that occurs by the erosion or addition of one's land by the
sudden and unexpected change in a river stream such as a flash flood.
Latin: a mother's brother. "Avuncular" refers to an uncle.