Legal Dictionary L
A legal doctrine whereby those who take too long to assert a legal right, lose their entitlement to compensation. When you claim that a person’s legal suit against you is not valid because of this, you would call it “estoppel by laches”.
A land or building owner who has leased the land, the building or a part of the land or building, to another person.
An old English criminal and common law offence covering the unlawful or fraudulent removal of another’s property without the owner’s consent. The offence of theft now covers most cases of larceny. But larceny is wider than theft as it includes the taking of property of another person by whatever means (by theft, overtly , by fraud, by trickery, etc.) if an intent exists to convert that property to one’s own use against the wishes of the owner.
All the rules of conduct that have been approved by the government and which are in force over a certain territory and which must be obeyed by all persons on that territory (eg. the “laws” of Australia). Violation of these rules could lead to government action such as imprisonment or fine, or private action such as a legal judgement against the offender obtained by the person injured by the action prohibited by law. Synonymous to act or statute although in common usage, “law” refers not only to legislation or statutes but also to the body of unwritten law in those states which recognize common law.
A person that has been trained in the law and that has been certified to give legal advice or to represent others in litigation. Also known as a “barrister & solictor” or an attorney.
A question which suggests an answer; usually answerable by “yes” or “no”. For example: “Did you see David at 3 p.m.?” These are forbidden to ensure that the witness is not coached by their lawyer through his or her testimony. The proper form would be: “At what time did you see David?” Leading questions are only acceptable in cross-examination or where a witness is declared hostile.
A special kind of contract between a property owner and a person wanting temporary enjoyment and use of the property, in exchange for rent paid to the property owner. Where the property is land, a building, or parts of either, the property owner is called a landlord and the person that contracts to receive the temporary enjoyment and use is called a tenant.
Real property held under a lease.
A child custody decision which entails the right to make, or participate in, the significant decisions affecting a child’s health and welfare (compare with physical custody and joint custody).
Written and approved laws. Also known as “statutes” or “acts.” In constitutional law, one would talk of the “power to legislate” or the “legislative arm of government” referring to the power of political bodies (eg: house of assembly, Congress, Parliament) to write the laws of the land.
Any legal obligation, either due now or at some time in the future. It could be a debt or a promise to do something. To say a person is “liable” for a debt or wrongful act is to indicate that they are the person responsible for paying the debt or compensating the wrongful act.
Defamation by writing such as in a newspaper or a letter.
A form of construction which allows a judge to consider other factors when deciding the meaning of a phrase or document. For example, faced with an ambiguous article in a statute, a liberal construction would allow a judge to consider the purpose and object of a statute before deciding what the article actually means.
A special permission to do something on, or with, somebody else’s property which, were it not for the license, could be legally prevented or give rise to legal action in tort or trespass. A common example is allowing a person to walk across your lawn which, if it were not for the license, would constitute trespass. Licenses are revocable at will (unless supported by a contract) and, as such, differs from an easement (the latter conveying a legal interest in the land). Licenses which are not based on a contract and which are fully revocable are called “simple” or “bare” licenses. A common example is the shopping mall to which access by the public is on the basis of an implied license.
A property right which remains attached to an object that has been sold, but not totally paid for, until complete payment has been made. It may involve possession of the object until the debt is paid or it may be registered against the object (especially if the object is real estate). Ultimately, a lien can be enforced by a court sale of the property to which it attached and then the debt is paid off from the proceeds of the sale.
A right to use and to enjoy land and/or structures on land only for the life of the life tenant. The estate reverts back to the grantor (or to some other person), at the death of the person to whom it is given. A property right to last only for the life of the life tenant is called the estate “pur sa vie.” If it is for the duration of the life of a third party, it is called an estate “pur autre vie”. The rights of the life tenant are restricted to conduct which does not permanently change the land or structures upon it.
The beneficiary of a life estate.
A unique colleague in a partnership relationship who has agreed to be liable only to the extent of his (or her) investment. Limited partners, though, have no right to manage the partnership. Limited partners are usually just investors or promoters who seek the tax benefits of a partnership
Adjacent, bordering or contiguous.
A person who is a direct descendant such as a child to his or her natural parent.
The selling of all the assets of a debtor and the use of the cash proceeds of the sale to pay off creditors.
Latin: a dispute or matter which is the subject of ongoing or pending litigation. Politicians will sometimes refuse to discuss a matter or an issue which is “lis pendens” because they do not want their comments to be perceived as an attempt to influence a court of law.
A form of construction which does not allow evidence extrapolated beyond the actual words of a phrase or document but, rather, takes a phrase or document at face value, giving effect only to the actual words used. Also known as “strict” or “strict and literal” construction. Contrasts with liberal construction (which allows for the input from other factors such as the purpose of the document being interpreted).
A dispute is in “litigation” ( or being “litigated”) when it has become the subject of a formal court action or law suit.
An archaic legal word from the feudal system referring to the actual legal transmission of possession of an object to another. For example, a knight would obtain an estate in land as tenure in exchange for serving in the king’s army for 40 days a year. The king would give exclusive possession of the land, (i.e. “livery”) to the knight. A writ of livery also developed which allowed persons to sue for possession of land under the feudal system. Livery (or “delivery”) of the land was important in completing legal possession or, as it was known in the feudal system, seisin.
A document setting up guidelines for dealing with heroic measures and life-sustaining medical procedures in the eventuality of the signatory’s sudden debilitation. Living wills would, for example, inform medical staff not to provide extraordinary life-preserving procedures on the body if the maker of the document is incapable of expressing himself and is suffering from an incurable and terminal condition.
LL.B., LL.M. or LL.D.
The Latin abbreviations for the three classes of law degrees: the regular bachelor degree in law (LL.B.), the masters degree in law (LL.M.) and the doctorate in law (LL.D.). These are basic prerequisites to admission to the practice of law in many states.
Latin for “the place.” For example, “locus delicti”, the pace where a criminal offense was committed or “loco parentis”, referring to a person who stands in the place of a parent, such as a step-parent in a common law relationship.
Long arm statutes
Each court is bound to a territorial jurisdiction and does not normally have jurisdiction over persons that reside outside of that territory. Long-arm statutes are a tool which gives a court jurisdiction over a person even though the person no longer resides in the territorial limits of the court.