Legal Dictionary G


To seize a person’s property, credit or salary, on the basis of a law which allows it, for the purposes of paying off a debt. The person who owes the debt and is the subject of the seizure is called a “garnishee”. This is frequently used in the enforcement of child support where delinquent debtors will be subjected to salary garnishment. A percentage of their wages is subtracted directly off their pay-check and directed to the person in need of support (the employer being the garnishee). Many states have a law making garnishment illegal.


A wooden mallet used by a judge to bring proceedings to a start or end or to command attention in court.

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)

Multilateral international treaty first created in 1947 and frequently amended (most recently in 1994) providing for fair trade rules and the gradual reduction of tariffs, duties and other trade barriers. The 1994 amendment created a World Trade Organization, which oversees the implementation of the GATT. 125 countries subscribe to the treaty at this time.

General counsel

The senior lawyer of a corporation, normally a full-time employee of the corporation. Some corporations contract this position out to a lawyer with a private firm.

Gift over

A device used in wills and trusts providing for the gift of property to a second recipient if a certain event occurs, such as the death of the first recipient. For example, a testator leaves rental property to an individual but that individual must give the property to his child upon his own death. That is a gift over to the benefit of the child.


An intangible business asset which includes a cultivated reputation and therefore the attraction and confidence of repeat customers and connections. Sales of businesses often include a section of the purchase price for “goodwill”.

Grand Jury

An American criminal justice procedure whereby, in each court district, a group of 16-23 citizens holds an inquiry on criminal complaints brought by the prosecutor and decides if a trial is warranted, in which case an indictment is issued. If a Grand Jury rejects a proposed indictment it is known as a “no bill”; if they accept to endorse a proposed indictment it is known as a “true bill”.

Gross negligence

An act or an omission in reckless disregard of the consequences to the safety or property of another. Sometimes referred to as “very great negligence”. It is far more than neglect of ordinary care towards others or inadvertence. Also known as the Latin term culpa lata.


A person who pledges collateral for the contract of another, but separately, as part of an independently contract with the obligee of the original contract. Compare with “surety.”


An individual who is given custody of both the property and the person of one who is unable to manage his own affairs, such as a child or a mentally-disabled person. This is done by legal appointment or by the effect of a written law.

Guardian ad litem

A guardian appointed to assist an infant or other mentally incapable defendant or plaintiff, or any such incapacitated person that may be a party in a legal action.