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Law glossary

Legal terms glossary from A to Z includes all the words you really need to know.




A bill which has passed through the various legislative steps required for it and which has become law, as in "an Act of the Commonwealth of Australia." Synonymous to statute, legislation or law.

An extraordinary and unexpected natural event, such as: hurricane, tornado, earthquake or even the sudden death of a person. An act of God may be a defense against liability for injuries or damages. Under the law of contracts, an act of God often serves as a valid excuse if one of the parties to the contract is unable to fulfill his or her duties.

A lawsuit or proceeding in a court of law.

Latin: for this purpose; for a specific purpose. An ad hoc committee, for example, is created with a unique and specific purpose or task and once it has studied and reports on the matter, it stands disbanded (compare with standing committee).

In the UK this terms relates to the body of law that regulates the responsibilities of the individual to the apparatus of state. The term is also used to refer to the law governing the operation of tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies.

A general term for a legal professional who represents a client's interests in the courtroom; this term has no particular standing in English law, but is used in Scotland as an alternative to Barrister.

An assertion, especially an accusation, it is not necessarily based on facts.

A defendant's written response to a plaintiff's initial court filing (called a complaint or petition). An answer normally denies some or all facts asserted by the complaint, and sometimes seek to turn the tables on the plaintiff by making allegations or charges against the plaintiff (called counterclaims). Normally a defendant has 30 days in which to file an answer after being served with the plaintiff's complaint. In some courts, an answer is simply called a "response."

To appeal is to ask a more senior court or person to review a decision of a subordinate court or person. In some countries such as Canada, the USA and Australia, appeals can continue all the way up to the Supreme Court, where the decision is final in that it can no longer be appealed. That is why it is called "supreme" (although, in Australia the Supreme Court is called the High Court).

The hearing and settlement of a dispute between opposing parties by a third party whose decision the parties have agreed to accept. 

An alternative dispute resolution method by which an independent, neutral third person ("arbitrator") is appointed to hear and consider the merits of the dispute and renders a final and binding decision called an award. The process is similar to the litigation process as it involves adjudication, except that the parties choose their arbitrator and the manner in which the arbitration will proceed. The decision of the arbitrator is known as an "award." Compare with mediation.

To consent, implicitly or explicitly, to a transfer of a right. Often used to describe a situation where a tenant, by staying on location after the sale of the leased property, accepts to be a tenant of the new landlord; or where a person consents to ("attorns to") the jurisdiction of a court which would not have otherwise had any authority over that person.

An alternate word for lawyers or "barrister and solicitor", it is used mostly in the USA. A person that has been trained in the law and that has been certified to give legal advice or to represent others in litigation.