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LEGAL DICTIONARY - LETTER P


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PARALEGAL
A person who is not a lawyer or is not acting in that capacity but who provides a limited number of legal services. Each country differs in the authority it gives paralegals in exercising what traditionally would be lawyers' work.

PARDON
A pardon is a government decision to allow a person who has been convicted of a crime, to be free and absolved of that conviction, as if never convicted. It is typically used to remove a criminal record against a good citizen for a small crime that may have been committed during adolescence or young adulthood. Although procedures vary from one state to another, the request for a pardon usually involves a lengthy period of time of impeccable behavior and a reference check. Generally speaking, the more serious the crime, the longer the time requirement for excellent behavior. In the USA, the power to pardon for federal offenses belongs to the President.

PAROLE
An early release from incarceration in which the prisoner promises to heed certain conditions (usually set by a parole board) and under the supervision of a parole officer. Any violation of those conditions would result in the return of the person to prison.

PARRICIDE
Killing one's father or another family member or close relative.

PARTIES
Persons, corporations, or associations, who have commenced a law suit or who are defendants.

PARTNERSHIP
A business organization in which two or more persons carry on a business together. Partners are each fully liable for all the debts of the enterprise but they also share the profits exclusively. Many states have laws which regulate partnerships and may, for example, require some form of registration and allow partnership agreements. One of the basic advantages of partnerships is that they tend to allow business losses to be deducted from personal income for tax purposes.

PARTY 
A person, corporation or other legal entity that files a lawsuit (the plaintiff or petitioner) or defends against one (the defendant or respondent).

PATENT
An exclusive privilege granted to an inventor to make, use or sale an invention for a set number of years (e.g. in Canada, 17 years). Normally, no one company can retain a monopoly over a product or service because this is considered to economically harmful to society. But as a financial incentive to potential inventors, the state grants a temporary monopoly to that inventor through the issuance of a patent.

PATERNITY
Being a father. "Paternity suits" are launched when a man denies paternity of a child born out of wedlock. New technology of DNA testing can establish paternity thus obliging the father to provide child support.

PEDOPHILE
A person afflicted with "pedophilia", a sexual perversion in which children are preferred as sexual partner.

PERJURY
An intentional lie given while under oath or in a sworn affidavit.

PERPETUITY
Forever; of unlimited duration. There is a strong bias in the law against things that are to last in perpetuity. Rights that are to last forever are said to hinder commerce as an impediment to the circulation of property. That is why there is a rule against perpetuities.

PETITION
The formal, written document submitted to a court, and which asks for the court to redress what is described in the petition as being an injustice of some kind. Petitions set out the facts, identifies the law under which the court is being asked to intervene, and ends with a suggested course of action for the court to consider (eg. payment of damages to the plaintiff). Petitions are normally filed by lawyers because courts insist on complicated forms but most states will allow citizens to file petitions provided they conform to the court's form. Some states do not use the word "petition" and, instead, might refer to an "application", a "complaint" or the "writ."

POWER OF ATTORNEY
A document which gives a person the right to make binding decisions for another, as an agent. A power of attorney may be specific to a certain kind of decision or general, in which the agent makes all major decisions for the person who is the subject of the power of attorney. The person signing the power of attorney is generally referred to, in law, as the donor and the person that would exercise the power of attorney, the donee.

PRECEDENT
A case which establishes legal principles to a certain set of facts, coming to a certain conclusion, and which is to be followed from that point on when similar or identical facts are before a court. Precedent form the basis of the theory of stare decisis which prevent "reinventing the wheel" and allows citizens to have a reasonable expectation of the legal solutions which apply in a given situation.

PRESCRIPTION
A method of acquiring rights through the silence of the legal owner. Known in common law jurisdiction as "statute of limitations." When used in a real property context, the term refers to the acquisition of property rights, such as an easement, by long and continued use or enjoyment. The required duration of continued use or enjoyment, before legal rights are enforceable, is usually written in a state's law known as "statute of limitations."

PRESUMPTION
A presumption based on experience or knowledge of the relationship between a known fact and a fact inferred from it.

PROCEEDING
Any hearing or court appearance related to the adjudication of a case.

PROMISOR
The person who has become obliged through a promise (usually expressed in a contract) towards another, the intended beneficiary of the promise being referred to as the promise. Also sometimes referred to an "obligor."

PROSECUTE
To bring judicial proceedings against a person and to administer them until the conclusion of the court proceedings. Lawyers are hired by the government to administer the prosecution of criminal charges in the courts.

PUBLIC LAW
Those laws which regulate (1) the structure and administration of the government, (2) the conduct of the government in its relations with its citizens, (3) the responsibilities of government employees and (4) the relationships with foreign governments. Good examples are criminal and constitutional law. It can be distinguished from private law, which regulates the private conduct between individuals, without direct involvement of the government. For example, an unsolicited punch in the nose would constitute a crime for which the government would prosecute under criminal law but for which there would also be a private legal action possible by the injured party under tort law, which is private law although governments can be held responsible under tort law. As you can see, the line is often hard to draw between public and private law.