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Daniel Oran - Oran's Dictionary of the Law

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3rd Edition

Daniel Oran, J.D.

Mark Tosti, J.D.

Contributing Author

Africa • Australia • Canada • Denmark • Japan • Mexico • New Zealand • Philippines • Puerto Rico • Singapore • Spain United Kingdom • United States


Publisher does not warrant or guarantee any of the products described herein or perform any independent analysis in connection with any of the product information contained herein. Publisher does not assume, and expressly disclaims, any obligation to obtain and include information other than that provided to it by the manufacturer.

The reader is notified that this text is an educational tool, not a practice book. Since the law is in constant change, no rule or statement of law in this book should be relied upon for any service to any client. The reader should always refer to standard legal sources for the current rule or law. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of the appropriate professional should be sought. The Publisher makes no representation or warranties of any kind, including but not limited to, the warranties of fitness for particular purpose or merchantability, nor are any such representations implied with respect to the material set forth herein, and the publisher takes no responsibility with respect to such material. The publisher shall not be liable for any special, consequential, or exemplary damages resulting, in whole or part, from the readers’ use of, or reliance upon, this material.

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All rights reserved Thomson Learning (c) 2000. The text of this publication, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronics or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system, or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Oran, Daniel.

Oran’s Dictionary of the Law / Daniel Oran.—3rd ed. p. cm.

Rev. ed. of: Oran’s dictionary of the Law. 2nd ed. ©1991.

ISBN 0-7668-1742-3


1. Law--United States--Dictionaries. I. Title


KF156.069 1999




About the Authors

Daniel Oran is a graduate of Hamilton College and Yale Law School. He has practiced law in Connecticut and the District of Columbia. In addition, he has been Assistant Director of the National Paralegal Institute, Professor of Law at Antioch Law School, staff counsel to a member of Congress and the House Appropriations Committee, and president of Foresight, Incorporated. He has written an internationally reprinted novel and business text as well as professional and popular articles on paralegal education, psychiatry and law, poverty law, and individual rights.

Mark Tosti, contributing author, is a graduate of Princeton University, Columbia College, and the Washington College of Law of The American University. He practices general business, entertainment, and intellectual property law, and was Professorial Lecturer of Law at The American University. In addition, he has been the producer, director, and editor of several feature films.


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THE BASIC 50 xiii


APPENDIX A Where to Go for More

Information 533

APPENDIX B Lawyer Talk 535

APPENDIX C Legal Research


How to Use This Appendix


Concepts in the Law



Techniques of Research 548

Sources of the Law



Computer-Assisted Legal Research 572


Organization of the Federal Government 543

U.S. Courts of Appeals and U.S. District Courts 545 Cartwheel 549

Sources of the Law 554–5 National Reporter System 559–560

Introduction to a Case in the National Reporter System 561 Example of Legal Subjects Subdivided 564


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This is a guidebook to a foreign language. The language of Law uses mostly English words, but they rarely mean what they seem. Many look like everyday English, but have technical definitions totally different from their ordinary uses. Some mean several different things, depending on the area of law or business they come from. The language of Law also contains more “leftovers” than most languages. Hundreds of Latin, Old French, Old English, and obsolete words are still used in their original forms.

When I wrote my first law dictionary in 1975, I hoped that most of these old words would be long buried by the first decade of the twenty-first century, but like Chucky, Freddy, and assorted vampires and aliens, they just won’t die. “Plain language” court rules and federal commissions can’t kill them. Things are even worse now. A flood of new technologies has created many legal sub-specialties and . . .

surprise . . . an explosion of confusing new legal words.

The dictionary has two main purposes. Like any specialized dictionary, it helps the reader to understand and use a technical vocabulary. It also tries to help the reader to recognize and discard the many vague words that sound precise and that lawyers often use as if they were precise.

The book was written with the needs of many different readers in mind: lawyers, law and pre-law students, paralegals, legal secretaries, consumers, businesspersons, and persons in law-related fields such as criminal justice, journalism, social work, and government. Because the dictionary covers so many different fields, I need suggestions for additional words and definitions. If you have any ideas for the next edition, please send them to the e-mail address listed at the end of the book.

I have tried to make this guidebook as complete, clear and easy to use as possible. Using it, you will be able to understand most contracts, court decisions, laws, and lawyers.



By this third edition, I’ve accumulated huge debts to people who were willing to invest their time correcting ignorance. Some, like Tom Emerson, taught me how to “think like a lawyer.” Others, like Fred Rodell, taught me how to stop writing like one. Bill Statsky gave me several excellent ideas for the first edition and has contributed to each succeeding one. Sally Determan corrected large portions of the first edition and my wife, Elaine, read the whole thing without mentioning “divorce” out of context. Mark Tosti contributed hundreds of hours of hard work and intellectual rigor to the second edition.

An alphabetical listing of names cannot begin to thank all those who have helped me. I hope that everyone has been properly listed, but no one has been properly thanked: Silvia Arrom, Sandy Augliere, Edwin Barrett, Max Baucus, Henry Black, Tom Blackwell, David Boris, Elizabeth Boris, Jay Boris, Katrina Boris, Linda Boris, Maria Boris, Paul Boris, Stephanie Boris, Fred Brandow, Margery Braunstein, Jonah Brown, Beau Brown, Edgar Cahn, Jean Cahn, Karen Clark, Dean Determan, Charles Docter, Henry Docter, Marcie Docter, Ashley Doherty, Marcie Evans, Stanley Field, Joseph Fortenberry, Leslie Foster, Robert Foster, Robert Fracasso, William Fry, Royce Givens, Ronald Greene, Sunny Greene, Lonn Hoklin, Carolyn Hunter, Richard Jackson, Nick Kalis, Barbara Lampe, Martin Lampe, Liz Loeb, Sam Mansfield, Barbara Martin, Rick Martin, Edward Mattison, Steve Merlan, Rachel Mosher, Kirsten Mueller, Edward Oberhofer, Christina Oran, Daniel D. Oran, David Oran, Max Oran, Minerva Oran, Karen Pierce, Flavia Ploog, Victoria Powell, Connie Rappaport, Steve Rappaport, Bonnie Rathjen, Charles Reich, Karen Reivich, David Robinson, Ruth Robinson, Sandra Robinson, Susan Sands, Peter Schulman, Martin Selegman, Gary Selers, Jay Shafritz, Allan Smith, Carl Smith, Helene Smith, Joel Smith, Josh Smith, Rose Smith, John Stein, Doris Surick, Herman Surick, Stuart Surick, Stuart R. Surick, Charles Todd, Cindy M. Tosti, Marian Tosti, Thomas Weck, Dorothy Weitzman, and Thomas Willging.

Many thanks also go to the publishing team who produced this edition: Joan Gill, Betty Dickson, Lisa Flatley, Mary Jo Graham, Dana Wilson, Denise Sadler, and Lori Kueter.

Not on the list are the anonymous reviewers who told it straight and the many people who wrote to suggest additions and corrections to prior editions. This third edition would not have been the same without their help.


Reading the


Finding the Word

Skim the area near where the word should be. The word you want may be printed in the definition of a nearby word. Also, look up both halves of a compound word or two-word phrase. The word you want may be in either place.


If a word in a definition is in boldface, it is defined in the dictionary. You can look it up if you need it. If you are also directed to “see that word,” you must understand the boldface word in order to understand the definition.


Italics are used to emphasize a word or to illustrate its use.

Ordinary English

Everyday English definitions of legal words are omitted unless needed to avoid confusion.


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