Legal Dictionary E


A type of servitude granting a right of passage over a neighbor’s land or waterway. Every easement has a dominant and a servient tenement (which see). Easements also can be classified as negative or affirmative. A negative easement prevents the servient land owner from doing certain things stated in the easement agreement. An affirmative easement is the most common and allows the beneficiary of the easement to do certain things, such as maintain a right-of-way. Although rights-of-way are the most common easements, there are many others such as: rights to tunnel under another’s land; to use a washroom; to emit smoke or fumes; to pass over with transmission towers; to access a dock; and to access a well.

Ecclesiastical law

See also canon law. The body of church-made law which binds only those persons recognizing it, usually only church officers, and is based on aged precepts of canon law.


Emancipation today refers to the point at which a child is free from parental control. This can occur in several different circumstances: parents may choose to voluntarily surrender their rights to the care, custody and earnings of their minor child and cease to perform their parental duties; they may imply consent by allowing a minor child to leave her parents’ home and become entirely self-supporting; a minor child becomes emancipated upon marriage or entering the military. The term was also used when slavery was legal to describe the condition of a former slave who had bought or been given freedom from his or her master. When Abraham Lincoln outlawed slavery he did so in a law called the “Emancipation Proclamation”.


An order prohibiting ships or goods from leaving a certain port, city, or territory. This is an act of international military aggression and may be enforced by military threat of destruction of any vehicle that attempts to break the embargo, or by trade penalties. The word can also refer to a legal prohibition of trade with a certain nation or a prohibition towards the use of goods or services produced by or within a certain nation.


The illegal transfer of money or property to one’s own use in violation of trust. The money or property may be legally in the possession of the embezzler but not his property. It is the conversion of the money or property to his own personal use that constitutes embezzlement. For example, an employee could embezzle money from the employer or a public officer could embezzle money received during the course of their public duties and secretly convert it to their personal use.

Eminent domain USA

The legal power of a governmental entity to expropriate private land for the sake of public necessity, even if the owner objects. The owner must receive “just compensation”, which usually means fair market value. Also sometimes called condemnation.


A legal term referring to all wages or other benefits received as compensation for holding some office or employment.


Based on ancient Roman law. A prolonged (for many years or in perpetuity) rental of real property which includes the exclusive enjoyment by the tenant of all products of that real property and the exercise of all property rights typically reserved for the property owner, such as mortgaging the property for the term of the emphyteusis or permitting a right of way.

Emptio or emtio

Latin for “purchase” or the contract in which something is bought.


A document which is published as an enforceable set of written rules, creating a law or statute.


Something written on the back of a document. One example of an endorsement is a signature on the back of a bill of exchange (e.g., a check) by which the person to whom the note is payable transfers it by making the note payable to the bearer or to a specific person, in accordance with the laws of bills of exchange. Another example is an endorsement of claim, which means that if you want to ask a court to issue a writ against someone, you have to “endorse” your writ with a concise summary of the facts supporting the claim, sometimes called a statement of claim.


The transfer of money or property (usually as a gift) to a public organization for a specific purpose, such as medical research or scholarships.


A technique by law enforcement officers or their agents to induce the commission of a crime so that the person induced to commit the crime can be charged. This technique, because it involves artificially provoking and abetting the commission of a crime, which is itself a criminal offence, is severely curtailed under the constitutional law of many states.


A branch of English law which developed hundreds of years ago when litigants would go to the King and complain of harsh or inflexible rules of common law which prevented “justice” from prevailing. For example, strict common law rules would not recognize unjust enrichment, which was a legal relief developed by the equity courts. The typical Court of Equity decision would prevent a person from enforcing a common law court judgment. The kings delegated this special judicial review power over common law court rulings to chancellors. A new branch of law developed known as “equity”, with their decisions eventually gaining precedence over those of the common law courts. A whole set of equity law principles were developed based on the predominant “fairness” characteristic of equity such as “equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy” or “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”. Many legal rules, in countries that originated with English law, have equity-based law such as the law of trusts and mortgages.


The legal act of returning property to the government upon the death of the owner, because there is nobody to inherit the property. Escheat is based on the Latin principle of “dominion directum” (which see) as was often used in the feudal system when a tenant died without heirs or if the tenant was convicted of a felony.


The placement of money or a document with a third disinterested person , to be held by that person until the terms of a contract or agreement between two or more other persons are met. The property is then released according to the terms of the agreement or contract.

Estate law

A term describing that part of the law regulating wills, probate and other subjects related to the distribution of a deceased person’s “estate”.


A rule of law which, according to an 1891 English court decision, is summarized as “a rule of evidence which precludes a person from denying the truth of some statement previously made by himself”. Thus, when person A, by act or words, gives person B reason to believe a certain set of facts upon which person B then takes action, person A cannot later, to his (or her) benefit, deny those facts or say that his (or her) earlier act was improper.


The putting to death, by painless method, of a terminally-ill or severely debilitated person through the omission (intentionally withholding a life-saving medical procedure, also known as “passive euthanasia”) or commission of an act (“active euthanasia’). See also living will.


Proof of the fact(s) presented at a trial. The best and most common method is by oral testimony, in which you have an eye-witness swear to tell the truth and to then relate to the court (or jury) their experience. Evidence is essential in convincing the judge or jury of your facts as the judge (or jury) is expected to start off with no preconceived idea or knowledge of the facts. It is therefore up to the opposing parties to prove (by providing evidence), to the satisfaction of the court (or jury), the facts needed to support their case. Besides oral testimony, an object can be deposited with the court (e.g. a signed contract, a weapon). This is sometimes called “real evidence.” In other rarer cases, evidence can be circumstantial.

Ex aequo et bono

Latin for “in justice and fairness.” A case decided by principles of what is fair and just, unlike most legal cases which are decided on the strict rule of law. For example, a contract will be normally upheld and enforced by the legal system no matter how “unfair” it may prove to be. But if the case is to be decided ex aequo et bono, the strict rule of law is overridden and the case and requires instead a decision based on what is fair and just given the circumstances.


To question your own witness under oath. Witnesses are introduced to a trial by their examination-in-chief. At that time they answer questions asked by the lawyer representing the party which called them to the stand. After the examination-in-chief, the other party’s lawyer can question them; this is called “cross-examination” (which see).


Something that excuses or justifies a wrong action.
That person specifically appointed by a testator to administer the will ensuring that final wishes are respected (i.e. that the will is properly “executed”). An executor is a personal representative.


Any item presented to the court as evidence in a trial. An exhibit is given a number or letter by the court clerk as introduced and referenced by the identification when referred to during the trial. Objects or documents can be exhibits, and, except with special permission of the court, exhibits are locked up in court custody until the trial is over.

Ex parte

Latin: “for one party only”. Ex parte refers to those proceedings where one of the parties did not received notice and, therefore, is neither present nor represented. The choice not to attend, after notification, does not constitute an ex parte proceeding. Some jurisdictions expand the definition to include any proceeding that goes undefended, even though proper notice has been given.


One who has abandoned his or her country of origin and citizenship and has become a subject or citizen of another country.

Ex post facto

Latin: “after the fact”. Any law which attempts to extend backwards in time and punish acts committed before the date of the law’s approval. These laws are constitutionally prohibited in most modern democracies. For example, the USA Constitution prohibits “any ex post facto law”.

Express trust

A trust created by the settlor, with the clear intent that such a trust be created, usually in the form of a document (e.g. a will), although it can be oral. This contrasts with trusts which come to being through the operation of the law and are not resulting from the clear intent or decision of any settlor to create a trust. See constructive trust.


To physically erase; to white or strike out. To “expunge” something from a court record means to remove every reference to it from the court file.

Ex rel

An abbreviation of “ex relatione”, Latin for “on the relation of.” Information or action taken that is not based on first-hand experience but is based on the statement or account of another person. For example, a criminal charge “ex rel” means that the attorney general of a state is prosecuting on the basis of a statement of a person other than the attorney general.


The use of violence or fear, or the pretense of authority, to force a person to give up property.


Extradition is the arrest and return of a person in one country or state for a crime committed in another country or state. Extradition treaties and agreements exist between many governments.

Ex turpi causa non oritur actio

Latin: “Of an illegal cause there can be no lawsuit.” The principal or accessory of an illegal activity cannot sue another for damages that arose from that criminal activity. For instance, if two persons steal a car and the car crashes, the passenger cannot sue the driver for damages, since the passenger knew the car to be stolen and was a free participant in the theft and subsequent accident. If vehicle crashes injuring the passenger, there is no action in tort against the driver under the ex turpi causa non oritur actio principle.