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Legal Dictionary B

Bad faith/Intent to deceive

A person who intentionally tries to deceive or mislead another in order to gain some advantage.

Bail Criminal law

A commitment made (and possibly secured by cash or property) to secure the release of a person being held in custody and suspected of a crime, to provide some kind of guarantee that the suspect will appear to answer the charges at some later date.

Bailee

One who receives property through a contract of bailment, from the bailor, and who may be committed to certain duties of care towards the property while it remains in his or her possession.

Bailment

Transfer of possession (of something) by the bailor to another person called the bailee, for some temporary purpose (eg. storage), after which the property is either returned to the bailor or otherwise disposed of in accordance with the contract of bailment.

Bailor

One who temporarily transfers possession of property to another, the bailee, under a contract of bailment.

Bankruptcy

The formal condition of an insolvent person being declared bankrupt under law. The legal effect is to divert most of the debtor's assets and debts to the administration of a third person, sometimes called a "trustee in bankruptcy", from which outstanding debts are paid pro rata. Bankruptcy forces the debtor into a statutory period during which his or her commercial and financial affairs are administered under the strict supervision of the trustee. Bankruptcy usually involves the removal of several special legal rights such as the right to sit on a board of directors or, for some professions that form part of the justice system, to practice, such as lawyers or judges. Commercial organizations usually add other non-legal burdens upon bankrupts such as the refusal of credit. The duration of "bankruptcy" status varies from state to state but it does have the benefit of erasing most debts even if they were not satisfied by the sale of the debtor's assets.

Bare trust

A trust in which all the duties imposed upon the trustee have been performed or any conditions or terms have come to fruition, such that there is no longer any impediment to the transfer of the property to the beneficiary. The trust is then said to have become passive for the trustee.

Barrister

A litigation specialist; a lawyer who restricts his or her practice to the court room. In England and some other Commonwealth jurisdictions, a legal distinction is made between barristers and solicitors. Solicitors have exclusive privileges of advising clients and providing legal advice. Barristers have exclusive privileges of appearing in a court on behalf of a client. In other words, solicitors don't appear in court on a client's behalf and barristers don't give legal advice to clients. A solicitor will "brief" a barrister in behalf of their client. In England, barristers and solicitors work as a team: a solicitor would typically make the first contact with a client and if the issue cannot be resolved and proceeds to trial, the solicitor would transfer the case to a barrister for the duration of the litigation. Lawyers in some countries, such as Canada, sometimes use the title "barrister and solicitor" even though, there is no legal distinction between the advising and litigating roles. Canadian lawyers, like American attorneys, can litigate or give legal advice.

Bastard

An illegitimate child, born of a relationship between two persons not married (i.e., not in wedlock) to each other, or who are not married to each other at the time of the child's birth. Conception out of wedlock does not usually constitute bastardy.

Bench

A judge in court session.

Beneficiary

Literally, one who benefits. In a legal context, a "beneficiary" usually refers to the person for whom a trust has been created. It may also be referred to as a "donee" or as a cestui que trust. Trusts are made to advantage a beneficiary (i.e., a "settlor" or "donor" transfers property to a trustee, the profits of which are to be given to the beneficiary).

Berne Convention

An international copyright treaty based on the principle of national treatment, called the Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. It was signed at Berne, Switzerland in 1886 and amended several times, as late as 1971. 77 nations now subscribe to it, including all major trading countries, with the notable exception of Russia.

Bigamy

Marriage to more than one person at the same time. This is a criminal offence in most countries.

Bill of exchange

A written order, for instance a check, from one person (the payor) to another (the payee), signed by the payor. It requires the person to whom it is addressed to pay (on demand or at some fixed future date), a certain sum of money, to either the person identified as payee or to any person presenting the bill of exchange. A check is a bill of exchange giving the order to pay to a bank.

Bill of lading

A document used by a transport company acknowledging receipt of goods, and serving as title for the purpose of transportation.

Blind trust

A trust set up by a settlor who cannot assert any power over the trust other than the right to terminate the trust. The trust is administered without any accounting to the beneficiary/settlor or allowing him the retention of any other measure of control over the trust's administration.

Bona vacantia

Property belonging to no person, and which may be claimed by a finder. In some states, the government becomes owner of all bona vacantia property.

Born out of wedlock

Illegitimate; illegitimacy; bastardy. Born of parents who were not married to each other at the time of birth.

Breach of contract

To fail to perform what one promised to perform under the terms of a contract. Proving breach of contract is a prerequisite for any suit for damages based on the contract.

Breach of trust

A "trustee" is created by the terms of a trust agreement or the law of trusts. Any act or omission on the part of the trustee which is inconsistent with those terms creates a "breach of trust". A prime example is the redirecting of trust property from the trust to the trustee's personal use.

Buggery

So-called "unnatural" sex acts, including copulation, either between two persons of the same sex or between a person and an animal (the latter act also known as "bestiality"). Homosexual activity is gradually being decriminalized, but bestiality is illegal in most countries. See also "sodomy".

Burden of proof

A rule of evidence requiring that a fact be proved or the contrary fact will be assumed by the court. In criminal trials, for example, the "burden of proof" lies with the prosecution. They must prove the accused guilty because innocence is presumed.