(ah-for-she-ory) prep. Latin for with even stronger reason, which applies to a situation in which if one thing is true then it can be inferred that a second thing is even more certainly true. Thus, if Abel is too young to serve as administrator, then his younger brother Cain certainly is too young…a priori assumption

(ah-pree-ory) n. from Latin, an assumption that is true without further proof or need to prove it. It is assumed the sun will come up tomorrow. However, it has a negative side: an a priori assumption made without question on the basis that no analysis or study is necessary, can be mental laziness wh…a.k.a.

prep. abbreviation for also known as when someone uses different initials, a nickname, a maiden or married name. Example: Harold G. Snodgrass, a.k.a. Harry Snodgrass, a.k.a. H. G. Snodgrass, a.k.a. Snuffy the Snod.ab initio

prep. lawyer Latin for from the start, as it was legal ab initio.abandon

v. to intentionally and permanently give up, surrender, leave, desert or relinquish all interest or ownership in property, a home or other premises, a right of way, and even a spouse, family, or children. The word is often used in situations to determine whether a tenant has left his/her apartment a…abandoned property

n. property left behind (often by a tenant) intentionally and permanently when it appears that the former owner (or tenant) does not intend to come back, pick it up, or use it. Examples may include possessions left in a house after the tenant has moved out or autos left beside a road for a long peri…abandonment

n. the act of intentionally and permanently giving up, surrendering, deserting or relinquishing property, premises, a right of way, a ship, contract rights, a spouse and/or children. Abandonment of a spouse means intent at permanent separation, and with children a lengthy period of neither contact n…abate

v. to do away with a problem, such as a public or private nuisance or some structure built contrary to public policy. This can include dikes which illegally direct water onto a neighbors property, high volume noise from a rock band or a factory, an improvement constructed in violation of building a…abatement

n. 1) the removal of a problem which is against public or private policy, or endangers others, including nuisances such as weeds that might catch fire on an otherwise empty lot; 2) an equal reduction of recovery of debts by all creditors when there are not enough funds or assets to pay the full amou…abduction

n. the criminal taking away of a person by persuasion (convincing someone-particularly a minor or a woman-he/she is better off leaving with the persuader), by fraud (telling the person he/she is needed, or that the mother or father wants him/her to come with the abductor), or by open force or violen…abet

v. to help someone commit a crime, including helping them escape from police or plan the crime.abeyance

1) n. when the owner- ship of property has not been determined. Examples include title to real property in the estate of a person who has died and there is no obvious party to receive title or there appears to be no legal owner of the property, a shipwreck while it is being determined who has the ri…able-bodied

adj. physically capable of working at a job or in the military. It is often used to describe a person as capable of earning a living and, therefore, of paying alimony or child support.abortion

n. the termination of pregnancy by various means, including medical surgery, before the fetus is able to sustain independent life. Until 1973 abortion was considered a crime (by the mother and the doctor) unless performed by physicians to protect the life of the mother, a phrase often broadly interp…abrogate

v. to annul or repeal a law or pass legislation that contradicts the prior law. Abrogate also applies to revoking or withdrawing conditions of a contract.abscond

v. 1) traditionally to leave a jurisdiction (where the court, a process server or law enforcement can find one) to avoid being served with legal papers or being arrested. 2) a surprise leaving with funds or goods that have been stolen, as in he absconded with the loot.absolute

adj. complete, and without condition.abstention doctrine

n. when the Supreme Court refuses to exercise its federal constitutional jurisdiction or declines to consider a question of state law arising from a case being appealed from a state court.abstract

n. in general, a summary of a record or document, such as an abstract of judgment or abstract of title to real property.abstract of judgment

n. a written summary of a judgment which states how much money the losing party owes to the person who won the lawsuit (judgment creditor), the rate of interest to be paid on the judgment amount, court costs, and any specific orders that the losing party (judgment debtor) must obey, which abstract i…abstract of title

n. the written report on a title search which shows the history of every change of ownership on a piece of real estate, and any claims against the property, such as easements on the property, loans against it, deeds of trust, mortgages, liens, judgments, and real property taxes. Some abstracts only …abuse of discretion

n. a polite way of saying a trial judge has made such a bad mistake (clearly against reason and evidence or against established law) during a trial or on ruling on a motion that a person did not get a fair trial. A court of appeals will use a finding of this abuse as a reason to reverse the trial …abuse of process

n. the use of legal process by illegal, malicious, or perverted means. Examples include serving (officially giving) a complaint to someone when it has not actually been filed, just to intimidate an enemy; filing a false declaration of service (filing a paper untruthfully stating a lie that someone h…abut

v. when two parcels of real property touch each other.acceleration

n. 1) speeding up the time when there is vesting (absolute ownership) of an interest in an estate, when the interest in front of it is terminated earlier than expected; 2) in a contract or promissory note, when the payment of debt is moved up to the present time due to some event like non-payment of…acceleration clause

n. a provision in a contract or promissory note that if some specified event (like not making payments on time) occurs then the entire amount is due or other requirements are due now, pronto. This clause is most often found in promissory notes with installment payments for purchase of real property …accept

v. to receive something with approval and intention to keep it. This use often arises on the question of accepting a payment which is late or not complete or accepting the service (delivery) of legal papers.acceptance

n. 1) receiving something from another with the intent to keep it, and showing that this was based on a previous agreement. 2) agreeing verbally or in writing to the terms of a contract, which is one of the requirements to show there was a contract (an offer and an acceptance of that offer). A writt…acceptance of service

n. agreement by a defendant (or his/her attorney) in a legal action to accept a complaint or other petition (like divorce papers) without having the sheriff or process server show up at the door. The agreement of acceptance of service must be in writing or there is no proof that it happened. In mo…access

n. 1) in real estate the right and ability to get to the property. 2) when a husband has the opportunity to make love to his wife, it is said he has access. This rather vulgar use of access has been important because if a husband had access to his wife during the time when she became pregnant, i…accessory

n. a second-string player who helps in the commission of a crime by driving the getaway car, providing the weapons, assisting in the planning, providing an alibi, or hiding the principal offender after the crime. Usually the accessory is not immediately present during the crime, but must be aware th…accommodation

n. 1) a favor done without compensation (pay or consideration), such as a signature guaranteeing payment of a debt, sometimes called an accommodation endorsement. Such accommodation is not the smartest business practice, since the holder of the note can go after the accommodator rather than the debt…accomplice

n. someone who assists in the commission of a crime and, unlike a mere accessory, is usually present or directly aids in the crime (like holding a gun on the bank guard while the vault is looted, or holding a victim of assault and battery). Also unlike an accessory who can claim being only a subordi…accord and satisfaction

n. an agreement to accept less than is legally due in order to wrap up the matter. Once the accord and satisfaction is made and the amount paid (even though it is less than owed) the debt is wiped out since the new agreement (accord) and payment (the satisfaction) replaces the original obligation. I…account stated

n. a statement between a creditor or the person to whom money is owed and a debtor (the person who owes) that a particular amount is owed to the seller as of a certain date. Often the account stated is a bill, invoice or a summary of invoices, signed by the customer or sent to the customer who pays …accounts payable

n. the amounts of money due or owed to a business or professional by customers or clients. Generally, accounts receivable refers to the total amount due and is considered in calculating the value of a business or the businesss problems in paying its own debts. Evaluation of the chances of collectin…accretion

n. 1) in real estate, the increase of the actual land on a stream, lake or sea by the action of water which deposits soil upon the shoreline. Accretion is Mother Natures little gift to a landowner. 2) in estates, when a beneficiary of the person who died gets more of the estate than he/she was mean…accrue

v. 1) growing or adding to, such as interest on a debt or investment which continues to accumulate. 2) the coming into being of the right to bring a lawsuit. For example, the right to sue on a contract only accrues when the contract is breached (not on mere suspicion that it might be breached) or wh…accusation

n. 1) in legal terms accusation means officially charging someone with a crime either by indictment by a Grand Jury or filing charges by a District Attorney. 2) in lay terms any claim of wrongdoing by another person.accused

v. 1) generally to admit something, whether bad, good or indifferent. 2) to verify to a notary public or other officer (such as a County Clerk) that the signer executed (wrote, signed) the document like a deed, lease, or power of attorney, to make it certified as legal and suitable for recording.acknowledgment

n. the section at the end of a document where a notary public verifies that the signer of the document states he/she actually signed it. Typical language is: State of Texas, County of Deaf Smith: (signed and sealed) On July 1, 1994, before me, a notary public for said state, personally appeared Jam…acquit

v. what a jury or judge sitting without a jury does at the end of a criminal trial if the jury or judge finds the accused defendant not guilty.acquittal

n. what an accused criminal defendant receives if he/she is found not guilty. It is a verdict (a judgment in a criminal case) of not guilty.act

1) n. in general, any action by a person. 2) n. a statutory plan passed by Congress or any legislature which is a bill until enacted and becomes law. 3) v. for a court to make a decision and rule on a motion or petition, as in the court will act on your motion for a new trial.act of God

n. a natural catastrophe which no one can prevent such as an earthquake, a tidal wave, a volcanic eruption, a hurricane or a tornado. Acts of God are significant for two reasons 1) for the havoc and damage they wreak, and 2) because often contracts state that acts of God are an excuse for delay or…action

n. a lawsuit in which one party (or parties) sues another.actionable

adj. when enough facts or circumstances exist to meet the legal requirements to file a legitimate lawsuit. If the facts required to prove a case cannot be alleged in the complaint, the case is not actionable and the client and his/her attorney should not file a suit. Of course, whether many cases …actual controversy

n. a true legal dispute which leads to a genuine lawsuit rather than merely a cooked up legal action filed to get a court to give the equivalent of an advisory opinion. Federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, will only consider an actual controversy, on appeal, since they will not give…actual notice

n. having been informed directly of something or having seen it occur, as distinguished from constructive notice (e.g. a notice was mailed but not received, published in a newspaper, or placed in official records).ad hoc

adj. Latin shorthand meaning for this purpose only. Thus, an ad hoc committee is formed for a specific purpose, usually appointed to solve a particular problem. An ad hoc attorney is one hired to handle one problem only and often is a specialist in a particular area or considered especially able t…ad litem

adj. legal Latin meaning for the purposes of the legal action only. Most often the term applies to a parent who files a lawsuit for his or her minor child as guardian at litem (guardian just for the purposes of the lawsuit) or for a person who is incompetent. Either at the time the lawsuit is fi…ad seriatim

adj. (add sear-ee-ah-tim) Latin for one after another.ad valorem

adj. Latin for based on value, which applies to property taxes based on a percentage of the countys assessment of the propertys value. The assessed value is the standard basis for local real property taxes, although some place caps (maximums) on the percentage of value (as under Proposition 13…addendum

n. an addition to a completed written document. Most commonly this is a proposed change or explanation (such as a list of goods to be included) in a contract, or some point that has been the subject of negotiation after the contract was originally proposed by one party. Real property sales agreement…adeem

v. to revoke a gift made in a will by destroying, selling or giving away the gift item during the lifetime of the testator (writer of the will). Example: a person writes in his/her will, I leave my son my 1988 Cadillac automobile and then Dad totals or sells the car. Nasty legal fights can arise i…ademption

n. the act of adeeming, which is revoking (getting rid of) a gift mentioned in a will by destruction, or selling or giving away the gift before death.adequate remedy

n. a remedy (money or performance) awarded by a court or through private action (including compromise) which affords complete satisfaction, and is practical, efficient and appropriate in the circumstances. In part this depends on what relief (like an order granting one an easement over a neighbo…adhesion contract

n.(contract of adhesion) a contract (often a signed form) so imbalanced in favor of one party over the other that there is a strong implication it was not freely bargained. Example: a rich landlord dealing with a poor tenant who has no choice and must accept all terms of a lease, no matter how restr…adjourn

v. the final closing of a meeting, such as a convention, a meeting of the board of directors, or any official gathering. It should not be confused with a recess, meaning the meeting will break and then continue at a later time.adjudication

n. the act of giving a judicial ruling such as a judgment or decree. The term is used particularly in bankruptcy proceedings, in which the order declaring a debtor bankrupt is called an adjudication.adjusted basis

n. in accounting, the original cost of an asset adjusted for costs of improvements, depreciation, damage and other events which may have affected its value during the period of ownership. This is important in calculating capital gains for income tax purposes since the adjusted basis is generally hig…adjuster

n. an employee (usually a non-lawyer) of an insurance company or an adjustment firm employed by an insurance company to negotiate an early settlement of a claim for damages against a person, a business or public body (like a city). While a fair and responsible adjuster can serve a real purpose in ge…administer

v. 1) to conduct the duties of a job or position. 2) particularly, to manage the affairs of the estate of a person who has died under supervision of the local court. 3) to give an oath, as in administer the oath.administrative hearing

n. a hearing before any governmental agency or before an administrative law judge. Such hearings can range from simple arguments to what amounts to a trial. There is no jury, but the agency or the administrative law judge will make a ruling.administrative law

n. the procedures created by administrative agencies (governmental bodies of the city, county, state or federal government) involving rules, regulations, applications, licenses, permits, available information, hearings, appeals and decision-making. Federal agency procedures are governed by the Admin…administrative law judge

n. a professional hearing officer who works for the government to preside over hearings and appeals involving governmental agencies. They are generally experienced in the particular subject matter of the agency involved or of several agencies. Formerly called hearing officers, they discovered that…Administrative Procedure Act

n. the federal act which established the rules and regulations for applications, claims, hearings and appeals involving governmental agencies. There are similar acts in many states which spell out the rules for dealing with state government agencies.administrator

n. the person appointed by the court to handle the estate of someone who died without a will, with a will but no nominated executor, or the executor named in the will has died, has been removed from the case or does not desire to serve. If there is a will but no available executor, the administrator…admiralty

n. concerning activities which occur at sea, including on small boats and ships in navigable bays. Admiralty law (maritime law) includes accidents and injuries at sea, maritime contracts and commerce, alleged violations of rules of the sea over shipping lanes and rights-of-way, and mutiny and other …admissible evidence

n. evidence which the trial judge finds is useful in helping the trier of fact (a jury if there is a jury, otherwise the judge), and which cannot be objected to on the basis that it is irrelevant, immaterial, or violates the rules against hearsay and other objections. Sometimes the evidence which a …admission

n. a statement made by a party to a lawsuit or a criminal defendant, usually prior to trial, that certain facts are true. An admission is not to be confused with a confession of blame or guilt, but admits only some facts. In civil cases, each party is permitted to submit a written list of alleged fa…admission against interest

n. an admission of the truth of a fact by any person, but especially by the parties to a lawsuit, when a statement obviously would do that person harm, be embarrassing, or be against his/her personal or business interests. Another party can quote in court an admission against interest even though it…admission of evidence

n. a judges acceptance of evidence in a trial.admission of guilt

n. a statement by someone accused of a crime that he/she committed the offense. If the admission is made outside court to a police officer it may be introduced as evidence if the defendant was given the proper warnings as to his/her rights (Miranda warning) before talking.admission to bail

n. an order of a court in a criminal case allowing an accused defendant to be freed pending trial if he/she posts bail (deposits either cash or a bond) in an amount set by the court. Theoretically the posting of bail is intended to guarantee the appearance of the defendant in court when required. In…admit

v. 1) to state something is true in answering a complaint filed in a lawsuit. The defendant will admit or deny each allegation in his or her answer filed with the court. If he or she agrees and states that he/she did what he/she is accused of, then the allegation need not be proved in trial. 2) in c…adopt

v. 1) to take on the relationship of parent to child of another person, particularly (but not necessarily) a minor, by official legal action. 2) to accept or make use of, such as to adopt another partys argument in a lawsuit.adoption

n. the taking of a child into ones family, creating a parent to child relationship, and giving him or her all the rights and privileges of ones own child, including the right to inherit as if the child were the adopters natural child. The adoption procedure varies depending on whether the child c…adultery

n. consensual sexual relations when one of the participants is legally married to another. In some states it is still a crime and and in many states it is grounds for divorce for the spouse of the married adulterer. The criminal charges are almost never brought, and in those states in which there is…advance

n. a payment which is made before it is legally due, such as before shipment is made, a sale is completed, a book is completed by the author, or a note is due to be paid.advancement

n. a gift made by a person to one of his or her children or heirs (a presumptive heir since an heir is only determined on the date of death) in anticipation of a gift from the still-living parents potential estate as an advance on ones inheritance. Example: John Richguy is going to leave his son $…adverse

adj. clearly contrary, such as an adverse party being the one suing you. An adverse interest in real property is a claim against the property, such as an easement.adverse interest

n. a right or concern that is contrary to the interest or claim of another.adverse party

n. the opposite side in a lawsuit. Sometimes when there are numerous parties and cross-complaints, parties may be adverse to each other on some issues and in agreement on other matters. Two beneficiaries of a person who has died may join together to claim a will was valid, but fight each other over …adverse possession

n. a means to acquire title to land through obvious occupancy of the land, while claiming ownership for the period of years set by the law of the state where the property exists. This can arise when a rancher fences in a parcel contending he was to get title from some prior owner, and then grazes ca…adverse witness

n. a witness in a trial who is found by the judge to be adverse to the position of the party whose attorney is questioning the witness, even though the attorney called the witness to testify on behalf of his/her client. When the attorney calling the witness finds that answers are contrary to the leg…advisory opinion

n. an opinion stated by a judge or a court upon the request of a legislative body or government agency. An advisory opinion has no force of law but is given as a matter of courtesy. A private citizen cannot get an advisory ruling from a court and can only get rulings in an actual lawsuit. State atto…affiant

n. a person who signs an affidavit and swears to its truth before a notary public or some person authorized to take oaths, like a County Clerk.affidavit

n. 1) any written document in which the signer swears under oath before a notary public or someone authorized to take oaths (like a County Clerk), that the statements in the document are true. 2) in many states a declaration under penalty of perjury, which does not require the oath-taking before a n…affirm

v. what an appeals court does if it agrees with and confirms a lower courts decision.affirmative action

n. the process of a business or governmental agency in which it gives special rights of hiring or advancement to ethnic minorities to make up for past discrimination against that minority. Affirmative action has been the subject of legal battles on the basis that it is reverse discrimination against…affirmative defense

n. part of an answer to a charge or complaint in which a defendant takes the offense and responds to the allegations with his/her own charges, which are called affirmative defenses. These defenses can contain allegations, take the initiative against statements of facts contrary to those stated in …affix

v. 1) to attach something to real estate in a permanent way, including planting trees and shrubs, constructing a building, or adding to existing improvements. The key is that affixed items are permanent and cannot be picked up and moved away like a washing machine. 2) to sign or seal, as affix a sig…after-acquired property

n. 1) personal or real property acquired by a debtor after he/she has agreed that all his/her property secures a debt. Thus, the new property also becomes security for the debt. This includes improvements to real property which is security on a deed of trust or mortgage and personal property pledged…after-acquired title

n. title to property acquired after the owner attempts to sell or transfer the title to another person before he/she actually got legal title. When the title is acquired by the seller in this paper shuffle, title automatically goes to the person to whom it was sold, passing through the person who ac…after-discovered evidence

n. evidence found by a losing party after a trial has been completed and judgment (or criminal conviction) given, also called newly-discovered evidence. If the evidence absolutely could not have been discovered at the time of trial, it may be considered on a motion for a new trial.age discrimination

n. an employers unfair treatment of a current or potential employee up to age 70, which is made illegal by the Age Discrimination Unemployment Act, first adopted in 1967. The claimants problem is proof of age discrimination, but employers should beware. Even flight attendants in their late 30s hav…age of consent

n. the relationship of a person (called the agent) who acts on behalf of another person, company, or government, known as the principal. Agency may arise when an employer (principal) and employee (agent) ask someone to make a delivery or name someone as an agent in a contract. The basic rule is th…agent

n. a person who is authorized to act for another (the agents principal) through employment, by contract or apparent authority. The importance is that the agent can bind the principal by contract or create liability if he/she causes injury while in the scope of the agency. Who is an agent and what i…agent for acceptance of service

n. states require that a corporation name an actual person (usually in the articles of incorporation or other filing with the Secretary of State) who is authorized to accept service of any lawsuit or claim against the corporation. Many larger corporations, particularly those which operate in several…aggravated assault

n. the crime of physically attacking another person which results in serious bodily harm and/or is made with a deadly or dangerous weapon such as a gun, knife, sword, ax or blunt instrument. Aggravated assault is usually a felony punishable by a term in state prison.agreed statement

n. occasionally the two parties on opposite sides of a lawsuit or on an appeal from a trial judgment will agree upon certain facts and sign a statement to be used in court for that purpose. Agreed statements are only used when the only remaining dispute boils down to a question of law and legal argu…agreement

1) n. any meeting of the minds, even without legal obligation. 2) in law, another name for a contract including all the elements of a legal contract: offer, acceptance, and consideration (payment or performance), based on specific terms.aid and abet

v. help commit a crime. A lawyer redundancy since abet means aid, which lends credence to the old rumor that lawyers used to be paid by the word.aleatory

adj. uncertain; usually applied to insurance contracts in which payment is dependent on the occurrence of a contingent event, such as injury to the insured person in an accident or fire damage to his insured building.alias

n. 1) a name used other than the given name of a person or reference to that other name, which may not be an attempt to hide his/her identity (such as Harry for Harold, initials or a maiden name).alibi

n. an excuse used by a person accused or suspected of a crime. In the original Latin it means in another place, which has to be the ultimate alibi.alien

1) n. a person who is not a citizen of the country. 2) in the United States any person born in another country to parents who are not American and who has not become a naturalized citizen. There are resident aliens officially permitted to live in the country and illegal aliens who have sneaked into …alienation

n. the transfer of title to real property, voluntarily and completely. It does not apply to interests other than title, such as a mortgage.alienation of affections

n. convincing a wife to leave her husband, often for another man, causing the husband to lose conjugal relations. This is primarily of historic interest, since alienation of affections was a civil wrong for which a deprived husband could sue the party convincing the wife t