See: blood alcohol content

Bachelor Of Laws
A degree in law from a law school, abbreviated to LL.B (for "Legum Baccalaureus"), which means that recipient has successfully completed three years of law studies. Most accredited law schools now grant a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree instead. Law schools that made the switch allowed their LL.B. holders to claim a J.D .retroactively.

Back-To-Back Life Sentences
Slang for consecutive life terms imposed by a judge when the defendant was convicted of more than one crime, each of which carries a life sentence. Making the sentences consecutive and not concurrent (served at the same time) lessens the chance of parole: Unless specified "without possibility of parole," a life sentence really means 20 or more years in prison before parole is possible. A convict serving concurrent life sentences could conceivably receive parole on all of them after serving the minimum term, but someone with consecutive sentences would have to begin serving the second sentence upon being paroled for the first.

Bad Debt
A debt that can't be collected. A business that is owed a bad debt may deduct it from ordinary income. A lender who made a personal loan that has become a bad debt may deduct it as a short-term capital loss. In some cases, the debtor must claim the amount of the debt as income -- and pay tax on it -- in the year when the business or lender writes off the debt as uncollectable.

Bad Faith
The intentional refusal to fulfill a legal or contractual obligation, misleading another, or entering into an agreement without intending to or having the means to complete it.Most contracts come with an implied promise to act in good faith.

Badgering The Witness
When, instead of being questioned, a witness is subjected to derisive comments ("You expect the jury to believe that?"), legal arguments posed as questions ("With all the evidence against you, how can you deny that you stole the watch?), or questions that assume facts not in evidence ("There were ten people blocking your view, yet you can identify the security guard?").

The money paid to the court, usually at arraignment or shortly thereafter, to ensure that an arrested person who is released from jail will show up at all required court appearances. The amount of bail is determined by the local bail schedule, which is based on the seriousness of the offense. The judge can increase the bail if the prosecutor convinces him that the defendant is likely to flee (for example, if he has failed to show up in court in the past), or can decrease it if the defense attorney shows that the defendant is unlikely to run (for example, he has strong ties to the community by way of a steady job and a family).

Bail Bond
A bond that a court accepts in exchange for allowing the defendant to remain at liberty until the end of the case. The defendant pays a certain portion of the bail to a bondsman, usually 10%, and may also have to pledge collateral, such as an interest in real property. The bondsman offers the bond to the court. If the defendant appears at all court dates, the bail will be exhonorated, or ended, but the bondsman will keep the 10%. If the defendant fails to appear for a court hearing, the judge can issue a warrant for his arrest and demand the entire bail. Usually, the bondsman will look for the defendant and bring him back, forcibly if necessary, in order to avoid having to pay the entire bail or selling the collateral to satisfy the bail.

Bail Bondsman
A professional agent for an insurance company who specializes in providing bail bonds for people charged with crimes and who do not have the money necessary to post the entire bail with the court. Bail bondsmen usually charge a fee of 10% of the amount of the bond. The offices of a bail bondsman are usually close to the local courthouse and jail, and some make "house calls" to the jail or hand out cards in court. (See also: bail)

Bailee (Custodian)
A person with whom some article is left, usually pursuant to a contract, who is responsible for the safe return of the article to the owner when the contract is fulfilled. Examples include banks holding bonds, storage companies where furniture or files are deposited, a parking garage, or a kennel or horse ranch where an animal is boarded.

1) A court official, usually a peace officer or deputy sheriff, who keeps order in the courtroom and handles errands for the judge and clerk. 2) In some jurisdictions, a person appointed by the court to handle the affairs of an incompetent person or to be a keeper of goods or money pending further order of the court.

A legal relationship in which one party (bailor) leaves personal property in the possession, and under the temporary control, of another (bailee). Common examples include leaving a car in a parking garage, lodging a pet at a kennel, or storing household goods in a storage center. While most bailments are considered "bailments for hire" (in which the bailee is paid), there is also "constructive bailment" when the circumstances create an obligation upon the bailee to protect the goods, and "gratuitous bailment" in which there is no payment, but the bailee is still responsible, such as when a finder of a lost diamond ring places it with a custodian pending finding the owner.

Someone who delivers an item of personal property to another person for a specific purpose. For example, a person who leaves a broken computer with a repairman in order to get it fixed is a bailor.

When a government, individual, or business provides emergency financial assistance to a failing business or governmental entity to keep it afloat and avoid the consequences of its collapse.

Bait And Switch
A dishonest sales practice in which a business advertises a bargain price for an item in order to draw customers in and then tells the prospective buyer that the advertised item is of poor quality or no longer available and attempts to switch the customer to a more expensive product. In most states this practice is a crime and can also be the basis for a personal lawsuit if damages can be proved.

Baker V. Carr (1962)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court held that federal courts could decide cases questioning whether state voting districts were properly delineated. (These questions were previously left in the hands of state legislatures.) The case initiated a long series of federal court cases dealing with apportionment issues. (See also: Reynolds v. Sims)
Full text: Baker v. Carr (Nolo)

Balance Due
The amount of a debt owed on an account, a mortgage, or a promissory note. The balance due is not necessarily the sum of installments due (because the installments may include amortized interest), but may be the principal due without further interest.

Balance Sheet
A financial statement listing a businesss assets (what it owns), liabilities (what it owes), and net worth (the difference between the assets and liabilities) at a particular point in time. It is usually prepared each month, quarter of a year, annually, or upon sale of the business. It is intended to show the overall condition of the business.

Balloon Mortgage
A mortgage that is not fully paid off over the loan term (such as five, seven, or ten years), leaving a balance at the end. The borrower must either pay off the remaining mortgage or refinance the loan.

Balloon Payment
A large final payment due at the end of a loan, typically a home or car loan, to pay off the amount the monthly payments didn't cover. Many states prohibit balloon payments in loans for goods or services that are primarily for personal, family, or household use, or require the lender to let the borrower refinance the balloon payment before forcing collection.

1) A method or process of casting a vote. 2) The actual paper, card, or machine that indicates a voter's choices in an election. 3) The total number of votes cast in an election. 4) A list of candidates running for office.

An officially chartered institution empowered to receive deposits, make loans, and provide checking and savings account services. In the United States, banks are organized under federal or state regulations. Banks receive funds for loans from the Federal Reserve System provided they meet established requirements. Most banks are "commercial" banks with broad powers. Savings and loan associations perform some banking services but are not full-service commercial banks and lack strict regulation. Compare: credit union.

Bank Credit
The borrowing capacity that a bank provides to an individual or organization, usually in the form of cash loans. A borrower's total bank credit is the sum of the borrowing capacity extended to the borrower by all lenders. (See also: credit)

A federal legal process for debtors seeking to eliminate or repay their debts. There are two types of bankruptcies for consumers: Chapter 7, which allows debtors to wipe out many debts in exchange for giving up nonexempt property to be sold to repay creditors, and Chapter 13, which allows debtors to keep all of their property and repay all or a portion of their debts over three to five years. Businesses can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Chapter 11 lets companies reorganize their debt load to stay in business.

Bankruptcy Court
A specialized federal court that hears only bankruptcy cases. Bankruptcy courts are established in districts in every state, and petitioners file for bankruptcy in the district where the petitioner lives or does business.

Bankruptcy Discharge
An order issued by the bankruptcy court at the end of a bankruptcy case, wiping out all of the debtor's dischargeable debts. Learn more in Nolo's Bankruptcy Information section.

Bankruptcy Estate
Everything a debtor owns when filing for bankruptcy, except certain pensions and educational trusts.

Bankruptcy Petition Preparer
A nonlawyer who helps debtors complete their bankruptcy paperwork for a fee. Bankruptcy petition preparers may not give legal advice or represent people in court; instead, they act as a typing service, completing the required bankruptcy forms as directed by the debtor who hires them.

Bankruptcy Proceedings
The way a bankruptcy case wends its way through the court system, from the time the bankruptcy petition is filed until the debtor receives a bankruptcy discharge.

Bankruptcy Trustee
A person appointed by the court to oversee a bankruptcy case. In a Chapter 7 case, the trustee's role is to gather the debtor's nonexempt property, sell it, and distribute the proceeds to creditors. In a Chapter 13 case, the trustee's role is to receive the debtor's monthly payments and distribute them to creditors. Businesses can file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Collectively, all lawyers qualified to practice in a given court or jurisdiction.

Bar Association
An organization of lawyers. Membership in a state bar association (also called an "integrated" or "unified" bar association) is often mandatory before a lawyer can practice in that state. There are also many voluntary bar associations organized by city, county, or other community.

Bar Examination
An examination for individuals who want a license to practice law. Typically, bar exams are multiday tests of endurance and knowledge, covering a wide range of legal topics. Once licensed in a particular state, an attorney can practice law in that state and in federal courts in that state. Some states require a special bar examination for attorneys who have already passed the bar in other states, while others recognize out-of-state attorneys if they have established local residence. Lawyers from one state may occasionally practice in another with the consent of the court alone.

A mutual agreement between two parties that is voluntary and involves the exchange of consideration (money, goods, services, or a promise to do something). If the agreement involves an illegal transaction or the consideration is insufficient or illegal, a bargain does not constitute a contract.

Creating legal business by stirring up disputes and quarrels, generally for the benefit of the lawyer who sees fees in the matter. Barratry is illegal in all states and subject to criminal punishment or discipline by the state bar.

In Great Britain, a lawyer who may argue cases in superior courts. Compare: litigator

For income and capital gains tax purposes, the value that is used to determine profit or loss when property is sold. Often the basis is what you paid for the property, adjusted to reflect improvements made or damage incurred while you own the property. (See also: adjusted basis, carryover basis, stepped-up basis)

Basis Point
A basis point is a unit of measure used in describing interest rates. One basis point is equivalent to 1/100th of a percent, or 0.01%. For example, if the prime rate increases by 50 basis points, it means that the rate has risen 0.5%.

A crime consisting of physical contact that is intended to harm someone. Unintentional harmful contact is not battery, no matter how careless the behavior or how severe the injury. A fist fight is a common battery; being hit by a wild pitch in a baseball game is not.

Beach Bum Trust Provision
A clause in a trust that requires the trust beneficiary to earn his or her own money in order to receive trust funds. This provision is intended to encourage the beneficiary to work, and not just lie around the beach and live off the trust.

A person holding a negotiable instrument, such as a check, promissory note, bank draft, or bond. This becomes important when the document states it is "payable to bearer," which means whoever holds this paper it can receive the funds due on it.

Bearer Paper
A negotiable instrument payable to whoever has possession of it, rather than being payable to a specific person.

Convinced of the truth of a statement or allegation. In the phrase "upon information and belief," the so-called belief is based only on unconfirmed information, so the person declaring the belief is hedging his or her bet as to whether the belief is correct.

The desk and seat (usually a chair rather than an actual bench) where a judge sits in the courtroom. Sometimes the word "bench" is used in place of the word "judge" -- for example, a party to a lawsuit might ask for a bench trial, meaning a trial by a judge without a jury. And lawyers in a trial sometimes "approach the bench," meaning they step up to speak to the judge.

Bench Trial
A trial decided by a judge (sitting on the "bench"), without a jury.

Bench Warrant
An arrest warrant issued by a judge while sitting on the bench, holding court. A bench warrant is used when a defendant on bail fails to show up, or when a witness under subpoena fails to appear. The judge will usually set bail at the same time. Bench warrants for lesser matters (such as failing to appear to answer to a traffic ticket) may simply be noted on the defendant's record. If the defendant is stopped later by the police for any reason, the police will have the ability to act on the warrant and arrest the person.

Beneficial Interest
The right of a party to some profit, distribution, or benefit from a contract or trust. A beneficial interest is distinguished from the rights of someone like a trustee or official who has responsibility to manage the assets, but does not share in the benefits.

Beneficial Ownership
Ownership of the benefits related to property, rather than in the property itself. For example, the beneficiary of trust income has beneficial ownership of that trust. Also, a person may have beneficial ownership of securities, such as voting rights or investment rights, without actually having his or her name on the title of the stocks.

Beneficial Use
The right to enjoy the pleasant qualities of something such as light, air, view, access, or water in a stream even though the title to the property in which the use exists is held by another.

A person or organization legally entitled to receive benefits through a legal device, such as a will, trust, or life insurance policy.

Beneficiary Deed
See: transfer-on-death deed

1) Profit, advantage, or privilege. 2) A perquisite by an employer to an employee, beyond wages, such as vacation time, health insurance coverage, or a pension. 3) A payment from an insurance policy or government program, such as Social Security benefits, workers compensation benefits, or unemployment benefits.

Benefit Of Counsel
Advice from an attorney. Typically used in the negative ("without benefit of counsel") to describe a situation in which a person was not advised by an attorney and therefore didn't appreciate the full import of his or her actions.

Benevolent Society Benefits
See: fraternal benefit society benefits

To leave personal property through a will. Compare: devise

Personal property (anything but real estate) left under the terms of a will.

Berghuis V. Thompkins (2010)
U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court held that suspects who are silent during police interrogations are not invoking their right to remain silent and can continue being interrogated. If the suspect responds during the subsequent interrogation, the Court ruled that the response can be considered a waiver of the right to remain silent.
Full text: Berghuis v. Thompkins (Nolo)

Berne Convention
An international treaty that standardizes basic copyright protection among all of the signatory countries. A member country will afford the same treatment to a copyright owner from another country as it does to owners in its own country.

Best Evidence Rule
A rule of evidence that demands that the original of any document, photograph, or recording be used as evidence at trial, rather than a copy. A copy will be allowed into evidence only if the original is unavailable.

Best Interests (Of The Child)
The test that courts use when making decisions that affect a child. For example, an adoption is allowed when a court declares it to be in the best interests of the child. And in disputes over child custody, the judge will make a decision based on the child's best interests. Factors considered by the court in deciding the best interests of a child include: the child's age, sex, and mental and physical health; age, lifestyle, and mental and physical health of the parents; emotional ties between the parents and the child; ability of the parents to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing, and medical care; potential negative affect of changing the status quo; and the child's preference.

Copulation by a human with an animal, which is a crime in all states as a "crime against nature."

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
See: reasonable doubt

See: bona fide occupational qualification

Slang for bona fide purchaser.

An actual or potential decisionmaker's predisposition for or against a party to a lawsuit or a particular group of people. Bias may result from things like discriminatory attitudes, personal opinions, financial dealings, or personal knowledge of one of the parties or witnesses.

An offer to pay or charge a specific price, under set terms, for an item or service. People make bids at auctions, at which the highest offer wins. The term is also used to refer to a contractor's offer to build a project or sell goods or services at a given price and other terms, with often the lowest bidder getting the job.

See: bifurcated trial

Bifurcated Trial
A trial that is divided into stages: one stage to establish guilt or liability, and the other stage to establish damages or punishment.

The condition of having two spouses at the same time. A marriage in which one of the parties is already legally married is bigamous and usually therefore void. In most states, if the bigamy was intentional, it is also a crime.

Bilateral Contract
A contract in which both parties exchange promises to perform. Compare: unilateral contract

1) A statement of what is owed. 2) A legislative proposal for enactment of a law. 3) An old-fashioned term for various documents filed in lawsuits or criminal prosecutions.

Bill Of Attainder
A legislative act that declares a named person guilty of a crime, particularly treason. Such bills are prohibited by Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution.

Bill Of Exchange
An unconditional written order from one person (the maker or drawer) to another person (the payor) to pay a specified sum of money to a designated person (the payee). It is the same as a draft. A bill of exchange drawn on a bank account is a "check."

Bill Of Lading
A document of title for goods being shipped that demonstrates the holder has a right to transport the goods. It also acts as a receipt to the shipper of goods from the carrier (trucking company, railroad, ship, or air freighter) as well as a contract providing the terms of transport.

Bill Of Particulars
A document, written by a plaintiff or prosecutor at the request of a defendant in a civil or criminal action, that sets out detailed information about the claims or charges being brought against the defendant.Knowing these particulars, the defendant is able to mount a defense.

Bill Of Rights
The first ten amendments to the federal constitution, adopted in 1791. The Bill of Rights includes many cornerstones of our democracy: freedom of speech, religion, and assembly; prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure, cruel and unusual punishment, and compelled self-incrimination; and the rights to due process and a speedy trial if accused of a crime.

Bill Of Sale
A written statement attesting to the transfer (sale) of goods, possessions, or a business to a buyer. It is useful to show that the buyer now has ownership and to detail what was actually purchased. A bill of sale may accompany an agreement that states the agreed-upon terms of sale, including the date of transfer, the price, timing of payment, and other provisions.

A temporary insurance contract that provides insurance coverage while the permanent policy is being prepared.

Binding Precedent
See: precedent

Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act Of 2002
More commonly known as the McCain-Feingold Act, this act sought to end the influence in federal elections of so-called soft money, which is money raised outside the limits and prohibitions of federal campaign finance law. Among other things, this law banned soft money contributions to political parties, increased the limits on hard money contributions, and placed limits on the ability of corporations (including nonprofits) and labor unions to broadcast messages that included a federal candidate's name or image. The 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission struck down the part of the law that relates to corporations and unions.

A custody arrangement in which the children of divorcing parents stay in the family home and the parents take turns living there with them, usually sharing time equally. The parents each have their own place to live when not in the family home with the children (or, occasionally, alternate living in a second home).

Biweekly Mortgage
An unusual home mortgage arrangement in which the borrower makes payments every two weeks instead of once a month. In a biweekly mortgage you make 26 annual payments of half your monthly mortgage amount, thanks to the number of weeks in a year. So under this arrangement you'd make the equivalent of 13 monthly payments each year instead of 12. The good news is the extra payment reduces the principal that you owe -- thus allowing you to pay off a 30-year mortgage in much less time. Then again, you can normally achieve the same effect by simply adding to the amount that you pay on your monthly mortgage.

Blackletter Law
Legal rules that are so well settled that they require little or no legal discourse. Also called hornbook law.

An unjustified demand, threatening to reveal embarrassing, disgraceful, or damaging facts (or rumors) about a person to the public, family, spouse, or associates unless paid off to not carry out the threat. Blackmail is charged under the crime of extortion.

Blank Endorsement
An endorsement that passes title to a negotiable instrument without naming the person to whom it should be paid. Compare: qualified endorsement

Blanket Search Warrant
An unconstitutionally broad authorization from a judge that allows the police to search multiple areas for evidence without specifying exactly what they are looking for.

Blind Pig
See: blind tiger

Blind Tiger
A place where liquor is illegally sold; a speakeasy. This term was commonly used during prohibition and derives from the practice of exhibiting animal curiosities in these establishments.

Blind Trust
A trust in which a trustee manages investments for someone who has no knowledge of the trust's specific assets or the actions taken by the trustee to manage them. Blind trusts are often used by high-ranking elected or appointed officials to avoid conflicts of interest.

Short for "Web log," an online journal to which regular entries are posted. Some blogs cover a specific topic, and feature commentaries, videos, and/or other material on that subject; others function more as a personal diary. Many blogs are interactive, allowing readers to comment on posts.

Blood Alcohol Concentration
See: blood alcohol content

Blood Alcohol Content (Bac)
The amount of alcohol in a person's blood, expressed as a percentage. Blood-alcohol content (BAC) determines whether a person is legally intoxicated, especially for purposes of drunk driving laws. As of 2011, all states have adopted .08% as the legal limit for intoxication. Also called blood-alcohol concentration or blood-alcohol level.

Blood Alcohol Level
See: blood alcohol content

Blue Flu
An organized protest by law enforcement officers who call in sick. Police officers may stage these "sick-outs" because they are not legally allowed to go on strike.

Blue Law
A statute or ordinance that forbids or regulates an activity, such as the sale of liquor on Sundays.

Blue Ribbon Jury
A jury consisting of persons with special qualities, such as advanced education or special training, sometimes used in complicated civil cases (with the parties' consent) and to investigate suspected governmental corruption. Specialists in a technical field are called a "blue-blue ribbon jury." Blue ribbon juries are not allowed in criminal cases, because doing so would violate a defendant's right to be tried by a jury of his peers.

Blue Sky Laws
The laws that aim to protect people from investing in sham companies that consist of nothing but "blue sky." Blue sky laws require that companies seeking to sell stock to the public submit information to and obtain the approval of a state or federal official who oversees corporate activity.

A reference guide considered by legal professionals to be the authority on legal citation. The book's complete title is The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. The Bluebook is published by the Harvard Law Review Association in collaboration with the editors of the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review, and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

Board Of Directors
The policy managers of a corporation or organization elected by the shareholders or members. (See also: director)

Board Of Education V. Earls (2002)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that public schools could require students to submit to a drug test before participating in extracurricular activities. The Court said that drug testing did not violate the students' Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and seizures because students have a diminished expectation of privacy in the public school environment.
Full text: Board of Education v. Earls (Nolo)

Boiler Room
A telephone bank operation in which fast-talking telemarketers or campaigners attempt to sell stock, services, goods, or candidates. Such operations, especially securities sales, are often fraudulent and illegal.

Slang for standard provisions in a contract, form, or legal pleading that are routine and often preprinted. Boilerplate provisions are meant to be used in many contracts, but some may not apply to every situation.

Bona Fide
Latin for "good faith," it signifies the "real thing" and the lack of deceit. In the case of a party claiming title as bona fide purchaser or holder, it indicates lack of knowledge of any defect in title.

Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (Bfoq)
An employer's job requirement that discriminates against a protected class but is not considered illegal because it is reasonably necessary to the operation of a business.

Bona Fide Purchaser
Someone who purchased something with no reason to believe that the property belonged to someone else or that the property was subject to another party's claim. The purchaser must have paid a full and fair price for the property and have received the item in the normal course of business. (See also: holder in due course)

(1) A written agreement purchased from a bonding company that guarantees a person will properly carry out a specific act, such as managing funds, showing up in court, providing good title to a piece of real estate, or completing a construction project. If the person who purchased the bond fails at his or her task, the bonding company will pay the aggrieved party an amount up to the value of the bond. The bonding company often requires collateral (by placing a lien on the purchaser's real estate), and if it has to pay out on the bond, it will sell the collateral to cover its loss. (2) An interest-bearing document issued by a government or company as evidence of a debt. A bond provides predetermined payments at a set date to the bond holder. Bonds may be "registered" bonds, which provide payment to the bond holder whose name is recorded with the issuer and appears on the bond certificate, or "bearer" bonds, which provide payments to whomever holds the bond in-hand.

1) Someone who sells bail bonds. 2) A surety (a guarantor or insurance company) who provides bonds that guarantee another's performance on a contract.

Book Account
An account of a customer kept in a business ledger of debits and credits (charges and payments), containing all the financial transactions with that party during the period. It provides a clear statement of the amount due from or to that party at any time.

Book Value
A method of valuing a corporation's stock or a company's worth by adding up the stated value of assets as shown on the books (records) of the company and deducting all the liabilities (debts) of the company. Because it does not include factors such as earnings potential or the goodwill (reputation) of the company, book value is a conservative method of valuation.

A quaint phrase that refers to the recording of an arrested person's name, age, address, and reason for arrest when that person is brought to jail and placed behind bars. Nowadays, the book is likely to be a computer. Usually, a mug shot and fingerprints are taken, and the arrestee's clothing and personal effects are inventoried and stored.

A person who records financial data in the financial records of a business. Compare: accountant

The collection of financial records of business activity kept on paper or in a computer file.

In a 1031 exchange, any property, liabilities, or money received that does not qualify for the exchange and is taxed. For example, if a taxpayer sells a relinquished property with a $100,000 gain and buys a replacement property for $10,000 less than the sales price of the relinquished property, he has $10,000 boot.

Border Patrol
See: Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

A contract, similar to a mortgage, in which a ship and/or its freight is pledged as security for a loan to finance repairs, equipment, or the cost of a journey. The contract is generally called a "bottomry bond." If the loan is not paid back, the lender can sell the ship and/or its freight.

Bounty Hunter
Someone who who chases down defendants who have skipped bail, and turns them in.

Bowers V. Hardwick (1986)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court upheld as constitutional a Georgia sodomy law that prohibited oral and anal sex between consenting adults. The Court later overruled this decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003).
Full text: Bowers v. Hardwick (Nolo)

Boy Scouts Of America V. Dale (2000)
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court allowed the Boy Scouts of America to bar homosexuals from serving as troop leaders. The Court said that the Boy Scouts' decision was protected by the First Amendment right to expressive association.
Full text: Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (Nolo)

An organized effort to damage a business by refusing to patronize it. The goal is attract attention to and influence the business's policies. Labor unions and their sympathizers have boycotted lettuce and grapes not picked by union farm workers, and civil rights activists have boycotted stores and restaurants that had "white only" hiring policies. The term is named for Captain Charles C. Boycott, a notorious land agent, whose neighbors ostracized him during Ireland's Land League rent wars in the 1880s. Boycotts are not illegal in themselves, unless there are threats or violence involved. (See also: secondary boycott)

Brady Material
Evidence known to the prosecution that is favorable to the defense. Under the U.S. Supreme Court case of Brady v. Maryland, the prosecution's failure to hand over this exculpatory evidence is a violation of a defendant's due-process rights, but if the defendant is convicted, this error won't necessarily result in a reversal of the conviction.

A failure or violation of a legal obligation -- for example, a failure to perform a contract (breaching its terms), failure to do one's duty (breach of duty, or breach of trust), causing a disturbance, threatening, or other violent acts which break public tranquility (breach of peace), or illegally entering property (breach of close).

Breach Of Contract
A legal claim that one party failed to perform as required under a valid agreement (written or oral) with the other party. For example you might say, "The roofer breached our contract by using substandard supplies when he repaired my roof."

Breach Of Promise
A broken promise, usually to marry. No longer a valid claim, historically breach of promise was used to seek money damages when a fiancee--usually the intended groom--called off the wedding.

Breach Of The Peace
The crime of disorderly conduct or creating a public disturbance, usually involving unnecessary or distracting noise. Merely insulting another, or causing annoyance, is not a breach of the peace.

Breach Of Trust
An act of a trustee that violates the trustee's duties or the terms of a trust. A breach of trust need not be intentional or malicious; it can be due to carelessness or negligence.

Breach Of Warranty
Violation of an agreement between a seller and a buyer as to the condition, quality, or title of the item sold. It can apply to title of real property or goods, or to an assurance about quality of an item sold. The warranty need not be expressed, but may be implied from the circumstances at the time of sale. The party making the warranty is liable to the party to whom the guarantee was made.

Breaking And Entering
Entering any building through the slightest amount of force (even pushing open a door), without authorization. When someone enters in order to commit a crime, this is burglary. If there is no such intent, the breaking and entering alone may be illegal trespass, which is a misdemeanor crime.

The crime of giving or taking money or some other valuable item in order to influence a public official (any governmental employee) in the performance of his or her duties. Bribery can also involve corrupt dealing with the employees of a business competitor in order to secure an advantage.

A document used to submit a legal contention or argument to a court. A brief typically sets out the facts of the case and a party's legal arguments. These arguments must be supported by legal authority and precedent, such as statutes, regulations, and previous court decisions. Don't be fooled by the name -- briefs are usually anything but brief, as pointed out by writer Franz Kafka, who defined a lawyer as "a person who writes a 10,000-word decision and calls it a brief."

A person or entity that arranges contracts (for real estate, insurance, stocks, and the like) between a buyer and seller for a commission. Brokers in many fields are regulated and licensed by each state and have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their customers or clients.

Brown V. Board Of Education (1954)
The U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in public education by finding that separate public schools for blacks and whites were inherently unequal and therefore unconstitutional. The decision was the beginning of the end of official racial segregation in all facets of public life.
Full text: Brown v. Board of Education (Nolo)

Bucket Shop
An unofficial and usually illegal betting operation in which the prices of stocks and commodities are posted and the customers bet on the rise and fall of prices without actually buying stock, commodities, or commodity futures. Bucket shops are seldom seen today since there are many opportunities to gamble legally on the stock and commodities markets.

Building And Loan Association
Another name for a savings and loan association. As the name implies, these institutions were originally meant to provide loans for building a house after the depositor had saved enough for a down payment.

Bulk Sale
The sale of all or most of a business's inventory, merchandise, or equipment. (See also: bulk sales law)

Bulk Sales Law
A law that regulates the transfer of business assets so that business owners cannot dispose of assets in order to avoid creditors. If a business owner wants to conduct a bulk sale of business assets -- that is, get rid of all or most of its inventory, merchandise, or equipment -- the business owner must give written notice to creditors and, in some states, publish and record a notice of the sale. Only a few states still have a bulk sales law, and in most it applies only to companies that manufacture or sell inventory from stock. The Uniform Commercial Code and most states have repealed their bulk sales law since remedies are provided by the Fraudulent Transfer Act.

Bulk Transfer
See: bulk sale

A duty or obligation, or anything that restricts an activity or use. This can be intangible -- for example, a burden on land such as a zoning restriction or the right of a neighbor to pass over the property to reach his home (easement).

Burden Of Proof
A party's job of convincing the decisionmaker in a trial that the party's version of the facts is true. In a civil trial, it means that the plaintiff must convince the judge or jury by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff's version is true -- that is, over 50% of the believable evidence is in the plaintiff's favor. (That said, the burden of proof may shift to the defendant if the defendant raises a factual issue in defense to the plaintiff's claims.) In a criminal case, because a person's liberty is at stake, the government has a harder job, and must convince the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.

The crime of entering a building with the intent to commit a crime. Old definitions required that the entering be accompanied by a "breaking," by forcing one's way in or by any pnysical act that allows entry; and that the crime intended be a felony. Modern statutes are less restrictive. For instance, someone would be guilty of burglary if he entered a house through an unlocked door in order to commit a murder (a felony) or to steal a bicycle (probably a misdemeanor). (See also: felony, misdemeanor)

Burial Insurance
Insurance that covers the cost of disposing of a person's remains.

Burial Policy
An insurance policy that covers the cost of disposing of a person's remains.

Bush V. Gore (2000)
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court held that Florida's scheme for recounting presidential election ballots was unconstitutional. The case effectively handed the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, making him the 43rd president of the United States.
Full text: Bush v. Gore (Nolo)

Any activity carried on with the intent to make a profit or any enterprise engaged in such activity. A business does not have to have a formal organization; it can be a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or any other type of entity, ranging from a street peddler to General Motors.

Business Invitee
A person who enters commercial premises for the purpose of doing business. A business is liable to a business invitee for injury caused by dangerous conditions of the premises, such as wet floors.

Business License
A permit issued by a local or state governmental agency for a business to operate. Also called a tax registration certificate.

Business Records Exception
An exception to the evidence rule prohibiting hearsay. The business records exception allows a business document to be admitted into evidence if a proper foundation is laid to show the document is reliable.

But-For Test
One of several tests to determine a defendant's responsibility for the subject of a lawsuit or criminal proceeding. For example, the prosecutor may need to argue that: "But for the defendant's speeding, the car would not have gone out of control, and therefore the defendant is responsible." This is shorthand for whether the action was the "proximate cause" of the damage.

Buy-Sell Agreement
A binding contract between co-owners that controls the purchase of a withdrawing owner's ownership interest and includes transfer restrictions that control when owners can sell their interest, who can buy an owners interest, and what price will be paid. These agreements often cover what happens when an owner retires, goes bankrupt, becomes disabled, gets divorced, or dies.

Buyout Agreement
An agreement between two parties to a contract, often a landlord and tenant, that releases one party from the obligations of the contract or lease in exchange for a financial payment to the other party.

The rules that govern the internal affairs or actions of a corporation. Bylaws are adopted by the shareholders or the board of directors of a corporation. They generally include procedures for holding meetings and electing the board of directors and officers. The bylaws also set out the duties and powers of the corporation's board of directors and officers.

Bypass Trust
A trust for couples designed to save on federal estate tax at the death of the second spouse. When the first spouse dies, the trust is split into two, one of which is called the bypass trust because the property it holds bypasses taxation when the second spouse dies.(See also: AB trust, credit shelter trust)