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LEGAL DICTIONARY - LETTER S


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SANCTION
This is a very unusual word with two contradictory meanings. To "sanction" can mean to ratify or to approve but it can also mean to punish. The "sanction" of a crime refers to the actual punishment, usually expressed as a fine or jail term.

SCIENTER
Latin for knowledge. In legal situations, the word is usually used to refer to "guilty knowledge". For example, owners of vicious dogs may be liable for injuries caused by these dogs if they can prove the owner's "scienter" (i.e. that the owner was aware, before the attack, of the dog's vicious character).

SEARCH WARRANT
A court order (i.e. signed by a judge) that gives a police the permission to enter private property and to search for evidence of the commission of a crime, for the proceeds of crime or property that the police suspect may be used to commit a crime. These court orders are obtained on the basis of a sworn statement by the requesting law enforcement officer and will precisely describe the place to be searched and, in some cases, the exact property being sought.

SENTENCE
The punishment given to a person convicted of a crime. A sentence is ordered by the judge, based on the verdict of the jury (or the judge's decision if there is no jury) within the possible punishments set by state law (or federal law in convictions for a federal crime).

SETTLOR
The person, who creates a trust by a written trust declaration, called a "Trustor" in many (particularly western) states and sometimes referred to as the "Donor." The settlor usually transfers the original assets into the trust.

SINE DIE
Adjourned without giving any future date of meeting or hearing. A court that adjourns sine die essentially dismisses the case by saying that it never wants to hear the case again! A meeting which adjourns sine die has simply not set a date for it is next meeting.

SLANDER
Verbal or spoken defamation. Slander of title Intentionally casting aspersion on someone's property including real property, a business or goods (the latter might also be called "slander of goods"). A form of jactitation. For example, stating that a house is haunted or alleging that a certain product infringes a patent or copyright.

SLAVERY
When a person (called "master") has absolute power over another (called "slave") including life and liberty. The slave has no freedom of action except within limits set by the master. The slave is considered to be the property of the master and can be sold, given away or killed. All the fruits of the slave's labor belong to the master.

SOCRATIC METHOD
As unfamiliar as the case method will be to most 1Ls, the real source of anxiety is the way the professor presents it. Simply put, Socratic instruction entails directed questioning and limited lecturing. There are law professors who are alleged to have gone an entire semester without uttering a declarative statement. Though the Socratic Method has passed out of vogue in the last decade, it remains a common instruction style in many law schools. The case method already places a dizzying burden on a 1L, but when combined with the Socratic Method, it leaves many feeling helpless.

SOLICITOR
 A lawyer that restricts his or her practice to the giving of legal advice and does not normally litigate. that court room. In England and some other Commonwealth jurisdictions, a legal distinction is made between solicitors and barristers, the former with exclusive privileges of giving oral or written legal advice, and the latter with exclusive privileges of preparing and conducting litigation in the courts. In other words, solicitors don't appear in court on a client's behalf and barristers don't give legal advice to clients. In England, barristers and solicitors work as a team: the solicitor would typically make the first contact with a client and if the issue cannot be resolved and proceeds to trial, the solicitor would transfer the case to a barrister for the duration of the litigation. Lawyers in some states, such as Canada, sometimes use the title "barrister and solicitor" even though, contrary to England, there is no legal distinction between the advising and litigating roles. Canadian lawyers can litigate or give legal advice (as is the case in the USA, where lawyers are referred to as "attorneys").

STATUTE
A law created by the Legislature.

SUB JUDICE
A matter that is still under consideration by a court. You will hear of politicians declining to speak on a certain subject because the subject matter is "sub judice".

SUI JURIS
A person who possesses full civil rights and is not under any legal incapacity such as being bankrupt, of minor age or mental incapacity. Most adults are sui juris.