A check that the drawee bank has signed. This signature is a promise that the bank will pay
the check out of its own funds.
Acquit To find the defendant not
guilty of the crime for which he was tried.
Act of State doctrine
A rule requiring American courts to abstain from cases if a court order would interfere with the ability of the president
or Congress to conduct foreign policy.
The guilty act. The prosecution must show that a criminal defendant committed some proscribed
act. In a murder prosecution, taking another person's life is the actus reus.
Administrative law Concerns all agencies, boards, commissions,
and other entities created by a federal or state legislature and charged with investigating, regulating, and adjudicating
a particular industry or issue.
A person who acts for a principal.
Amendment Any addition to a
legal document. The constitutional amendments, the first ten of which are known collectively as the Bill of Rights, secure
numerous liberties and protections directly for the people.
A binding agreement in which each party has made a promise to the other.
of proof The allocation of which party must prove its case. In a civil case, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to
persuade the factfinder of every element of her case. In a criminal case, the government has the burden of proof.
The legal ability to enter into a contract.
Cheque An instrument
in which the drawer orders the drawee bank to pay money to the payee.
law The large body of law concerning the rights and duties between parties. It is distinguished from criminal law, which
concerns behavior outlawed by a government.
Class action A method
of litigating a civil lawsuit in which one or more plaintiffs or occasionally defendants seek to represent an entire group
of people with similar claims against a common opponent.
Judge-made law, that is, the body of all decisions made by appellate courts over the years.
negligence A rule of tort law that permits a plaintiff to recover even when the defendant can show that the plaintiff's
own conduct contributed in some way to her harm.
Those that flow directly from the contract.
Complaint A pleading,
filed by the plaintiff, providing a short statement of the claim.
A condition is an event that must occur in order for a party to be obligated under a contract.
Condition precedent A condition that must occur before a particular contract duty arises.
Condition subsequent A condition that must occur after a particular
contract duty arises or the duty will be discharged.
damages Those resulting from the unique circumstances of this injured party.
In contract law, something of legal value that has been bargained for and given in exchange by the parties.
Constitution The supreme law of a political entity. The United States Constitution is the
highest law in the country.
Contract A legally enforceable promise
or set of promises.
Contributory negligence A rule of tort law
that permits a negligent defendant to escape liability if she can demonstrate that the plaintiff's own conduct contributed
in any way to the plaintiff's harm.
Conversion A tort committed
by taking or using someone else's personal property without his permission.
A claim made by the defendant against the plaintiff.
Rules that permit a government to punish certain behavior by fine or imprisonment.
During a hearing, for a lawyer to question an opposing witness.
The harm that a plaintiff complains of at trial, such as an injury to her person
or money lost because of a contract breach. Money awarded by a trial court for
party to a contract has no more duties. A party to an instrument is released
Disclaimer A statement that a particular warranty
does not apply.
criminal defense in which the defendant shows that she committed the wrongful act because a third person threatened her with
imminent physical harm. An improper threat made to force another party to enter
into a contract.
The broad powers of a court to fashion a remedy where justice demands it and no common law remedy exists. An injunction is
an example of an equitable remedy.
Error of law A mistake made
by a trial judge that concerns a legal issue as opposed to a factual matter. Permitting too many leading questions is a legal
error; choosing to believe one witness rather than another is a factual matter.
The legal entity that holds title to assets after the owner dies and before the property is distributed.
Estoppel Out of fairness, a person is denied the right to assert a claim.
Exclusionary rule In a criminal trial, a ban on the use of evidence obtained in violation
of the Constitution.
Exculpatory clause A contract provision that
attempts to release one party from liability in the event the other party is injured.
contract A binding agreement in which all parties have fulfilled all obligations.
contract A binding agreement in which one or more of the parties has not fulfilled its obligations.
Exhaustion of remedies A principle of administrative law that no party may appeal an agency
action to a court until she has utilized all available appeals within the agency itself.
contract A binding agreement in which the parties explicitly state all important terms.
warranty A guarantee, created by the words or actions of the seller, that goods will meet certain standards.
of purpose After the creation of a contract, an entirely unforeseen event occurs that
eliminates the value of the contract for one of the parties.
An apparent promise that is unenforceable because the promisor makes no firm commitment.
authority When a principal directs an agent to undertake a transaction, the agent has the right to do acts that are incidental
to it, usually accompany it, or are reasonably necessary to accomplish it.
contract A binding agreement created not by explicit language but by the informal words and conduct of the parties.
Implied warranty Guarantees created by the Uniform Commercial Code and
imposed on the seller of goods.
Implied warranty of habitability
A landlord must meet all standards set by the local building code or otherwise ensure that the premises are fit for human
Integrated contract A writing that the parties intend
as the complete and final expression of their agreement.
tort An act deliberately performed that violates a legally imposed duty and injures someone.
The study of the purposes and philosophies of the law, as opposed to particular provisions of the law.
Justification A criminal defense in which the defendant establishes that he broke the law
to avoid a greater harm.
A contract clause specifying how much a party must pay upon breach.
debt The amount of the indebtedness is not in dispute.
The process of resolving disputes through formal court proceedings.
A contract doctrine holding that acceptance is effective upon dispatch, that is, when it is mailed or otherwise taken out
of the control of the offeree.
Minor A person under the age of
A factually incorrect statement made during contract negotiations.
One party acts to minimize its losses when the other party breaches a contract.
A token sum, such as one dollar, given to an injured plaintiff who cannot prove damages.
In contract law, an act or statement that proposes definite terms and permits the other party to create a contract by accepting
Offeree The party in contract negotiations who receives
the first offer.
Offeror The party in contract negotiations who
makes the first offer.
Output contract An agreement that obligates
the seller of goods to sell everything he produces during a stated period to a particular buyer.
Written or oral evidence, outside the language of a contract, offered by one party to clarify interpretation of the agreement.
Parol evidence rule In the case of an integrated contract, neither
party may use evidence outside the writing to contradict, vary, or add to its terms.
Private Law Refers to the rights and duties between individuals that they themselves have created, for
example, by entering into a contract or employment relationship.
law The rules establishing how the legal system itself is to operate in a particular kind of case.
Promissory estoppel A doctrine in which a court may enforce a promise made by the defendant
even when there is no contract, if the defendant knew that the plaintiff was likely to rely on the promise, the plaintiff
did in fact rely, and enforcement of it is the only way to avoid injustice.
note The maker of the instrument promises to pay a specific amount of money.
Law Refers to the rights and obligations of governments as they deal with the nation's citizens, for example, by taxing
individuals, zoning neighborhoods, and regulating advertisements.
damages Money awarded at trial not to compensate the plaintiff for harm but to punish the defendant for conduct that the
factfinder considers extreme and outrageous.
"As much as she deserved." The damages awarded in a quasi-contract case.
A legal fiction in which, to avoid injustice, the court awards damages as if a contract had existed, although one did not.
Quid pro quo A Latin phrase meaning "this for that." It refers to a
form of sexual harassment in which some aspect of a job is made contingent upon sexual activity.
When someone accepts the benefit of an unauthorized transaction or fails to repudiate it once he has learned of it, he is
then bound by it.
property Land, together
with certain things associated with it, such as buildings, subsurface rights, air rights, plant life, and fixtures.
Reasonable doubt The level of proof that the government must meet to convict the defendant
in a criminal case. The factfinder must be persuaded to a very high degree of certainty that the defendant did what the government
Repudiation An indication made by one contracting party
to the other that it will not perform.
Rescind To cancel a contract.
Respondeat superior A rule of agency law holding that a principal is
liable when a servant acting within the scope of employment commits a tort that causes physical harm to a person or property.
Restitution Restoring an injured party to its original position.
Revocation The act of disavowing a contract offer so that the offeree
no longer has the power to accept.
An agent whose work is closely controlled by the principal.
performance A contract remedy requiring the breaching party to perform the contract, by conveying land or some unique
asset, rather than by paying money damages.
Stare decisis "Let
the decision stand." A basic principle of the common law, it means that precedent is usually binding.
Statute A law passed by a legislative body, such as Congress.
Statute of frauds This law provides that certain contracts are not enforceable unless in
Statute of limitations A statute that determines the
period within which a particular kind of lawsuit must be filed.
of repose A law that places an absolute limit on when a lawsuit may be filed, regardless of when the defect was discovered.
Statutory interpretation A court's power to give meaning to new legislation
by clarifying ambiguities, providing limits, and ultimately applying it to a specific fact pattern in litigation.
Subrogation The substitution of one person for another. For example, if an insurance company
pays a claim, it acquires through subrogation whatever rights the insured had against any third parties.
Substantial performance The promisor performs contract duties well enough to be entitled
to his fullcontract price, minus the value of any defects.
law Rules that establish the rights of parties. For example, the prohibition against slander issubstantive law, as opposed
to procedural law.
Summary judgment The power of a trial court
to terminate a lawsuit before a trial has begun, on the grounds that no essential facts are in dispute.
Summary jury trial A form of alternative dispute resolution in which a small panel of jurors
hears shortened, summarized versions of the evidence.
From Article VI of the Constitution, it declares that federal statutes and
To make conforming goods available to the buyer.
A public offer to buy a block of stock directly from shareholders.
A civil wrong, committed in violation of a duty that the law imposes.
contract An agreement that a court refuses to enforce because it is fundamentally unfair
as a result of unequal bargaining power by one party.
principal If a third party in an agency relationship does not know that the agent is acting for a principal, that principal
Undue influence One party so dominates the thinking
of another party to a contract that the dominant party cannot truly consent to the agreement.
Unilateral contract A binding agreement in which one party has made an offer that the other can accept
only by action, not words.
The decision of the factfinder in a case.
Void agreement An agreement
that neither party may legally enforce, usually because the purpose of the bargain was illegal or because one of the parties
lacked capacity to make it.
Voidable contract An agreement that,
because of some defect, may be terminated by one party, such as a minor, but not by both parties.
Voir dire The process of selecting a jury. Attorneys for the parties and the judge may inquire
of prospective jurors whether they are biased or incapable of rendering a fair and impartial verdict.
Warranty A guarantee that goods will meet certain standards.