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Susan Ellis Wild - Webster's New World Law Dictionary

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installment n. A partial payment of a debt scheduled to be made at regular intervals.

installment contract See contract.

installment sale n. A contract for the sale of goods such as furniture, in which the purchaser makes periodic payments and the seller retains a security interest in the goods until paid in full.

instrument n. A written legal document defining the parties’ rights and liabilities to one another.

negotiable instrument. Under the Uniform Commercial Code, a writing that reflects an unconditional promise to pay, such as a check or note, but does not also include security for the payment.

insufficient evidence n. Evidence so inadequate to prove an assertion that it will not even support a presumption.

insurable interest See interest.

insurance n. An agreement by an insurer to provide compensation or another benefit upon the occurrence of a specified risk causing harm to property or the person of an insured.

casualty insurance. Insurance for loss or injury to person or property.

indemnity insurance. Insurance which protects against loss, as opposed to insurance against one’s liability to others.

liability insurance. Insurance which protects against one’s liability to others, as with automobile insurance that provides coverage for accidents in which the policyholder is at fault, or homeowners’ insurance, which provides coverage for injury to those who are injured while on the homeowner’s property.

life insurance. Insurance for loss of life.

insured n. A person who pays for and receives the prospective benefit of an insurance policy.

intangible n. Impalpable; not capable of being touched or otherwise detected by the senses.

integration n. 1 The merger of all agreements and understandings between parties pertaining to a particular subject matter into a single written agreement. 2 The removal of racial barriers in society, providing equal access to all public facilities.

intendment n. The legislature’s intention in passing a particular law.

intent n. 1 The perpetrator’s frame of mind in committing an criminal act. 2 The wishes and desires of the framers of the United States Constitution or of legislation.

original intent. The view that the United States Constitution should be strictly construed in light of the framer’s intentions, rather than with modern values and interpretations.

intentional infliction of emotional distress v. Intentionally causing another person extreme psychological suffering through one’s actions.

inter alia adv. Latin. Among others.

interest n. 1 Ownership of, or other right in, property. 2 Legitimate concern with the outcome of a case or controversy, because of a likelihood that the outcome will affect one’s property rights or other rights or privileges. 3 Compensation for making a loan, placing money on deposit, or other use of funds, expressed as a percentage of the principal, calculated and payable on a regular schedule.

compound interest. Interest calculated both on the principal and on previously accrued interest.

interim relief


Insurable interest. A legal interest in the safety of property or the health and wellbeing of another person sufficient to permit the purchase of an insurance policy.

interim relief n. Preliminary relief, such as an injunction, granted by the court to preserve the status quo pending trial.

interlocutory adj. Of an order, that it is temporary, pending a trial on the merits.

interlocutory order n. A preliminary order granted by a court pending a trial on the merits.

Internal Revenue Service n. A federal government agency charged with the collection of income taxes. Abbreviated IRS.

international agreement n. A contract or treaty signed by two or more sovereign nations.

International Court of Justice n. A tribunal established by the United Nations to hear cases submitted by the consent of United Nations members.

international law n. The entire body of rights and responsibilities existing between nations, including treaties and customs.

interpleader n. 1 An action by the neutral custodian of property to determine its proper owner. 2 One who brings such a suit.

interrogation n. The detailed questioning of a suspect by the police or other law-enforcement authorities.

interrogatory n. A form of discovery involving the submission of written questions to the other party.

in terrorem adj./adv. Latin. A characteristic marked by threat or warning.

in terrorem clause n. A provision in a contract or will that warns a beneficiary or party not to engage in certain behavior, by providing a prospective penalty for such behavior.

inter se Latin. Among themselves.

interstate commerce n. Business, including the sale of goods, conducted across state borders.

Interstate Commerce Commission n. A federal agency, no longer in existence today, that regulated interstate carriers.

intervening cause n. An event that interrupts the chain of causation by providing an independent cause of the final result, possibly relieving the original actors of liability.

intervention n. A procedure under which a nonparty who has a significant interest in the outcome of a case enters into and becomes a party in the case.

inter vivos adj. Latin. A conveyance of property between living parties and not by bequest.

intestate adj. The condition of having died without a will.

intestate succession n. The process used to distribute the property of one who died without a will.

in toto adv. Latin. In entirety.

intoxication n. The condition of being mentally or physically impaired due to the ingestion of alcohol or drugs.

intrinsic evidence n. Evidence appearing within a written document.

intrinsic fraud n. Fraud in a party’s conduct of a prior litigation.

inure v. 1 To be given or to be attributable to. 2 To become used to.


itemized deduction

invalid adj. Legally ineffective; unfounded.

invasion of privacy n. 1 An unjustifiable intrusion into one’s personal affairs and information.

invest v. 1 To grant authority. 2 To place money in an income-producing opportunity.

investment tax credit n. A provision of law, now largely repealed, that permitted a portion of the purchase price of capital goods to be utilized as a credit against income taxes.

invitee n. One who enters upon premises with the permission of the owner.

involuntary adj. Performed against one’s will.

involuntary bailment

See bailment.

involuntary confession

See confession.

involuntary manslaughter See man-




ipse dixit


Asserted but




ipso facto Latin. As a matter of fact.

IRA See individual retirement account.

IRC abbr. Internal Revenue Code. Contains the current federal tax laws and is located in Title 26, United States Code.

irrelevant adj. With evidence or testimony, not pertinent to the claims or defenses in the case.

irreparable injury n. An injury not capable of being redressed by money damages, and that therefore supports a request for injunctive relief.

irresistible impulse test n. A form of insanity defense in which the defendant must establish that he or she was incapable of resisting the urge to commit the crime.

IRS See Internal Revenue Service.

issue n. 1 A question of law or fact disputed by the parties. 2 In estate law, the descendants of a common ancestor; offspring.

collateral issue. Incidental to the central issue in a matter.

material issue. An issue which directly bears on the outcome of a matter; significant to the determination of a fact in dispute.

itemized deduction n. A deduction listed separately as a line item on an income tax return.


J.n. abbr. Judge or justice.

jail n. A confinement facility whose inmates are individuals awaiting trial or convicted of lesser offenses.

J.D. n. abbr. Juris Doctor (a law degree).

Jencks material n. Written or recorded statements by a prosecution witnesses that must be disclosed to the defense.

jeopardy n. A defendant’s risk of punishment.

JJ.n. abbr. Judges or justices.

joinder n. The combination of separate parties or claims into a single lawsuit.

compulsory joinder. The required joinder of a party without whom a dispute cannot be fully resolved.

misjoinder. The joining of a party who is not properly a part of the case.

nonjoinder. The failure to join a party who should be part of the case.

permissive joinder. The optional joinder of parties or claims because of an overlap in the issues or interests involved.

joint adj. An ownership interest or expectation shared by two or more individuals, as in a bank account or an estate.

joint account n. A bank account in the name of two or more individuals, each of whom has an undivided right to the entire balance.

joint and several liability n.

Responsibility for a loss that is borne both individually and collectively by a group of defendants.

joint custody See custody.

joint enterprise n. 1 In criminal law, a conspiracy or cooperation of two or more individuals to commit a crime. 2 In tort law, a business enterprise conducted by several individuals, who each share in the liability arising from their activities.

joint liability See liability.

joint ownership n. Undivided ownership of the whole of an asset by two or more individuals. Upon the death of any one, his or her rights pass to the surviving owners rather than to the heirs of the decedent.

joint return n. A tax return filed by a husband and wife, each of whom is individually liable for the entire tax due.

joint-stock company See company. joint tenancy See tenancy.

joint tortfeasors n. Two or more individuals or entities who contributed jointly to the harm suffered by the plaintiff and who may be held individually or collectively responsible.

jointure n. Archaic. A life estate that reverts to a wife after her husband’s death.

joint venture n. An unincorporated business venture with two or more participants who share the financial risk and gain.

journalists’ privilege n. A law or doctrine, arising out of the First Amendment, that shields reporters from



being compelled to name confidential sources in court proceedings.

joyriding n. The temporary appropriation of another’s vehicle for use, typically without the intention of selling or destroying it.

J.P. See justice of the peace.

judge n. An appointed or elected official responsible for conducting a court in which he or she resolves legal controversies.

judge-made law n. Legal doctrine established by court decisions rather than by statute.

judgment n. A court’s final resolution of the issues before it at trial or upon a dispositive motion.

default judgment. A judgment entered due to the failure of the defendant to answer or otherwise respond to the claim.

deficiency judgment. A judgment in favor of a creditor following a forced sale of property, for the difference between the amount owed and the amount collected as a result of the sale, so as to fully compensate the creditor.

final judgment. A judgment which fully ends a case, on its merits (as opposed to on procedural grounds).

A final judgment is generally necessary before a party can file an appeal.

foreign judgment. A judgment of a different state or country than the one in which the judgment is being challenged or as to which enforcement is sought.

judgment creditor. A creditor who has obtained, through judicial process, a judgment against a debtor; commonly used in bankruptcy proceedings to distinguish such a creditor from others to whom the debtor

owes money but do not have judgments. Judgment creditors may be entitled to preferential distribution of a debtor’s money if there are insufficient assets to pay all creditors.

judgment debtor. A debtor who owes money to a creditor who has obtained a judgment against the debtor in that amount. See judgment creditor.

judgment docket. A roll or listing of judgments maintained by a clerk or administrative office of a court.

judgment in rem. A judgment that disposes of property, or resolves competing interests in a piece of property, as opposed to a judgment that is against a person ordering payment of money.

judgment lien. A lien against property that results from a judicial proceeding in which a monetary award has been made and has been reduced to judgment; until payment of the judgment, a lien will be placed against all real property (and some personal property) of the individual or entity that owes payment of the judgment.

judgment non obstante veridicto. Latin. Judgment notwithstanding the verdict. In rare cases, a judge may enter a judgment in favor of one party despite a jury’s award against that party; generally in cases where the evidence was such that no reasonable jury could have come to the determination that it did. Abbreviated j.n.o.v.

judgment of conviction. The final decision in a criminal case, which includes the plea taken by the defendant, the verdict, any court findings, and the ultimate sentence.

judgment of dismissal. A judgment invalidating or otherwise disposing of the plaintiff’s or the prosecutor’s claims prior to a trial.

judgment proof


judgment on the merits. A judgment issued after the parties have had a full chance to present evidence and witnesses at trial.

judgment on the pleadings. A judgment that is issued on the pleadings alone, either on the basis that the plaintiff’s pleadings are inadequate or that the defendant has failed to plead any fact that negates the plaintiff’s claims or raises an affirmative defense.

personal judgment. A judgment imposing personal liability on a defendant.

judgment proof adj. Of a defendant, that he or she has no assets against which a judgment may be executed.

judicature n. 1 The administration of justice via a court system. 2 The judges serving in such a court system. 3 The office and duties of a judge.

judicial activism n. A usually pejorative phrase implying that a judge is applying his or her own political views, rather than basing decisions on law or prior precedent.

judicial admission n. An admission made by a party in court as to an opposing party’s assertion, or a failure to formally dispute an assertion, resulting in that assertion being treated as an incontrovertible fact in the remaining court proceedings.

judicial discretion n. Of matters left within the personal choice of a judge, not to be reviewed or overruled by a higher court.

judicial economy n. Efficiency in the management of a particular litigation or of the courts in general; refers to measures taken to avoid unnecessary effort or expense on the part of the court or the court system.

judicial immunity n. The immunity of a judge from civil action for official activities.

judicial notice n. Regarding evidence, the court’s acceptance of the truth of certain universally admitted facts without the necessity of proof.

judicial restraint n. The doctrine that cases should be decided on the narrowest possible grounds, without resolving unnecessary issues, especially political or social controversies.

judicial review n. A court’s power of review of the decisions of lower courts or of the actions of other branches of government.

judiciary n. 1 The court system. 2 The branch of government in which judges serve. 3 Collectively, the judges in a particular court system or in all court systems.

jump bail v. See bail jumping.

jural adj. Pertaining to law or legal matters.

jurat n. Latin. A certification at the bottom of an affidavit or deposition by a notary public that states the paper was signed, and thereby sworn to, in his or her presence by the individual who signed it.

jurisdiction n. 1 The power wielded by a government over its subjects, their property, and the land and natural resources within its boundaries. 2 A court’s authority over persons or property brought before or appearing before it. 3 The geographical area within which a government’s or a court’s power may be applied.

ancillary jurisdiction. The authority of a court to decide secondary or subsidiary claims raised by a case properly before it.


jury trial

appellate jurisdiction. An appeals court’s power of review of the decisions of lower courts.

concurrent jurisdiction. The overlapping jurisdiction of two or more courts over the same cause of action.

exclusive jurisdiction. The sole court or forum in which an action may be heard or tried, as no other courts or tribunals have authority over the person or the subject matter.

federal question jurisdiction. The authority of the federal district courts to try cases that raise an issue of federal or constitutional law.

in personam jurisdiction. The court’s authority over an individual who resides or is found within the court’s geographical area.

in rem jurisdiction. The court’s authority to adjudicate rights in real or personal property located within the court’s geographical area.

jurisdictional amount. The minimum or maximum amount to invoke a particular court’s jurisdiction over the matter; in some lower courts, e.g., small claims court, there may be a limitation above which relief must be sought in a higher court; in federal court, a minimum amount in controversy is required in certain cases, e.g., diversity cases.

limited jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over only certain types of cases, or claims under certain financial limits or subject to other restrictions.

original jurisdiction. A court’s status as the first court that has authority to hear a particular claim.

pendent jurisdiction. A court’s authority over claims that would not ordinarily be brought before it, but that are secondary or subsidiary to claims properly before it.

subject matter jurisdiction. A court’s authority over particular types of cases or of relief.

Juris Doctor n. The law degree conferred by most American law schools. Abbreviated J.D.

jurisprudence n. 1 The study of the fundamental structure of a particular legal system or of legal systems in general. 2 A body of case law serving as precedent.

jurist n. 1. A judge. 2 A legal scholar.

juror n. An individual selected and sworn in to serve on a jury, deciding factual issues in a civil or criminal case.

jury n. A group of individuals selected and sworn in to serve as the finders of fact in a civil or criminal trial, or in the case of a grand jury, to decide whether the facts warrant an indictment of the defendant.

blue-ribbon jury. A jury for which only highly educated individuals have been selected, because they will be dealing with technical subject matter.

grand jury. A jury selected and sworn in by a prosecutor to determine whether to issue indictments.

petit jury. A jury selected to decide the facts in a trial (effectively, any jury other than a grand jury).

jury instruction n. An instruction given by the court to a jury at the conclusion of presentation of all evidence in a trial, and after the lawyers’ closing arguments, to advise the jury of the law that applies to the facts of the case, and the manner in which they should conduct their deliberations.

jury trial n. A trial in which a jury will serve as the finder of fact.

just compensation


just compensation See compensation.

jus tertii n. Latin. The rights of third parties affected by a controversy or claim.

justice n. The balanced and equitable administration of law.

justice of the peace n. A local official, not necessarily an attorney or judge, with jurisdiction over limited matters such as performing weddings or resolving minor civil or criminal complaints.

justiciability n. Of a claim or controversy, the condition of being suitable for adjudication by a particular court.

justifiable homicide See homicide.

justification n. A showing of an appropriate reason for one’s actions.

juvenile court See court.

juvenile delinquent n. A minor who has committed criminal acts.


kangaroo court n. Pejorative. Of an unfair court, in which justice cannot be obtained.

Keogh plan n. A tax-deferred retirement plan available only to the selfemployed and their employees.

key-number system n. A scheme of numerical classification of cases utilized by West Publishing Company in its legal treatises and case reporters.

kickback n. A form of bribery in which a percentage of the revenues from a contract or other financial award is illicitly returned to the person awarding the contract or benefit.

kidnapping n. The felony of abducting an individual by force.

kin n. A relation, typically by blood; sometimes used to refer to relations by marriage or adoption.

knowing adj. Conscious, deliberate, with cognizance of pertinent information.

knowledge n. An awareness of factual information. Includes actual knowledge (positive or definite), personal knowledge (based on one’s own observation), and constructive knowledge (based on other circumstances).


Labor Management Relations Act n. A 1947 federal law designed to protect employers, employees, and the public. It governs union activities and provides an arbitration mechanism for strikes that cause national emergencies. Abbreviated LMRA.

laches n. Equitable doctrine that precludes or limits relief to one who delays in acting or bringing a claim.

lame duck adj. Colloquial; often pejorative. An elected official whose successor has already been elected, and who is serving out the remainder of a term.

land n. 1 Real property. 2 An area of ground with defined boundaries, including minerals or resources below the surface and anything growing on or attached to the surface.

landlord n. The lessor of real property.

landmark decision n. A decision that is notable and often cited because it significantly changes, consolidates, updates, or effectively summarizes the law on a particular topic.

Landrum-Griffin Act n. A 1959 federal law regulating labor unions, for the purpose of reducing corruption in unions.

Lanham Act n. 1947 federal law that defines and regulates trademarks.

land use planning n. Collectively: zoning, real estate permitting, planning and use, and those aspects of environmental law as apply to such real estate matters.

lapse n. The termination or expiration of a right because it has not been exercised or because of the occurrence or nonoccurrence of some contingency.

larceny n. The wrongful appropriation of personal property with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of its possession and use.

last clear chance doctrine n. The doctrine that a plaintiff who committed contributory acts of negligence may nonetheless recover damages against a defendant who had the last opportunity in time to avoid the damage. Very limited applicability in most states.

last will and testament See will.

latent ambiguity n. An ambiguity that is not apparent from the wording of a document but is caused by external circumstances.

latent defect n. A hidden flaw that cannot be readily ascertained from mere observation.

lateral support n. A person (in property law) has the right to have his land supported at the sides by his neighbor’s land; the principle that an adjoining landowner cannot alter the perimeter of his property in such a manner that his neighbor’s land is adversely affected or weakened.

law n. 1 The complete body of statutes, rules, enforced customs and norms, and court decisions governing the relations of individuals and corporate entities to one another and to the state. 2 The subset of such statutes and other rules and materials dealing with a particular subject matter. 3 The system by which such statutes and rules are administered. 4 The profession of interpreting such statutes and rules. 5

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