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Legal Dictionary O

Oath

A religious or solemn affirmation to tell the truth or to take a certain action.

Obiter dictum

A Latin term: an observation by a judge on a matter not specifically before the court or not necessary in determining the issue before the court; a side opinion which does not form part of the judgment for the purposes of "stare decisis". May also be referred to as "dicta" or "dictum."

Obligee

That person who receives the benefit of someone else's obligation; that "someone else" being the obligor. Also called a "promisee".

Obligor

A person who is contractually or legally committed or obliged, to provide something to another person. The recipient of the benefit is called the obligee. Also known as the "promisor."

Obscenity

In the context of criminal law a term used to describe a publication which is illegal because it is morally corruptive. The common law has struggled with this word as society evolves towards greater tolerance of alternative sexual behavior. Historically, it included any lewd material which had no apparent social value, which was offensive to contemporary community standards of decency, and even material which tended to invoke impure sexual thoughts. All of these measurements are very subjective and the community standard of obscenity is frequently at odds with the right of free speech.

Obstructing justice

Any act which tends to impede or thwart the administration of justice. Examples include trying to bribe a witness or juror or providing law enforcement officers with information known to be false.

Offense

A crime; any act which contravenes the criminal law of the state in which it occurs.

Offer

An explicit proposal to contract which, if accepted, completes the contract. An accepted offer binds both the person that made the offer and the person accepting the offer to the terms of the contract. See also "acceptance".

Ombudsman

A person whose occupation consists of investigating customer complaints against his or her employer. Many governments have ombudsmen who will investigate citizen complaints against government services.

Omnibus bill

A draft law before a legislature which contains more than one substantive matter, or several minor matters which have been combined into one bill, ostensibly for the sake of convenience. In reality, such bills sometimes contain unpopular or less valuable matters which it is hoped will be passed because of the value of other parts of the bill. The omnibus bill is an "all or nothing" tactic.

Onus

Latin:" the burden". A term usually used in the context of evidence. The onus of proof in criminal cases lies with the state, in that it is the state that has the burden of proving beyond reasonable doubt. In civil cases, the onus of proof lies with the plaintiff who must prove his case by balance of probabilities. So "onus" can refer both to the party with the burden, and to the scope of that burden, the latter depending whether the context is criminal or civil.

Open-ended agreement

An agreement or contract which does not have an ending date but which will continue for as long as the conditions identified in the agreement exist.

Order

A formal written direction given by a member of the judiciary; a court decision without reasons.

Ordinance

An executive decision of a government which is often detailed and not, as would be a statute, of general wording or application. Unlike a statute, it has not been subjected to a legislative assembly. This term is in disuse in many jurisdictions and the words "regulations" or "bylaws" are preferred.

Orphan

A person who has lost one or both natural parents.

Out-of-court settlement

An agreement between two litigants to settle a matter privately before a court has rendered its decision.