List of legal terms

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This is a list of legal terms, often from Latin:


A mensa et thoro

A mensa et thoro, from bed and board. A divorce a mensa et thoro, is rather a separation of the parties by act of law, than a dissolution of the marriage. It may be granted for the causes of extreme cruelty or desertion of the wife by the husband. 2 Eccl. Rep. 208. This kind of divorce does not affect the legitimacy of children, nor authorize a second marriage. V. A vinculo matrimonii; Cruelty Divorce.

A vinculo matrimonii

A vinculo matrimonii, from the bond of marriage. A marriage may be dissolved a vinculo, in many states, as in Pennsylvania, on the ground of canonical disabilities before marriage, as that one of the parties was legally married to a person who was then living; impotence, (q. v.,) and the like adultery cruelty and malicious desertion for two years or more. In New York a sentence of imprisonment for life is also a ground for a divorce a vinculo. When the marriage is dissolved a vinculo, the parties may marry again but when the cause is adultery, the guilty party cannot marry his or her paramour.

Ab initio

  1. From the beginning.
  2. When a man enters upon lands or into the house of another by authority of law, and afterwards abuses that authority, he becomes a trespasser ab initio. Bac. Ab. Trespass, B.; 8 Coke, 146 2 Bl. Rep. 1218 Clayt. 44. And if an officer neglects to remove goods attached within a reasonable time and continue in possession, his entry becomes a trespass ab initio. 2 Bl. Rep. 1218. See also as to other cases, 2 Stra. 717 1 H. Bl. 13 11 East, 395 2 Camp. 115 2 Johns. 191; 10 Johns. 253; ibid. 369.
  3. But in case of an authority in fact, to enter, an abuse of such authority will not, in general, subject the party to an action of trespass, Lane, 90 ; Bae. Ab. Trespass, B ; 2 T. It. 166. See generally 1 Chit. PI. 146. 169. 180.
  4. For non-legal menanings, see ab initio


Aberemurder, obsolete. An apparent, plain, or downright murder. It was used to distinguish a wilful murder, from a chance-medley, or manslaughter. Spelman; Cowell; Blount.


To abet, crim. law. To encourage or set another on to commit a crime. This word is always taken in a bad sense. To abet another to commit a murder, is to command, procure, or counsel him to commit it. Old Nat. Brev 21; Col Litt. 475.


Abettor, crim. law. One who encourages or incites, persuades or sets another on to commit a crime. Such a person is either a principal or, an accessory to the crime. When present, aiding, where a felony is committed, he is guilty as principal in the second degree ; when absent, "he is merely an accessory. 1. Russell, 21; 1 Leach 66; Foster 428.

Source: Bouvier's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, Revised, 1856.


An accessory is one who knows of, and asssits, the commission of a crime, but is not present when the crime is committed. In this an accessory is different from an accomplice. A person may be an accesory either before, or after the fact; that is, before or after the crime is actualy committed. But a person can not be an accessory unless a crime is eventually committed.

Amicus curiae

Amicus curiae, a friend of the court. One, who as a stander by, when a judge is doubtful or mistaken in a matter of law, may inform the court. 2 Inst. 178; 2 Vin. Abr. 475; and any one, as amicus curia, may make an application to the court in favor of an infant, though he be no relation. 1 Ves. Sen. 313. AMITA. A paternal aunt; the sister of one's father. Inst. 3, 6, 3.


Certain changes to terms of trade or agreement are not legally allowed even when there has been no consideration or conclusion of a contract. One is "estopped" from changing prices or estimates in various inequitable ways when a reasonable expectation has been conveyed prior to the transaction (exchange of consideration) or execution of a contract.


A grantee is to whom something is granted.


The party who provides the grant, usually someone who conveys property by deed.

Implied Authority of Contract

The implied ability of a person to make a legally binding contract on the behalf of a business or organization, by way of uniform or interaction with the public on behalf of said business/organization.

In loco parentis

Assuming custodial/parental responsibility and authority (literally: "in place of the parents"). Although this can be established by written contract it is often assumed in common situations; thus a sibling or babysitter may have limited rights to act in loco parentis until the legal custodial parties (parents etc.) can be contacted.

In medias res

Literally, "in the midst of things".


injunction any court order prohibiting some parties from specific actions and/or activities pending settlement of some other case.

Jus tertii

Literally meaning "rights of a third [person]", is a defense in tort law against claims of possession such as detinue, or conversion. It is the acknowledgement of a third party who has better possession than the claimant seeking the action.

Non est factum

Latin for "it is not (his) deed". It is a plea in defence of an action for breach of a contract. It claims that the signature on the contract was signed by mistake, without knowledge of its meaning, but was not done so negligently. A successful plea would void the contract.

Ex parte

ex parte by or for one party without notification of nor representation on behalf of other parties.

Pro hac vice

for this occasion (Latin), application by an out-of-state lawyer to represent his or her client. Since lawyers are licensed by each state independently they must ask for permission of the court to appear in matters before any other state courts. Permission is generally granted though the details can vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Rule Nisi

An order from a superior court to show cause. That is, the rule is absolute unless one can "show cause" to otherwise.

Scenes faire

A doctrine in copyright law which includes some elements from copyright protection on the basis of their being necessitated by external factors or being customary to a given genre.

Sine die

Indefinitely; literally, "without a day".

Sine qua non

Also meaning "But for", generally refers to the test used to establish causation in fact. If the result would not have occurred 'but for' the actions taken by the defendant, then there exist causation.

Sua Sponte

(Latin) literally: "of its own accord" indicates that the court is addressing an issue that was not raised by any litigants; most often to defer to another jurisdiction regardless of the litigants' choice. (Also the motto of the U.S. Army Rangers)

Subpoena Duces Tecum

subpoena duces tecum a court order specifying items that a witness or other party is to bring (duces) in hand (tecum) or suffer penalty (sub poena)


A person who commits a tort.

This article incorporates text from Bouvier's Law Dictionary, 1856 Edition (, which is now in the public domain.



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