Common business slang to distinguish a regular corporation, whose profits are taxed separate from its owners under subchapter C of the Internal Revenue Code, from an S corporation, whose profits are passed through to the shareholders and taxed on their personal income tax returns under subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code.

See: Clean Air Act

See: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Cafeteria Plan
A benefit program in which employees choose from a menu of options, such as health coverage, life insurance, disability insurance, and so on.

1) The list of cases to be called for trial before a particular court. 2) To set and give a date and time for a case, petition, or motion to be heard by a court.

Calendar Call
A hearing at which cases are scheduled for trial or hearing. In general, numerous cases will be set for a calendar call at the same time, and the judge overseeing the hearing schedules each of them based on the status of the specific case.

Calendar Year Accounting Period
A 12-month period for tax purposes that ends on December 31.

1) The demand for payment of money. 2) A request to assemble. (See also: call option)

Call Option
An option to buy a particular commodity or security at a fixed price for a certain amount of time. Sometimes simply called a "call." Compare: put option

(cal-um-nee) Maliciously misrepresenting another's words or acts, causing injury to that person's reputation; or falsely charging another with a crime.

To cross out or destroy a document by tearing it up, writing on its face that it is cancelled or void, or otherwise defacing it.

See: cancel

Cancellation Of Removal
An immigration benefit allowing an immigrant in removal proceedings to ask the immigration judge to grant permanent residence. The judge's decision will be a matter of discretion. In the case of undocumented immigrants, the applicant must prove 1) having lived continuously in the United States for at least ten years; 2) good moral character during those years; 3) that he or she isn't statutorily barred from entry based on having violated certain U.S. security or criminal laws; and 4) that his or her U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, parent, or children would face "extraordinary and exceptionally unusual hardship" if the applicant were forced to leave the United States. In the case of immigrants who already have U.S. permanent residence, but are in removal proceedings because of having committed a crime, the applicant must prove that he or she has 1) been a lawful permanent resident for at least five years; 2) lived in the U.S. for at least seven years in any status; and 3) not been convicted of an aggravated felony.

A punishment for crimes used in various countries (currently not including the United States), in which the convicted defendant is lashed with a cane or rod.

Canon Law
The laws of a church or religion, especially those of the Roman Catholic Church, that govern the powers of the clergy, administration of the church, and church ceremonies. Roman Catholic laws, which are drawn from ancient church documents, councils of bishops' decisions, and papal rulings, are collected in the Code of Canon Law. In medieval Europe, ecclesiastical courts used canon law to decide cases involving crimes and matters that today would be heard in civil courts.

Slang for maximum, as the most interest that can be charged on an adjustable rate promissory note.

Cap And Trade
A policy that seeks to limit pollution. Under a cap-and-trade program, a company gets an emissions permit for every ton of carbon dioxide that it releases. Companies that produce fewer emissions can trade their extra permits to companies that are producing more emissions.

Capacity To Contract
The legal ability to enter into a binding contract. Those who lack the capacity to contract include minors (with limited exceptions) and individuals who are so mentally impaired that they cannot understand the terms of the contract. If an individual who lacks the capacity to contract enters an agreement, that person may under most circumstances back out later. For example, if a 15-year-old signs a contract for cell phone service, the cell phone company won.

The basic assets of a business or the investment in a business by its owners.

Capital Account
The record that lists the amount of funds and assets invested in a business by the owners or stockholders, including retained earnings. It states the net worth of the business at a given time.

Capital Asset
Any type of property owned by a business that has a useful life of more than one year, such as a computer or truck.

Capital Case
A prosecution for murder in which the prosecutor asks the jury to decide if the defendant is guilty and, if he is, whether he should be put to death. When prosecutors bring a capital case (also called a death penalty case), they must charge one or more "special circumstances" that the jury must find to be true in order to sentence the defendant to death. Each state (and the federal government) has its own list of special circumstances, but common ones include multiple murders, use of a bomb, or a finding that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.

Capital Expenditure
Payment by a business to acquire a capital asset or make improvements to an asset which increases its value or adds to its useful life. It includes payments by a business for property, fixtures, machinery, or other capital assets but not for day-to-day operations such as payroll, inventory, maintenance, and advertising.

Capitalized Interest
1) Interest on a loan that is added to the principal balance. For example, interest may accrue on a student loan while the debtor is in school, which is then added to the principal on the loan. This results in the debtor having to pay interest on interest. 2) In accounting, interest that is not immediately expensed, but is instead considered an asset and amortized over time.

Capitalized Value
The current value of an asset, based on the total income expected to be realized over its economic life span. The anticipated earnings are discounted (given a lower value) so they take into account the time value of money.

Unpredictable and subject to whim, often used to refer to judicial decisions which appear arbitrary.

A heading required on all pleadings (court documents), listing the name and contact information of the lawyer or self-represented party, identifying the court in which the case is filed, and stating the names of the parties, the case number, and the title of the document.

Attention, prudence, having responsibilty for. Care is the opposite of negligence and a person exercising reasonable care cannot be liable for injuries that occur as a result of that person's actions.

1) Negligent. 2) The opposite of careful. A careless act can result in the careless person being responsible for damages caused to others by the carelessness.

Cargo Insurance
Insurance that pays the beneficiary of the policy if freight covered by the policy is damaged or lost during transit.

Carnal Knowledge
Sexual intercourse between a male and female in which there is at least some slight penetration of the woman's vagina by the man's penis. Carnal knowledge is a necessary legal part of many sexual crimes.

Any business that transports property or people by any means of conveyance (truck, auto, taxi, bus, airplane, railroad, ship) for a charge. There are two types of carriers: common carrier (in the regular business of providing transport) and a private carrier (a party not in the business, but agrees to make a delivery or carry a passenger in a specific instance).

A method for receiving a refund of back taxes by applying a deduction or credit from a current year to a prior year. (See also: carryover)

Carrying For Hire
The act of transporting goods or individuals for a fee.

Carrying On Business
A routine and continuous involvement in an activity undertaken for the purpose of making profit. This can be accomplished with or without a physical or visible business entity.

A method by which deductions and credits for one tax year that could not be used to reduce tax liability in that year are applied against tax liability in subsequent years. (See also: carryback)

Carryover Basis
The tax basis of someone who receives a gift. The recipient's basis is the same as the giver's; it simply "carries over" when the gift is made.

A group of independent corporations or other entities that join together to fix prices, control distribution, or reduce competition. For exmple, OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) is an intergovernmental organization that represents 13 oil producing countries. Many private (nongovernmental) cartels operate behind a veil of secrecy, particularly because they are illegal under United States antitrust laws (the Sherman and Clayton Acts).

1) A cause of action, lawsuit, or the right to sue (as in, "Do I have a case?"). 2) A written decision of a court that is reported in official "reporters" and can be cited as precedent for other cases.

Case Law
The law based on judicial opinions (including decisions that interpret statutes), as opposed to law based on statutes, regulations, or other sources. Also refers to the collection of reported judicial decisions within a particular jurisdiction dealing with a specific issue or topic.

Case Of First Impression
A court case that presents a new question or issue for legal interpretation (or at least new within that court's jurisdiction). For example, the question may concern recently passed or rarely used legislation. In making its decision, the court may consider -- but is not bound by -- decisions from other state or federal courts or commentaries by legal scholars, as well as the arguments and briefs submitted by lawyers in the case.

Case System
The method of studying law used in most American law schools, in which students read and outline (brief) appellate opinions (cases), then hear lectures about them and discuss them. Each case stands for a particular rule of law and is printed in "casebooks" on particular topics (such as contracts, torts, criminal law, and constitutional law). The case system is reinforced by textbooks and outlines on the subject matter, which were formerly the principal sources of learning. The method was introduced at Harvard in 1869 by professor Christopher C. Langdell and soon became standard.

Cash Method Of Accounting
A method of accounting in which income is accounted for when actually received (not, for instance, when an order is taken) and expenses are reported when actually paid (not when liability for paying them is incurred, such as making an order). Compare: accrual method of accounting

Cash Surrender Value
The amount of cash available upon voluntary termination of an insurance policy before the insurance benefits become payable.

Cashier's Check
A check issued by a bank on its own account, not on a depositor's account. The bank receives money from the purchaser in the amount of the cashier's check, then issues the check and guarantees its payment.

Casual Labor
Sometimes used to refer to work that does not further the business of the employer, typically on a one-time or very sporadic basis. For example, someone who was hired for one day to clean the windows of a car showroom or a group that was hired for a few hours to unload new office furniture might be referred to as casual labor. Casual labor is not a legally recognized category, however: Workers performing casual labor are either independent contractors or employees, and the hiring company's legal and tax obligations to workers performing casual labor are the same as for other workers.

1) An accident or event which could not have been foreseen or avoided, such as a shipwreck, fire, or earthquake. 2) The liability or loss resulting from such an accident or event. (See: casualty loss)

Casualty Loss
Financial loss or loss of property arising from a sudden, unexpected, or unusual event such as a storm, flood, fire, shipwreck, or earthquake. Casualty loss qualifies for a tax deduction benefit. (See also: casualty)

Causa Mortis
See: contemplation of death

1) To make something happen. 2) The reason something happens. In order to hold someone responsible for harm to another person, the one must have caused the injury to the other.

Cause Of Action
A specific legal claim -- such as for negligence, breach of contract, or medical malpractice -- for which a plaintiff seeks compensation. Each cause of action is divided into discrete elements, all of which must be proved to present a winning case. A complaint often states multiple causes of action, and each cause of action is made up of certain required elements -- for example, a cause of action for breach of contract must show offer, acceptance, transfer of something of value, and breach of the agreement.

(kav-ee-aht) (1) Latin for "let him beware"; a warning or caution. (2) A formal notification by an interested party to a court, judge, or ministerial officer not to do an act till the party giving the notice has the opportunity to be heard.

Caveat Emptor
Latin for "let the buyer beware." The basic premise is that you are buying a product or property at your own risk and should personally examine and test for obvious defects and imperfections. Caveat emptor still applies even if the purchase is "as is" or when a defect is obvious upon reasonable inspection before purchase. Since implied warranties and consumer protections regarding product liability have come upon the legal landscape, the seller is held to a higher standard of disclosure than "buyer beware" and has responsibility for defects which a buyer cannot note by casual inspection.

See: covenants, conditions, and restrictions

See: Consumer Credit Counseling Service

Cease And Desist Letter
A letter from an intellectual property owner that requests that alleged illegal activity, such as copyright infringement, be stopped immediately.

Cease And Desist Order
An order of a court or government agency to a person, business, or organization to stop doing something. In order to obtain such an order, the plaintiff needs to make a strong showing that the activity is harmful to the plaintiff or contrary to law. Likely subjects a cease and desist order might, for example, include the felling of timber contrary to regulation or the selling of stock shares without a proper permit. The order may be permanent or hold until a final judicial determination is made.

An official count of the number of people living in a certain area, such as a district, city, county, state, or nation. The U.S. Constitution requires the federal government to perform a national census every ten years. The census includes information about the respondents' sex, age, family, and social and economic status. Its results are publicly available.

Certificate Of Citizenship
An identity document that USCIS will provide to people who have derived or acquired U.S. citizenship and would like to prove their U.S. citizenship status. (See also: acquisition of citizenship, derivation of citizenship)

Certificate Of Deposit (Cd)
A document issued by a bank in return for a deposit of money. Interest rates on CDs are fixed, and usually higher than on savings accounts, because banking institutions require a commitment to leave the money on deposit for a fixed period of time. Often there is a financial penalty (fee) for cashing in a CD before the pledged time has run out.

Certificate Of Formation
A document filed with state authorities (usually the Secretary of State or Division of Corporations, depending on the state) to form a limited liability company (LLC). As required by the general LLC law of the state, the certificate normally includes the purpose of the LLC, its principal place of business, and the names of its initial members or managers. Most states refer to this document as the articles of organization.

Certificate Of Incorporation
A document filed with state authorities (usually the Secretary of State or Division of Corporations, depending on the state) to form a corporation. As required by the general incorporation law of the state, the certificate normally includes the purpose of the corporation, its principal place of business, the names of the initial directors who will control it, and the amounts and types of stock it is authorized to issue. In most states, this document is called the articles of incorporation.

Certificate Of Organization
A document filed with state authorities (usually the Secretary of State or Division of Corporations, depending on the state) to form a limited liability company (LLC). As required by the general LLC law of the state, the certificate normally includes the purpose of the LLC, its principal place of business, and the names of its initial members or managers. Most states refer to this document as the articles of organization.

Certificate Of Title
Generally, the title document for a motor vehicle issued by the state in which it is registered, describing the vehicle by type and engine number, as well the name and address of the registered owner and any lienholder (financial institution that loaned money to finance purchase of the car). In some states this document is pink and is commonly called a ""pink slip."

Certificate Of Trust
See: certification of trust

Certification Mark
A name, symbol, or other device used by an organization that certifies origin, material, mode of manufacture, quality, accuracy, or other characteristics -- for example, the "UL" symbol certifying quality standards for electrical appliances.

Certification Of Trust
A condensed version of a declaration of trust, which leaves out details of what property is held in the trust and the identity of the beneficiaries. You can show a certification of trust to a financial organization or other institution to prove that you have established a valid trust, without revealing specifics that you want to keep private. In some states, this document is called a certificate or abstract of trust.

Certified Check
A check issued and guaranteed by a bank, certifying that the maker of the check has enough money in his or her account to cover the amount to be paid. The bank sets aside the funds so that the check will remain good even if other checks are written on the particular account.

Certified Copy
A copy of a document issued by a court or government agency guaranteed to be a true and exact copy of the original. Many agencies and institutions require certified copies of legal documents before permitting certain transactions. For example, a certified copy of a death certificate is required before a bank will release the funds in a deceased person's payable-on-death account to the person who has inherited them.

Certified Public Accountant (Cpa)
The most highly qualified of accounting professionals, a CPA has passed a state's Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and has met additional state education and experience requirements.

(sersh-oh-rar-ee) Latin for "to be fully informed." In cases in which there is no appeal as a matter of right, certiorari is a writ (order) by the appeals court to a lower court to send all the documents in a case so that the appeals court can review the decision. Certiorari is most commonly used by the United States Supreme Court, which grants certiorari when at least four Justices believe that the case involves a sufficiently significant federal issue.

Chain Of Title
The line of owners of real estate, stretching from the current owner back in time to the original grant from some government. The chain of title is shown by deeds, judgments in lawsuits over title, affidavits, and other documents showing ownership changes and recorded in the county land records office. An error in this chain of title is what title searches are supposed to find and what title insurance protects purchasers against.

When selecting a jury, the right of each party to request that a potential juror be excused. There may be a "challenge for cause" on the basis the juror had admitted prejudice or shows some obvious conflict of interest (for example, the juror used to work for the defendant) which the judge must resolve. More common is the ""peremptory challenge,"" which is a request that a juror be excused without stating a reason. Each side is normally allowed a limited number of peremptory challenges.

Challenge For Cause
A party's request that the judge dismiss a potential juror from serving on a jury by providing a valid legal reason why he shouldn't serve. Potential bias is a common reason potential jurors are challenged for cause -- for example, the potential juror is a relative of a party or one of the lawyers, or admits to a prejudice against one party's race or religion. Judges can also dismiss a potential juror for cause.

A fancy word for a judge's office. It's usually close to the courtroom so that the judge can enter the court from behind the bench and not encounter people on the way. Trial court judges often schedule pretrial settlement conferences and other informal or sensitive meetings in chambers.

An agreement between the party suing in a lawsuit (the plaintiff) and another person, who agrees to finance and carry the lawsuit in return for a percentage of the recovery. In some states, champerty is illegal. However, it is also the basis for the legal and commonly accepted practice of contingency fee arrangements with attorneys, who represent their clients and are paid from any award or settlement the plaintiff receives in the suit.

From the old English legal system, a chancellor is a judge who sits in what is called a chancery (equity) court. The chancellor has the power to order that something be done, as distinguished from ordering the defendant to pay damages. Almost all U.S. states' courts now combine chancery (equity) functions and law.

A court of equity, in which a judge can order acts performed, such as that a contract be modified or an activity stopped. The chancery court's functions are distinct from those of common law courts, which can order money damages to be paid, and where jury trials are available. The division between chancery and equity courts is partly based on the old English legal system. However, the original reason for the division between courts, which was so that law courts could follow statutory rules and equity courts could rule on issues of fairness, has been mostly lost. Chancery courts still exist in a few U.S. states today (check with the individual court for an exact list of what types of cases it hears). In other states, chancery court functions have been merged into the regular law courts' activities.

Change Of Circumstances
A reason for a court to modify an existing order for the payment of alimony and/or child support. In most cases, in order to seek a change in the support amount, the person seeking the change must show that circumstances (such as the employment, health, or income of the payor) have changed from when the order was made.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
A type of bankruptcy that allows businesses to reorganize their debt load in order to remain in business.

Chapter 12 Bankruptcy
A type of bankruptcy that allows small farmers to reorganize their debts.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
A type of consumer bankruptcy designed to help debtors reorganize their debts and pay all or a portion of them over three to five years. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, debtors keep their property and use their income to repay creditors according to a monthly repayment plan. At the end of the three-to-five-year period, the balance of what the debtor owes on many types of debts is erased.

Chapter 13 Plan
A document the debtor must file in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, showing the debtor's proposal for repaying debts. Typically, a Chapter 13 plan requires the debtor to make set payments once or twice a month, which the bankruptcy trustee uses to pay creditors. The plan must last for three to five years, and the debtor must devote all disposable income to the plan.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
A consumer liquidation bankruptcy proceeding in which the trustee sells any nonexempt property the debtor owns and distributes the proceeds to the debtor's creditors. At the end of a Chapter 7 case, many or all of the debtor's debts are discharged.

Chapter 9 Bankruptcy
A type of bankruptcy available only to municipalities, including towns, cities, villages, counties, and school districts.

Character Witness
A person who testifies in court on behalf of another as to that person's positive character traits and the person's reputation in the community. Such testimony is often offered when the person's honesty or morality is an issue, as in some criminal cases and in civil cases involving accusations of fraud.

A formal accusation of criminal activity. The prosecuting attorney decides on the charges, after reviewing police reports, witness statements, and any other evidence of wrongdoing. Formal charges are announced at an arrested person's arraignment.

Charitable Contribution
Cash or cash equivalent (goods or property) donated to a charitable organization. If made to a qualified recipient (one officially created for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, artistic, literary, or other good works), then charitable contributions are tax deductible.

Charitable Gift Annuity
A contract with a charity under which someone transfers assets to the charity in return for a promise to receive fixed payments for life (or, commonly, for the life of the donor and the donor's spouse). The donor can take an income tax deduction for part of the value of the assets given to the charity. Payments are based on how much is donated and the age of the recipients (called annuitants or beneficiaries).These annuities provide a way to make a gift to a charity, often a university, and receive income for life.

Charitable Lead Trust
A kind of charitable trust. The person (grantor) who sets up the trust transfers assets to it, and income from the trust property then goes to the charity for a set period of time. Then the trust property goes back to the person who set up the trust (or another beneficiary that person named, usually the grantor's children or grandchildren). Typically, the charity serves as trustee of the charitable trust. Compare: charitable remainder trust

Charitable Organization
A nonprofit organization created and operated for purposes that benefit the public interest, such as educational, scientific, religious and artistic purposes. Charitable organizations that meet the requirements of Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) are exempt from federal income tax and are eligible to receive tax deductible charitable contributions.

Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust
A kind of charitable remainder trust in which the income beneficiary is paid a fixed amount by the trustee each year.

Charitable Remainder Trust
A kind of charitable trust in which someone places substantial assets into an irrevocable trust.The trust is set up so that the donor (or other beneficiaries named in the trust) receives trust income for a number of years or for life, after which the assets go to a tax-exempt charity. The IRS allows a large deduction in the year the assets are donated to the trust. The tax savings are sometimes used to buy an insurance policy on the life of the donor payable to children or grandchildren at the donor's death. This way the donor can make the gift to charity, receive income from the trust, and still make a large gift at death to family members. There are several kinds of charitable remainder trusts, including charitable remainder unitrusts and charitable remainder annuity trusts. Compare: charitable lead trust

Charitable Remainder Unitrust
A kind of charitable remainder trust in which the trustee pays the income beneficiary an amount equal to a percentage of the trust assets each year.

Charitable Trust
A trust designed to make a substantial gift to a charity and also achieve income and estate tax savings for the person who creates the trust (the grantor). These trusts are usually set up during the grantor's lifetime and are irrevocable. (See also: charitable lead trust, charitable remainder trust)

See: charitable organization

Chart Of Accounts
A complete list of a businesss expense and income accounts in a ledger. The list is arranged either by category (asset, liability, revenue, expense) or in the order of the appearance in the financial statements.

1) A document that establishes an organization, such as a governmental entity (for example, a city charter) or a company (for example, a corporation's Articles of Incorporation). 2) To hire or rent for temporary use, such as chartering a boat.

An item of personal property that can be moved from place to place.

Chattel Mortgage
An old term for an arrangement under which an item of personal property (chattel) serves as security (collateral) for a loan taken out to buy the item. Like a mortgage on a house, this was essentially a mortgage on something other than real estate. These agreements are now generally referred to as security agreements and are governed by the Uniform Commercial Code.

A draft upon a particular account in a bank, in which the drawer or maker (the person who has the account and signs the check) directs the bank to pay a certain amount to the payee. (See also: negotiable instrument)

Chief Justice
A judge who presides over any state supreme court or over the U.S. Supreme Court.

1) A person's offspring of any age, which can include biological offspring, unborn children, adopted children, stepchildren, foster children, and children born outside of marriage. 2) A person under an age specified by law, often 14 or 16. For example, state law may require a person to be over the age of 14 to make a valid will, or may define the crime of statutory rape as sex with a person under the age of 16. In this sense, a child can be distinguished from a minor, who is a person under the age of legal majority (18 in most states).

Child Custody
See: custody (of a child)

Child Status Protection Act (Cspa)
An amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act passed in 2002 (Public Law 107-208). The CSPA helps children applying for green cards or visas, either in family-based immigration categories or as derivatives on a parent's asylum application, to maintain their eligibility even after they reach age 21. That's the age at which, in immigration law terms, people are normally too old to be considered "children."

Child Support
Financial and other support for children provided by the parents who are legally responsible for them. Most commonly, child support is ordered when parents divorce or separate and one parent is required to pay the other an amount of child support that is determined by state guidelines, based on the parents' incomes and the amount of time each parent spends with the child(ren). Support may also include paying for insurance benefits, school tuition, and other expenses. Child support is not deductible or taxable.

Child's Trust
A trust created for a minor or young adult. The trustee controls the trust property until the young person reaches the age stated in the trust. At that time, trust funds are transferred to the beneficiary.

Chinese Exclusion Act
Passed by Congress in 1882 and signed by President Chester A. Arthur, this act suspended all immigration by Chinese workers. Even those already within the U.S. were barred from receiving U.S. citizenship and had to register with U.S. authorities. The Chinese Exclusion Act and its successors were abolished in 1943 by President Franklin Roosevelt, apparently as a means of currying favor with the Chinese as allies in World War II.

Christian Legal Society V. Martinez (2010)
U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that the First Amendment right to free association did not bar a public university from denying official recognition -- and funding -- to a student organization that bans homosexuals and people who do not hold certain religious beliefs.
Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (Nolo)

Church And State
See: separation of church and state

See: churning

To make a client's account excessively active by the unethical and usually illegal frequent buying and selling of the client's shares of stock, primarily in order to generate commissions.

See: common interest development

An acronym for Cost, Insurance, and Freight. CIF is an international commercial term used to describe who will pay these fees when goods are transported by sea (and it's sometimes used to describe air freight as well). These trade terms are often identical in form to domestic terms (such as the American Uniform Commercial Code), but have different meanings. You should consult an international trade lawyer before using this or similar terms.

Circuit Court
1) The name used for the principal trial court in many states. 2) In the federal system, the term may refer to courts within the 13 circuits. Eleven of these circuits cover different geographic areas of the country -- for example, the United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The remaining circuits are the District of Columbia, and the Federal Circuit, (which hears patent, customs, and other specialized cases based on subject matter). The term derives from an age before mechanized transit, when judges and lawyers rode the circuit of their territory to hold court in various places.

Circumstantial Evidence
Evidence that proves a fact by means of an inference. For example, from the evidence that a person was seen running away from the scene of a crime, a judge or jury may infer that the person committed the crime. Usually, many pieces of circumstantial evidence are needed before a judge or jury will find that they add up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Compare: direct evidence

A police-issued order to appear in court to defend against a charge. Failure to appear can result in a warrant for the citee's arrest, but often a person may consent to the penalty in writing and forgo an appearance in court. 2) A court-issued writ that commands a person to appear in court to do something demanded in the writ or to show cause for not doing so. 3) A reference to a legal authority, such as a case or statute.

(1) To make reference to a legal authority, such as a statute or the decision in another case, to make a legal point in argument. (2) To give notice of being charged with a minor crime and a date for appearance in court to answer the charge rather than being arrested (usually given by a police officer).

A person who, by place of birth, nationality of one or both parents, or having successfully completed any applicable requirements, is granted full rights and responsibilities as a member of a nation or political community. Some countries allow dual citizenship (maintaining citizenship in more than one country).

Citizen's Arrest
An arrest made by a private citizen, in contrast to the typical arrest made by a police officer. Citizens arrests are lawful in certain limited situations, such as when a private citizen personally witnesses a violent crime and then detains the perpetrator.

Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission (2010)
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court eased restrictions on political and campaign spending by corporations and labor unions, ruling that such restrictions infringe upon the organizations' First Amendment free speech rights. The decision drew sharp criticism from across the political spectrum; President Barack Obama commented on it in his 2010 State of the Union address while justices in the audience looked on.
Full text: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (Nolo)

Noncriminal. (See also: civil case)

Civil Action
See: civil case

Civil Case
A noncriminal lawsuit, usually involving private property rights. For example, lawsuits involving breach of contract, probate, divorce, negligence, and copyright violations are just a few of the many hundreds of varieties of civil lawsuits.

Civil Code
In many states, the name for the collection of statutes and laws that deal with business and negligence lawsuits and practices.

Civil Law
(1) A generic term for all non-criminal law, usually relating to settling disputes between private citizens. (2) A body of laws and legal concepts derived from Roman law as opposed to English common law, which is the framework of most state legal systems. In the United States only Louisiana, relying on the French Napoleonic Code, has a legal structure based on civil law.

Civil Liability
A legal obligation that arises to a private party, usually for payment of damages or other court-enforcement of a lawsuit.

Civil Liberties
Rights granted to the people under the Constitution (and derived primarily from the First Amendment), to speak freely, think, assemble, organize, worship, or petition without government interference or restraints. Compare: civil rights

Civil Penalties (Civil Fines)
Fines or other financial payments imposed by a state or federal agency for violation of laws or regulations. Examples include fines for late payment of taxes, or penalties for failing to obtain a building permit.

Civil Procedure
The rules set out in both state (usually Code of Civil Procedure) and federal (Federal Code of Procedure) laws that establish the format under which civil lawsuits are filed, pursued, and tried. Civil procedure refers only to form and procedure, and not to the substantive law that gives people the right to sue or defend a lawsuit.

Civil Rights
Rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, the 13th and 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution. Civil rights include civil liberties (such as the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion), as well as due process, the right to vote, equal and fair treatment by law enforcement and the courts, and the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of a democratic society, such as equal access to public schools, recreation, transportation, public facilities, and housing.

Civil Rights Act Of 1964
A federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy), and religion in employment, education, and access to public facilities and public accommodations, such as restaurants and hotels. The employment provisions of the law are often referred to as "Title VII," based on their location in the U.S. Code.

Civil Union
A relationship available in New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Vermont that provides all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage for same-sex couples who register as civil union partners.

Civil Union Partners
Parties to a civil union relationship in New Hampshire, New Jersey, or Vermont, under which the partners have the same rights and responsibilities as married spouses under state law.

Claim In Bankruptcy
See: creditor's claim

See: patent claims

Clarence Thomas
U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominated to the bench in 1991 by President George H. W. Bush. Thomas is the second African-American to serve on the Court (after Thurgood Marshall). Generally considered a conservative, Thomas often casts his vote alongside fellow Justice Antonin Scalia.

A group that shares common attributes. In legal terms, this might be a group of people with the same level of rights (such as heirs who are equally related to the deceased), or who've suffered from the same discrimination or other injury. Whether a person is part of a class is often crucial in determining who can sue on the person's behalf or collect a share of a class action judgment.

Class Action
A lawsuit in which a large number of people with similar legal claims join together in a group (the class) to sue someone, usually a company or organization. Common class actions involve cases in which a product has injured many people, or a group of people has suffered discrimination at the hands of an organization.

Clayton Antitrust Act
A federal antitrust law, enacted in 1914, that amended and expanded upon the Sherman Act (enacted in 1890), which prohibits direct or indirect interference with interstate trade.

Clean Air Act (Caa)
The law that defines the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) responsibility to protect and improve the nation's air quality and the stratospheric ozone layer. Among other things, the EPA regulates airborne contaminants, smog, and air pollution. The current Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 and significantly amended in 1977 and 1990.

Cleaning Fee
A nonrefundable fee charged by a landlord when a tenant moves in. The fee covers the cost of cleaning the rented premises after the tenant moves out, even if the tenant leaves the place spotless. Cleaning fees are illegal in some states and specifically allowed in others, but most state laws are silent on the issue. Landlords in every state are allowed to use the security deposit to clean a unit that is truly dirty.

Clear And Convincing Evidence
The burden of proof placed on a party in certain types of civil cases, such as cases involving fraud. Clear and convincing is a higher standard than "preponderance of the evidence," the standard typical in most civil cases, but not as high as "beyond a reasonable doubt," the burden placed on the prosecution in criminal cases. (See also: beyond a reasonable doubt, preponderance of the evidence)

Clear And Present Danger
Although the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment protects freedom of speech, any speech that poses a "clear and present danger" to the public or government loses this protection. The classic example is that shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater is not protected speech.

Clear Title
Ownership of property that is free of claims or disputes about ownership. Clear title is necessary before property can be sold. (See also: cloud on title, title search)

Clearly Erroneous
A standard of review in civil appellate proceedings. Under this standard, an appeals court must accept the lower court's findings of fact unless the appellate court is definitely and firmly convinced that a mistake has been made. In other words, it is not enough that the appellate court may have weighed the evidence and reached a different conclusion; the lower court's decision will only be reversed if it is implausible in light of all the evidence.

1) An official or employee who handles the business of a court or a system of courts, maintains files of each case, and issues routine documents. Almost every county has a clerk of the courts or county clerk who fulfills those functions, and most courtrooms have a clerk to keep records and assist the judge in the management of the court. 2) A young lawyer who helps a judge or a senior attorney research and draft documents.

Clinton V. City Of New York (1998)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court declared the line item veto unconstitutional because it gave the executive a legislative function.

Close Corporation
A corporation owned and operated by a few individuals, often members of the same family, rather than by public shareholders. Close corporations are regulated by state close corporation statutes, which usually limit the number of shareholders to 30 or 35 shareholders and require special language in the articles of corporation. In exchange for following these requirements, state law usually permits close corporations to function more informally than regular corporations. For example, shareholders can make decisions without holding meetings of the board of directors and can fill vacancies on the board without a formal vote of the shareholders. Compare: closely held corporation

Closed Shop
A business that hires only union members either by choice or by agreement with the unions, although the Labor-Management Relations Act made closed shops illegal. Compare: union shop

Closed-End Loan
A loan that must be paid off within a certain period of time. Compare: open-ended loan

Closely Held Corporation
Refers to any corporation where the stock is not publicly traded on a stock exchange. Closely held corporations usually have a small number of shareholders. Compare: close corporation

The final step in the sale and purchase of real estate in which the seller's deed of title is exchanged for the buyer's payment. Some of the final documents, including the deed and mortgage or deed of trust, are then recorded in the county recorder's office. Depending on local practice, the closing is handled by a title company, escrow officer, or attorney. Also called settlement.

Closing Argument
A speech made at trial after all the evidence has been presented by each party. The closing argument reviews and summarizes the evidence, and forcefully explains why the verdict should be granted in favor of the arguing party. In trials before a judge (without a jury), it is common for both parties to waive closing argument on the theory that the judge has almost surely already arrived at a decision.

Closing Costs
All settlement or transaction charges (above and beyond the actual cost of the property) that home buyers (or sellers) need to pay at the close of escrow when the property is transferred. These typically include lender's fees and points or prepaid interest, a prorated share of the property taxes, transfer taxes, credit check fees, homeowners' and title insurance premiums, deed filing fees, real estate agent commissions, inspection and appraisal fees, and attorney's fees. Some closing costs are tax-deductible.

Cloud On Title
A claim or dispute about the ownership of or an encumbrance on property. For example, a tax lien on a piece of real estate or a possible claim by the heir of a former owner might create a cloud on the title. Or a past mortgage might have been paid off, but the property documents were never recorded (filed in the public land records). These kinds of potential problems are usually turned up in a title search. (See also: clear title)

A systematic collection of written laws gathered together, often grouped by subject matter. A state may have separate codes such as a civil code, corporations code, evidence code, penal code, and so forth.

Code Of Federal Regulations (C.f.r.)
A set of publications containing regulations issued by federal agencies and organized by subject.

Code Of Professional Responsibility
A set of rules governing the ethical conduct of attorneys in the practice of the law. It covers such topics as conflicts of interest, honesty with clients, confidentiality, and conduct toward other attorneys and the courts. First developed and pushed by the American Bar Association (ABA), the code has been replaced in most states by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct.

One of two or more defendants charged with the same crime or sued in the same claim. Also called joint defendant.

A supplement or addition to a will. A codicil may explain, modify, add to, subtract from, qualify, alter, or revoke existing provisions in a will. Because a codicil changes a will, it must be signed in front of witnesses, just like a will.

The process of arranging and labeling a system of laws.

Living together in the same residence, either as spouses or unmarried partners. Cohabitation is often a reason for termination of alimony, on the assumption that a person cohabiting with another no longer needs the support of a former spouse.

Cohan Rule
A federal court decision which allows taxpayers in certain situations to approximate expenses for tax deduction purposes when their records are missing. It cannot be used for travel and entertainment business expenses.

An idiomatic term for a person living in a tenancy-in-common or co-housing arrangement with others. Also, short for "cohousing," a type of shared housing. (See: cohousing)

Coho Salmon
A species of salmon that has been the subject of conservation efforts and legal wrangling in recent years. Traditionally found in coastal streams and rivers on the West Coast and in the Pacific Ocean, many coho salmon populations are in steep decline, and some have been listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as

A type of collaborative living arrangement in which residents share in the design of their community. Generally, cohousing means that each resident or family has a private space, and the cohousing community also shares common space and facilities such as a playground for children, laundry facilities, and a common kitchen where members can share meals.

1) A form of insurance in which a person insures property for less than its full value and agrees to be responsible for the difference. Essentially the owner and the insurance company share the risk. 2) Insurance held jointly by two or more insurers.

Collaborative Divorce
A method of resolving a divorce case in which both spouses hire attorneys who practice collaborative law, and the parties and attorneys sign an agreement that requires them to negotiate the divorce through a series of four-way meetings, often with the assistance of professionals such as custody evaluators, appraisers, or accountants. If the divorce cannot be settled through these meetings and one party seeks a court trial, both lawyers must withdraw and the parties must hire new lawyers. This provides a financial incentive for settling.

Collaborative Law
An alternative way to settle disputes in which both parties hire specially trained attorneys who work to help them respectfully resolve the conflict. Every participant in a collaborative case agrees to work together to seek a "win-win" solution to the needs of both parties. A collaborative law case is not permitted to go to court. If the dispute does end up in court -- or if one of the parties threatens to go to court -- the collaborative law process ends and neither lawyer can continue to work on the case.

Property that someone promises or gives to a creditor to guarantee payment of a debt -- thus creating what's called a secured debt. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the creditor may seize the property and sell it to cover the debt.

Collateral Attack
A legal action in one case challenging another case or another court's ruling. For example, a father ordered to pay child support in a divorce case in Minnesota, collaterally attacks the order in a Maine court claiming that the Minnesota court did not have jurisdiction over him.

Collateral Consanguinity
The relationship between blood relatives who do not descend from one another -- for example, cousins. (See also: consanguinity)

Collateral Descendant
A relative descended from a brother or sister of an ancestor -- for example, a cousin, niece, nephew, aunt, or uncle.

Collateral Estoppel
A legal doctrine that says that a judgment in one case prevents (estops) a party to that suit from trying to litigate the same issue in another legal action. Also called issue preclusion.

Collection Agency
A company hired by a creditor to collect a debt. Creditors typically hire a collection agency only after having tried -- and failed -- to collect the debt on their own.

Collective Mark
A name, symbol, or other device used by members of an organization to: 1) identify goods or services it provides; or 2) indicate membership in the organization. For example, the letters ILGWU may be used on a shirt label to signify that the shirt was made by a member of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, or may be used on a button worn by an ILGWU member. Compare: certification mark

Collective Work
Under copyright law, a work, such as a periodical, anthology, or encyclopedia, in which a number of separate and independent works are assembled into one work. To create a collective work, permission must be obtained from the copyright owners of the separate parts (assuming such parts are not already in the public domain). Although the author of the collective compilation may not own the copyright to any of the individual parts, the creativity involved in selecting and organizing the constituent materials is often protected by copyright. (See also: compilation)

Collision Damage Waiver
Rental car insurance that makes the rental car company responsible for damage to or theft of a rental car. Also known as CDW, damage waiver, and loss damage waiver, this insurance often duplicates coverage provided in a consumer's existing auto insurance policy.

Collision Insurance Coverage
A component of car insurance that pays for damages to the insured vehicle that result from a collision with another vehicle or object. Collision insurance generally covers the amount of damage over and above an amount the insured person must pay, called the deductible amount.

Secret cooperation between two people or entities in order to fool, defraud, or gain an unfair advantage over another. Price fixing by companies supposed to be competitors is one example of collusion.

Collusive Action
A lawsuit brought by parties pretending to be adversaries in order to obtain an answer to a legal question or a precedent-setting decision from the court. The action will be dismissed if a judge determines it does not involve a true controversy.

Color Of Law
Conduct based upon what appears to be a legal right or enforcement of statute, but in reality is a violation of law, such as issuing phony traffic tickets in order to raise revenue or extort payoffs.

Color Of Title
The appearance of ownership of property, evidenced by possession or a document that purports to show ownership, when there is actually a defect in the title.

One of two or more people who sign the same check or promissory note. Each comaker is liable for the entire amount to be paid. (See also: maker)

Comfort Care
Medical care intended to provide relief from pain and discomfort, such as pain control drugs. (See also: palliative care)

(kom-i-tee) The principle that one jurisdiction will recognize the executive, legislative, and judicial acts of another jurisdiction and will give effect to the other's laws.

Comity Of Nations
Courtesy between nations that obligates their mutual recognition of each other's laws.

Commencement Of Action
The formal procedure by which a legal proceeding is initiated. Civil law suits commence when the party suing files a written complaint or petition with the court. Criminal proceedings are typically commenced by a prosecutor filing a petition with the court or seeking an indictment from a grand jury.

A statement made by a judge or attorney during a trial that's based on an alleged but as-yet unproven fact. The lawyer for the other side may object, and the judge may remind the jury (if a jury is present) that such comments should not be taken as evidence. (However, as they say, "A bell once rung, cannot be unrung.")

1) the sale or exchange of commodities, property, or services, typically involving transportation from place to place. 2) As defined by the Lanham Act, trade that the federal government is authorized to regulate, typically trade across interstate lines. To qualify for federal trademark protection and registration, a mark must have first been used in commerce.

Commercial Frustration
An unforeseen and uncontrollable event that excuses a party to a contract from performing his or her duties under that contract. For example, a landlord can break a lease if the property she agreed to rent accidentally burns down before the tenants move in.

Commercial Law
The law that applies to the rights, relations, and conduct of persons and businesses engaged in commerce, merchandising, trade, and sales. In recent years this body of law has been codified in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which has been almost universally adopted by the U.S. states.

The act of mixing the funds belonging to one party with those of another party. Usually, spouses or business partners may commingle assets without a problem. However, in community property states, a spouse may run the risk of turning separate property into community property (transmutation). Business partners may have to account to each other. Trustees, guardians, agents, and other fiduciaries must be careful not to commingle the funds that they are caring for with those of their own, since commingling is generally prohibited as a conflict of interest.

1) A fee paid to an agent or employee for performing a specific service, as distinguished from regular payments of wages or salary. 2) A group appointed by law to conduct government business, especially regulation. Examples include a local planning or zoning commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

A judge's order sending someone to jail or prison, upon conviction or before trial (for diagnostic purposes), or directing that a mentally unstable person be confined to a mental institution. Technically, the judge orders law enforcement personnel to take the prisoner or patient to such places.

Common Area
1) Facilities and space, such as recreation facilities, parking, laundry rooms, or a courtyard in condominiums, apartment buildings, and some cooperative housing projects. In rental properties, landlords are responsible for maintaining common areas in a safe condition. Common areas in condominiums are not individually owned by the residents, but shared by percentage interest or owned by the management organization. 2) The area in a shopping center or mall outside of the individual stores, for which each business pays a share of maintenance based on percentage of total store space occupied.

Common Carrier
An individual, a company, or a public utility (like municipal buses) that is in the regular business of transporting people or freight, and must do so as long as the approved charge or fare is paid.

Common Interest Development
A type of housing, composed of individually owned units, such as condominiums, townhouses, or single-family homes, that share ownership of common areas, such as swimming pools, landscaping, and parking. Common interest developments (also known as community interest developments or CIDs) are managed by homeowners' associations.

Common Law Marriage
In some states, a type of marriage in which couples can become legally married by living together for a long period of time, representing themselves as a married couple, and intending to be married. Contrary to popular belief, the couple must intend to be married and act as though they are for a common law marriage to take effect -- merely living together for a long time won't do it.

Common Property
Property owned by two or more parties.

Common Stock
A class of stock for which dividends (payouts) are calculated on a pro rata basis (according to the number of shares a shareholder owns). Holders of common stock have rights to vote on corporate matters and to receive a share of the assets if the corporation is liquidated. Compare: preferred stock

Community Interest Development
See: common interest development

Community Property
A method of defining the ownership of property acquired during marriage, in which all earnings during marriage and all property acquired with those earnings are owned in common and all debts incurred during marriage are the responsibility of both spouses. Typically, community property consists of all property and profits acquired during marriage, except property received by inheritance, gift, or as the profits from property owned before marriage. Community property laws exist in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In Alaska, couples can create community property by written agreement. (See also: separate property, equitable distribution)

Community Property With Right Of Survivorship
A way for married couples to hold title to property, available in some community property states. It allows one spouse's half-interest in community property to pass to the surviving spouse without probate.

Community Service
Unpaid work that benefits the community and that may be required of a convicted defendant as an alternative to a jail sentence.

Community Trust
See: pooled trust

Reducing a sentence resulting from a criminal conviction, which can be done by the governor of a state (state convictions) or the president of the United States (federal convictions). A commutation is distinguished from a pardon, which wipes out the conviction and can even stop the actual or potential charge (as when President Gerald R. Ford pardoned ex-President Richard M. Nixon even without charges having been officially made--a rare instance of the use of the presidential pardon power). Commutation implies the penalty was excessive or there is evidence of rehabilitation, reform, community service, or other indications of good conduct.

Commute A Sentence
See: commutation

Any formal business entity for profit which may be a corporation, a partnership, association, or individual proprietorship. Often people think the term "company" means the business is incorporated, but that is not true. In fact, a corporation usually must use some term in its name such as "corporation," "incorporated," "corp." or "inc." to show it is a corporation.

Comparable Rectitude
An anachronistic doctrine that grants the spouse who is least at fault a divorce when both spouses have shown fault grounds for divorce. It is a response to an old common law rule that prevented a divorce when both spouses were at fault.

Comparative Negligence
A rule of law applied in negligence cases in which responsibility and damages are based on the proportional fault of every party directly involved. Compare: contributory negligence

Payment for work performed or damages suffered (for example, in the form of workers' compensation benefits).

Compensatory Damages
Money damages recovered as compensation for economic loss, such as lost wages.

1) The state of being able or qualified to do something -- for example, make a will or testify in court. 2) Authority, authenticity, or admissibility, as in "the competence of the evidence."

1) Able to act in the circumstances, including the ability to perform a job or occupation, or to reason or make decisions. 2) In wills, trusts, and contracts, sufficiently mentally able to understand and execute a document. 3) In criminal law, sufficiently mentally able to stand trial or testify. 4) In evidence, relevant and legally admissible.

Competent Evidence
Legally admissible evidence. Competent evidence tends to prove the matter in dispute. In a murder trial, for example, competent evidence might include the murder weapon with the defendant's fingerprints on it.

Competent Witness
A person who is legally qualified to testify as a witness. Legal qualification may depend on the witness's age, mental capacity, and relationship to the matter at issue.

A work formed by selecting, collecting, and assembling preexisting materials or data. Examples of compilations are databases, anthologies, and collective works. The creative aspects of a compilation -- such as the novel way it is organized and the selection of the materials to be included -- are entitled to copyright protection whether or not the individual parts are in the public domain or are subject to another owners copyright. (See also: database, collective work)

A person or entity that begins a lawsuit by filing a complaint. Usually called the plaintiff or petitioner.

Papers filed in court by an injured party to begin a lawsuit by setting out facts and legal claims (usually called causes of action). The person filing the complaint is called the plaintiff and the other party is called the defendant. In some states and in some types of legal actions, such as divorce, complaints are called petitions and the person filing is called the petitioner. The plaintiff's complaint must be served on the defendant, who then has the opportunity to respond by filing an answer. A complaint filing must be accompanied by a filing fee payable to the court clerk, unless the party asks a judge to waive the fee based on inability to pay.

Compos Mentis
(cahm-puhs men-tis) Latin for having a sound mind.

Compound Interest
Interest paid at least in part on accumulated interest. For example, if interest on a savings account is compounded monthly, the depositor is paid interest on the amount deposited after the first month. After the second month, the depositor receives interest on the total amount in the account: the amount deposited plus the interest paid in the first month.

Compound Question
A single question that actually asks more than one thing. In a trial or deposition, the opposing party can object to such a question. If the objection is sustained, the question must be withdrawn and asked in a series of separate questions.

Compounding A Felony
The decision by a victim of a crime to not prosecute the crime (by refusing to cooperate with the police or prosecuting attorney) or to hamper the prosecution, in exchange for money payment or other recompense. Compounding is a crime.

Comprehensive Insurance Coverage
An element of car insurance that pays for damages to your vehicle caused by anything other than a collision, including vandalism, theft, and natural disasters. Like collision insurance, comprehensive coverage usually only pays up to the fair market value of your car (minus any deductible).

An agreement between opposing parties to settle a dispute or reach a settlement in which each gives some ground rather than continue the dispute or go to trial.

Compromise Verdict
A jury verdict that occurs when some jurors compromise their opinions in order to avoid deadlock.

Compulsory Joinder
See: mandatory joinder

Compulsory License
A statutory arrangement under which permission is not required before using someone else's intellectual property, provided that a fee is paid.

Concealed Weapon
A weapon, particularly a handgun, which is kept hidden on one's person or under one's control (in a glove compartment or under a car seat). Carrying a concealed weapon is a crime unless the person with the weapon is a law enforcement officer or has a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Permits are usually issued by local law enforcement under guidelines that require the applicant to show the need for such a weapon, and require that the applicant have a record free of convictions, arrests, or improper activity.

Failure to reveal information that one knows should be disclosed in good faith. Such concealment can be a cause for rescission (cancellation) of a contract by the misled party or a civil lawsuit for fraud.

1) In a trial, the end of all evidence being introduced and final arguments made, so nothing more can be presented. 2) In a trial or court hearing, a final determination of the facts by the jury or judge or a judge's decision on the law. (See also: conclusion of fact, conclusion of law)

Conclusion Of Fact
In a trial, the final result of an analysis of the facts presented in evidence, made by the trier of fact (a jury or judge). When a judge is the trier of fact, he or she will present orally in open court or in a written judgment the conclusions of fact supporting the decision.

Conclusion Of Law
A judge's final decision on a question of law which has been raised in a trial or a court hearing, particularly those issues which are vital to reaching a judgment. These may be presented orally by the judge in open court, but are often contained in a written judgment, such as an award of damages or denial of a petition.

Concurrent Condition
Under an agreement, a situation in which one party must fulfill a condition at the same time that the other party fulfills a mutual condition. (See also: condition)

Concurrent Resolution Of Congress
A type of legislation used by Congress for expressing fact, principles, opinions, or purposes in which both the House and Senate have a common interest. Identified by the abbreviations "H.Con.Res." or "S.Con.Res." and a number, these kinds of resolutions do not have to be signed by the president and do not have the force of law.

Concurrent Sentence
When a criminal defendant is convicted of two or more crimes, a judge sentences the defendant to a certain period of time for each crime. Sentences that may all be served at the same time, with the longest period controlling, are concurrent sentences. Judges may sentence concurrently out of compassion, plea bargaining, or the fact that the several crimes are interrelated. When the sentences run one after the other, they are consecutive sentences.

1) When a public agency determines that a building is unsafe or unfit for habitation and must be torn down or rebuilt to meet building and health code requirements. 2) When a governmental agency takes private property for public use under the right of eminent domain, but constitutionally the property owner must receive just compensation. If an agreement cannot be reached then the owner is entitled to a court determination of value in a condemnation action (lawsuit), but the public body can take the property immediately upon deposit of the estimated value. 3) To sentence a convicted defendant to death. 4) Send to prison.

See: eminent domain

Condemnation Action
A lawsuit brought by a public agency to acquire private property for public purposes (schools, highways, parks, hospitals, redevelopment, civic buildings, for example), or even for private development that has a public benefit (rare). While the government has the right to acquire the private property (eminent domain), the owner is entitled under the Constitution to receive just compensation for the loss of his land, which will be determined by a court if necessary.

A term or requirement stated in a contract whose occurrence or nonoccurrence determines the rights and duties of the parties to the contract. (See also: concurrent condition, condition precedent, condition subsequent)

Condition Precedent
An event or state of affairs that must occur before something else will be required to occur. In a contract, a condition precedent is an event that must take place before the parties must perform the agreement. Compare: condition subsequent

Condition Subsequent
An event or state of affairs that, if it happens, defeats or modifies an existing arrangement or discharges an existing duty. In a contract, a condition subsequent can often terminate the duty of one party to perform under the agreement. Compare: condition precedent

Conditional Bequest
In a will, a gift that will occur only if a stated condition is met. For example, a will clause that says "I give my house to my daughter Sarah if she is married."

Conditional Ownership
Ownership in which the owner does not have full right to the property, but could acquire full ownership if specific conditions are fulfilled -- the ownership is conditional on those conditions. For example, George is the alternate remainder beneficiary of his mother's life estate. Joan, his sister, is the primary remainder beneficiary. George only has conditional ownership of the estate because his ownership depends on Joan being dead when their mother dies. Also called contingent ownership.

Conditional Resident
A foreign-born person who, instead of being granted permanent resident status (a green card), is granted U.S. residence on a conditional, two-year basis. Near the end of the two years, the person must petition for the removal of the conditions -- in other words, prove continuing eligibility for the same status, with a request to convert to permanent resident status. Under current law, people who apply for green cards as the spouse of a U.S. citizen where the marriage is less than two years old at the time they're approved for U.S. residence, as well as all immigrant investors, are the only two groups who are required to spend time as conditional residents.

Conditional Sale
A sale of property or goods which will be completed only if certain conditions are met by one or both parties to the transaction. Example: Hotrod agrees to buy Tappit's 1939 LaSalle for $1,000 cash if Tappit can get the car running by September 1st.

Conditional Ssi Payments
Temporary SSI payments made on the condition that the recipient get rid of certain assets in an appropriate manner. They are made if an applicant for SSI has too many assets to qualify for that program.

Conditions Of Carriage
The terms of the contract with an airline after purchasing a ticket. Conditions of carriage cover everything from baggage limitations to the amount of compensation the passenger can recover if injured on the flight. These provisions vary from airline to airline. To read the conditions of carriage for an airline, either check its website or look in the fine print on the back of the ticket (if there is a print version -- even if there is, it may not have room for the full contract). If none of that works, the airline is legally obligated to provide a copy.

A type of real property ownership in which each owner holds title to his or her individual unit and shares ownership jointly of common areas such as driveways, parking, elevators, outside hallways, and recreation and landscaped areas. A homeowners' association typically manages the common areas and oversees the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that apply to the property. Condominiums are often referred to as a common interest development.

One person's approval of another's activities, constituting a defense to a fault divorce. For example, if a wife did not object to her husband's adultery even though she was aware of it, and she later tries to use it as grounds for a divorce or the basis for a settlement in her favor, he could counter these efforts by arguing that she had condoned his behavior.

To forgive, support, or overlook another person's wrong or illegal action, so that it appears the action is acceptable to the person or entity condoning it.

In criminal law, to voluntarily state that one is guilty of a criminal offense. A confession must be truly voluntary (not forced by threat, torture, or trickery) and generally cannot be admitted in trial if it is not. If the confession results from custodial questioning, it generally cannot be used at trial unless the defendant was given and waived the so-called Miranda warnings prior to questioning. (See: Miranda warnings)

Voluntary statement by an accused, orally or in writing, in which the accused admits guilt of a particular crime or crimes

Confession And Avoidance
A plea, or answer, to a complaint in a civil case, in which the defendant admits the allegations in the lawsuit but alleges other facts that, if found to be true by the trier of fact, will negate the negative effect of the plaintiff's claims. For example, in a few states, a plaintiff who sues over injuries allegedly caused by the defendant's negligence will not recover any damages if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff was in part also negligent (contributory negligence). When a defendant admits having acted negligently, but alleges that the plaintiff was also careless, the defendant has entered a plea of confession and avoidance.

Confession Of Judgment
Usually, a clause within a promissory note, allowing the creditor to, upon nonpayment by the borrower, get a court judgment for the amount owed and in some cases collect from the borrower's assets, all without giving the borrower advance notice

Confidence Game
A swindle in which the perpetrator obtains money by gaining the victim's trust.

Confidential Communication
Information exchanged between two people who (1) have a relationship in which private communications are protected by law, and (2) intend that the information be kept in confidence. The law recognizes certain parties whose communications will be considered confidential and protected, including spouses, doctor and patient, attorney and client, and priest and confessor. Communications between these individuals cannot be disclosed in court unless the protected party waives that protection. The intention that the communication be confidential is critical. For example, if an attorney and his client are discussing a matter in the presence of an unnecessary third party -- for example, in an elevator with other people present -- the discussion will not be considered confidential and may be admitted at trial. Also known as privileged communication.

Confidential Relation
A relationship of intimacy and trust, especially one in which one person is in a position of greater knowledge or power. (See also: fiduciary)

See: imprison

Confirmation Hearing
A federal bankruptcy court hearing at which the judge decides whether or not a debtor's proposed Chapter 13 plan (for repayment of debts over several years) is feasible and meets legal requirements.

To take private property for public use without reasonable compensation, such as when the government confiscates an automobile used to transport contraband.

Conflict Of Interest
1) A real or apparent conflict between one's professional or official duties and one's private interests. 2) A situation where one duty conflicts with another -- for example, if an attorney were to represent both parties in a divorce proceeding.

Conflict Of Laws
A conflict of the laws of two jurisdictions (such as two countries, two different states, or state and federal law) when both are applicable to a legal dispute. Compare: preemption

Conformed Copy
An exact copy of a document filed with a court. To conform a copy, the court clerk will stamp the document with the filing date and add any handwritten notations to the document that exist on the original, including dates and the judge's signature. A conformed copy may or may not be certified -- this is, guaranteed by a court or government agency to be a true and exact copy of the original.

Conforming Loan
A mortgage loan small enough to be bought by Fannie Mae or guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. The dollar limit on conforming loans is adjusted periodically and is higher in areas with a high cost of living. Compare: jumbo loan

The right of a criminal defendant, from the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, to object to the witness and to cross-examine that witness.

Confusingly Similar
In trademark law, when a trademark, logo, or business name is so close to that of an already existing trademark, logo, or name that the public might misidentify the new mark with the older one. Such confusion may not be found if the products or businesses are clearly not in the actual or potential product markets or geographic area of the other.

Conjugal Rights
The intimate rights of marriage, including comfort, companionship, affection, and sexual relations. Some states allow prisoners to have "conjugal visits," including sexual intercourse, with their spouse or partner.

1) Ignoring another person's wrongdoing, for example, by indirectly condoning an illegal act by another person. 2) In family law, a (somewhat archaic) defense that says that a person making claims against a spouse connived in the spouse's bad behavior. For example, a husband who invites his wife's lover along on vacation may have connived in her adultery, and if he tried to gain an advantage in the divorce as a result, she could assert his connivance as a defense.

An old-fashioned term referring to the relationship of "blood relatives" -- people who have a common ancestor. Consanguinity exists, for example, between brothers and sisters but not between husbands and wives.

Conscientious Objector
A person who refuses to serve in the military due to religious or strong philosophical views against war or killing. Refusing to answer a draft call is a federal felony, but when a person's religious beliefs are long-standing and consistent (as with the Quakers) then the objection to service is excused. Conscientious objectors may be required to perform some nonviolent work like driving an ambulance. Those who do not agree with these objectors sometimes call them "draft dodgers."

Conscious Parallelism
Price-fixing between competitors that occurs without an actual agreement between the parties. For instance, one company raises its price for a service and other competitors do the same. Can also be used to describe imitative activity over terms other than price. For example, one airline starts to require double miles for domestic trips and other airlines follow suit.

Consecutive Sentence
Two or more sentences of jail time to be served one after another. For example, if a convicted felon was sentenced to two consecutive ten-year terms, the total sentence would be 20 years. Compare: concurrent sentence

Voluntary agreement by a competent person to another person's proposition.

Consent Decree
A court order to which all parties have agreed. It is often done after a settlement between the parties that is subject to approval by the court.

Consent Judgment
See: consent decree

Consent Order
See: consent decree

Consequential Damages
Damage or injury that does not directly and immediately result from a wrongful act, but is a consequence of the initial act. To be awarded consequential damages in a lawsuit, the damages must be a foreseeable result of the initial act.

A person who requires a court-appointed conservator to handle personal and/or financial affairs. Compare: ward

Someone appointed by a judge to oversee the affairs of an incapacitated person. A conservator who manages financial affairs is often called a "conservator of the estate." One who takes care of personal matters, such as health care and living arrangements, is known as a "conservator of the person." Sometimes, one conservator is appointed to handle all these tasks. Depending on where you live, a conservator may also be called a guardian, committee, or curator.

A legal arrangement that gives an adult the court-ordered authority and responsibility to manage another adult's financial affairs.

A benefit or right for which the parties to a contract must bargain. In order to be valid, a contract must be founded on an exchange of one form of consideration for another. Consideration may be a promise to perform a certain act -- for example, a promise to fix a leaky roof in return for a payment of $1,000 -- or a promise not to do something, such as build a second story on a house that will block the neighbor's view (in return for money or something else). Whatever its particulars, consideration must be something of value to the people who are making the contract, even if the value is very low. Acts which are illegal or so immoral that they are against established public policy cannot serve as consideration. Examples include prostitution, gambling where it's outlawed, hiring someone to break a skater's knee, or paying someone to breach another agreement (back out of a promise).

1) To give goods to another to sell; profits from the sale are generally divided between the seller and the original owner. 2) To give goods to a carrier for delivery. 3) To give over to the custody or care of another. 4) To be destined for, as in "consigned to oblivion" or "consigned to a life of drudgery."

A person or business to whom something is consigned, typically goods for sale or delivery.

The act of entrusting goods to a person or business who will sell them for you (charging a fee or commission for doing so), and return the goods if unsold.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (Cobra)
A federal law that enables employees and their families to continue health care coverage under an employers group health plan even after they experience an event -- such as a layoff, termination, cut in hours, or divorce -- that would otherwise end their coverage. Employees and their families must pay the full premium, but they get to pay the employer-negotiated group rate, which is often less expensive than an individual rate. This continued coverage lasts for 18 to 36 months, depending on the event that made the employee eligible.

1) A group of separate individuals or companies that come together to undertake an enterprise or transaction that is beyond the means of any one member. For example, a group of local businesses might form a consortium to fund and construct a new office complex. 2) The duties and rights associated with marriage. Consortium includes all the tangible and intangible benefits that one spouse derives from the other, including material support, companionship, affection, guidance, and sexual relations. The term may arise in a lawsuit if a spouse brings a claim against a third party for "loss of consortium" after the other spouse is injured or killed.

An agreement by two or more people to commit an illegal act or to commit a legal act using illegal means. Proving conspiracy requires evidence that the parties agreed to the plan before taking action. Proving criminal conspiracy usually requires evidence that some overt action occurred in furtherance of the plan. Some conspiracies may give rise to both criminal and civil charges. For example, a scheme by a group of salesmen to sell used automobiles as new, could be the basis for two actions: criminal prosecution for fraud and conspiracy; and a civil action by victims of the scheme for damages for the fraud and conspiracy.

A person that is a party to a conspiracy -- that is,someone that enters into an agreement to commit illegal acts, or to commit legal acts using illegal means.

A peace officer for a particular geographic area -- most often a rural county -- who commonly has the power to serve legal papers, arrest lawbreakers, and keep the peace. Depending on the state, a constable may be similar to a marshal or sheriff.

The fundamental, underlying document which establishes the government of a nation or state.The United States Constitution, originally adopted in convention on September 17, 1787, ratified by the states in 1788, and thereafter amended 27 times, is the prime example of such a document; however, states also have constitutions.

Constitutional Amendment
A change to the U.S. Constitution. A constitutional amendment usually starts as a joint resolution in Congress. To take effect, an amendment must be passed by a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate, and then get approval from three-quarters of state legislatures.

Constitutional Rights
Rights given or reserved to the people by the U. S. Constitution, and in particular, the Bill of Rights.

Constitutional Tort
A violation of one's constitutional rights by a government servant.

The act of interpreting and giving meaning to a statute, law, contract, or will when there is some ambiguity or question about its meaning. Strict, or narrow, construction means considering only the literal words, whereas broad, or liberal, construction, means taking into account societal and situational meanings to the language.

a legal fiction for treating a situation as if it were actually so. (See also: constructive fraud, constructive eviction, constructive notice, constructive possession)

Constructive Discharge
When an employee quits a job because working conditions are so intolerable that a reasonable person in the same situation would quit. For purposes of a discrimination or harassment lawsuit, a constructive discharge is like any other tangible employment action.

Constructive Eviction
When a landlord provides housing that is so substandard that a landlord has legally evicted the tenant without following state eviction rules and procedures. For example, if the landlord refuses to provide heat or water or refuses to clean up an environmental health hazard, the tenant has the right to move out and stop paying rent, without incurring legal liability for breaking the lease.

Constructive Fraud
When the circumstances show that someone's actions give that person an unfair advantage over someone else by unfair means (lying or not telling a buyer about defects in a product, for example), the court may decide to treat the situation as if there was actual fraud even if all the technical elements of fraud have not been proven.

Constructive Notice
The fiction that someone got notice even though actual notice was not personally delivered to that person. The law may provide that a public notice put on the courthouse bulletin board is a substitute for actual notice. Or the court may authorize service by publication when a spouse has left the state to avoid service in a divorce action. The legal advertisement of the summons in an approved newspaper is treated as constructive notice, just as if the summons and petition had been served personally.

Constructive Possession
When someone does not have actual possession, but has the power to control an asset, that person has constructive possession. Having the key to a safe deposit box, for example, gives one constructive possession.

Constructive Receipt Of Income
Income not physically received but treated by the tax code as if it had been received because it is accessible to the recipient. For instance, when a business receives a check from a client, it is considered constructive income since the check can be cashed.

Constructive Trust
A relationship that arises when someone has wrongfully obtained title to or possession of assets and has a legal duty to deliver them to the rightful owner.Unlike other common trusts, a constructive trust is a temporary measure ordered by a court to correct a wrong.

To determine the meaning of a written document, statute, or legal decision, based upon rules of legal interpretation.

U.S. consulates are branch offices of U.S. embassies, located all over the world. Most consulates accept and process nonimmigrant and immigrant (green card) visa applications.

Consumer Credit
The borrowing capacity extended to an individual for the purchase of consumer goods or services. Consumer credit includes credit card purchases, lines of credit, installment agreements, and many other types of loans. (See also: credit)

Consumer Credit Counseling Service (Cccs)
A nonprofit agency with offices in a number of states. It offers free or low-cost debt and credit counseling.

Consumer Leasing Act
A federal law that requires written lease agreements for personal property for more than four months (for personal, family, or household use) to include certain terms, including a statement of the number of lease payments and their dollar amounts, penalties for not paying on time, and whether a lump sum payment is due at the end of the agreement.

Consumer Protection Laws
Federal and state aws established to protect retail purchasers of goods and services from inferior, adulterated, hazardous, and deceptively advertised products, and deceptive or fraudulent sales practices; these laws cover everything from food to cosmetics, from banking to fair housing. Most states have established agencies to actively protect the consumer.

Consumer Report
Written or oral information provided by a consumer reporting agency that relates to a person's creditworthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, personal characteristics, or lifestyle, to be used in employment decisions, to decide whether to grant the person credit, to decide whether to rent to the person, or for other legitimate business purposes. Examples of consumer reports include criminal background checks and credit reports. To request a consumer report about someone, the requester must follow the procedures in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The actualization of a marriage. Sexual intercourse is required to "consummate" a marriage. Failure to do so is grounds for divorce or annulment.

Contemplation Of Death
When anticipation of death due to age, illness, injury, or mortal danger causes a person to make a gift, transfer property, or take some other dramatic action. Also called causa mortis. (See also: gift in contemplation of death)

See: contempt of court

Contempt Of Court
Behavior in or out of court that violates a court order, or otherwise disrupts or shows disregard for the court. Refusing to answer a proper question, to file court papers on time, to pay court-ordered child support, or to follow local court rules can expose witnesses, lawyers, and litigants to contempt findings. Contempt of court is punishable by fine or imprisonment.

To oppose, dispute, or challenge through formal or legal procedures. For example, the defendant in a lawsuit almost always contests the case made by the plaintiff. Or, a disgruntled relative may formally contest the provisions of a will.

Connected or "next to"; usually referring to adjoining pieces of real estate.

A provision in a contract stating that some or all of the terms of the contract will be altered or voided by the occurrence of a specific event. For example, a contingency in a contract for the purchase of a house might state that if the buyer does not approve the inspection report of the physical condition of the property, the buyer does not have to complete the purchase.

Contingency Fee
See: contingent fee

Uncertain or dependent on something else. (See also: contingent beneficiary, contingent interest, contingent fee)

Contingent Annuity
An annuity whose amount of payment (or the payee) is not certain and depends on a specific future event.

Contingent Beneficiary
1) An alternate beneficiary named in a will, trust, or other document. 2) Any person entitled to property under a will if one or more prior conditions are satisfied. For example, if Fred is entitled to take property under a will only if he's married at the time of the will maker's death, Fred is a contingent beneficiary.

Contingent Fee
A method of paying a lawyer for legal representation by which, instead of an hourly or per job fee, the lawyer receives a percentage of the money her client obtains after settling or winning the case. Often contingency fee agreements -- which are most commonly used in personal injury cases -- award the successful lawyer between 20% and 50% of the amount recovered. Lawyers representing defendants charged with crimes may not charge contingency fees. In most states, contingency fee agreements must be in writing.

Contingent Interest
An interest that a party will receive only if specific conditions occur. For example, Bill leaves his "interest in The Centerville Cafe to Sarah, if she is still living in Centerville." If Sarah is not living in Centerville when Bill dies, she will not receive his interest in the cafe.

Contingent Ownership
See: conditional ownership

Contingent Remainder
A future interest in property that will pass only if certain circumstances occur, or that will pass to an unknown person or entity. For example, John makes a will that leaves his farm to Frank for life and then, if Scotty has gone to college by the time Frank dies, to Scotty.

Contingent Trust
A trust that is not currently operational, but will become operational under specific conditions.

Contingent Will
A will that only takes effect if specific conditions occur.

The postponement of a hearing, trial, or other scheduled court proceeding, at the request of one or both parties, or by the judge without consulting them. Unhappiness with long trial court delays has resulted in the adoption by most states of "fast track" rules that sharply limit the ability of judges to grant continuances.

Continuing Objection
An objection to certain questions or testimony during a trial which has been overruled by the judge, but the attorney who made the objection announces that he or she is continuing the objection to all other questions on the same topic or with the same legal impropriety in the opinion of the attorney. Thus there is no need for an objection every time the same question or same subject is introduced.

Continuing Trespass
A repeated or ongoing (not one-time) trespass (unlawful entry or possession), especially onto real property. For example, building a road or structure that extends onto a neighbor's property, or piling up rocks or garbage there, would be a continuing trespass.

Latin for against or opposite to. This usage is usually found in legal writing in statements like: "The decision in the case of Hammerhead v. Nail is contra to the rule stated in Keeler v. Beach."

Property that is illegal to possess, produce, distribute, or transport.

A legally binding agreement involving two or more people or businesses (called parties) that sets forth what the parties will or will not do. Most contracts that can be carried out within one year can be either oral or written. Major exceptions include contracts involving the ownership of real estate and commercial contracts for goods worth $500 or more, which must be in writing to be enforceable. (See: statute of frauds) A contract is formed when competent parties -- usually adults of sound mind or business entities -- mutually agree to provide each other some benefit (called consideration), such as a promise to pay money in exchange for a promise to deliver specified goods or services or the actual delivery of those goods and services. A contract normally requires one party to make a reasonably detailed offer to do something -- including, typically, the price, time for performance, and other essential terms and conditions -- and the other to accept without significant change. For example, if I offer to sell you ten roses for $10 to be delivered next Thursday and you say "It's a deal," we've made a valid contract. On the other hand, if one party fails to offer something of benefit to the other, there is no contract. For example, if Maria promises to fix Josh's car, there is no contract unless Josh promises something in return for Maria's services. (See also: bilateral contract, unilateral contract)

Contract For Deed
A contract used for seller financing where the seller will keep title to the property until the buyer pays off the loan. After the buyer pays off the entire loan, the seller signs a deed transferring title to the buyer.

Contract Of Adhesion
See: adhesion contract

1) A person or entity that enters into a contract. 2) A person or entity that agrees to construct a building or to provide or install specialized portions of a construction project. The party responsible for the overall job is the general contractor, and those hired to construct or install certain parts (electrical, plumbing, roofing) are subcontractors, who are responsible to the general contractor and not to the property owner.

1) The sharing of a loss or discharging of a debt by several persons who may be jointly responsible. Under partnership law, for example, if one partner pays a judgment made against the partnership, that partner may seek contributions from the other partners. 2) A donation to a charitable organization for which no consideration is sought in return.

Contributory Negligence
A doctrine of common law that if a person's own negligence contributes to causing an accident in which that person is injured, the injured party can't collect any damages (money) from another party who caused the accident. Because this doctrine often ended in unfair results (where a person only slightly negligent was prohibited from recovering damages from a person who was much more so), most states now use a comparative negligence test instead, in which the relative percentages of negligence by each person are used to determine how much the injured person recovers.

The power to direct, regulate, manage, oversee, or restrict the affairs, business, or assets of a person or entity.

Controlled Substance
A drug that has been declared by federal or state law to be illegal for sale or use, but may be dispensed by prescription. The basis for control and regulation may be the danger of addiction, physical or mental harm, the potential for trafficking by illegal means, or dangers posed by those who have used the substances.

Controlling Law
The laws of the state which will be relied upon in interpreting or judging disputes involving a contract, trust, or other documents. Quite often an agreement will state as one of its provisions that the controlling law will be that of a particular state.

A disagreement, argument, or quarrel. See also: actual controversy

The refusal to follow a court order; contempt of court.

(kahn-too</>-tuhr) A joint guardian of a ward.

The civil wrong (tort) of wrongfully using another's personal property as if it were one's own, holding onto another's property that accidentally comes into one's hands, or purposely giving the impression that the assets of another belong to oneself. The true owner has the right to sue for the property or the value and loss of use of it. The converter can be guilty of the crime of theft.

To transfer ownership (title) of property to another through a written document such as a deed.

A document, such as a deed or will, that transfers property from one party to another.

A person or entity to which property is conveyed.

1) To find or prove someone guilty of a crime or offense after a court trial. 2) A person who has been convicted of a crime and is serving a sentence.

A finding by a judge or jury that the defendant who has been on trial is guilty of the crime with which he or she was charged.

Information that a website places and stores on a visitor's hard drive so that the website can retrieve the information when the visitor returns to the site. For example, a website may use a cookie to retrieve a visitor's name and address so the visitor doesn't have to enter that information again. A website can legally use cookies to personalize a visitor's experience, to track a visitor's movements on a site, or to target a visitor for specific advertisements.

Cooling-Off Rule
A rule that allows you to cancel a contract within a specified time period (typically three days) after signing it. Federal cooling-off rules apply this three-day grace period to sales made anywhere other than a seller's normal place of business. Various states have cooling-off rules that sometimes apply even longer cancellation periods to specific types of sales, such as dancing lessons and timeshares.

An association of individuals, businesses, farmers, ranchers, or manufacturers who cooperate in marketing, shipping, and related activities (sometimes under a single brand name) to sell their products efficiently, and then share the profits based on the production, capital, or effort of each. Cooperatives are democratically owned and operated.

Cooperative Housing
An arrangement in which an association or corporation owns a group of housing units and the common areas for the use of all the residents. The individual participants own a share in the cooperative which entitles them to a proprietary lease to occupy a certain part of the property, to have equal access to the common areas, and to vote for members of the Board of Directors which manages the cooperative. Compare: condominium

Cop A Plea
Slang for a plea bargain in which an accused defendant in a criminal case agrees to plead guilty or "no contest" to a crime. In return, the prosecutor promises to recommend a lenient sentence, or may agree to drop some of the charges. Often the judge agrees to the recommendation before the plea is entered (becomes final).

1) Joint ownership. 2) An estate that is jointly inherited, in equal shares, from a single ancestor.

A partner (owner) of a partnership. The prefix "co" is a redundancy, since a partner is a member of partnership. The same is true of the term "copartnership."

For copyright purposes, the physical form in which creative expression is reproduced and retained over time, no matter how brief. Copies include such things as books, magazines, photocopies, computer disks, and tape recordings. The exclusive right to prepare copies of an original work is one of the primary rights protected by a copyright.

A bundle of exclusive rights granted to the author of a creative work such as book, movie, song, painting, photograph, design, computer software, or architecture. These rights include the right to make copies, authorize others to make copies, make derivative works, sell and market the work, and perform the work. Any one of these rights can be sold or licensed separately through transfers of copyright ownership. Copyright rights are acquired automatically once the work is fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Registration of the work with the Copyright Office offers additional benefits to the copyright owner. (See also: fixed in a tangible medium of expression)

Copyright Notice
The formal notice consisting of the copyright symbol (or word, copyright), plus the date of publication and the owner's name, placed on published copies of a copyrighted work. For works published in the U.S. after March 1, 1989, copyright notice is not required. A notice is still useful to remind others that the work is copyrighted, to steer a would-be user in the right direction to obtain permission, and to preclude a defense of "I didn't know it was copyrighted" if someone uses the copyrighted material without permission. (See also: published work)

Copyright Office
The branch of the Library of Congress that oversees the implementation of the federal copyright laws. The Copyright Office issues regulations, processes applications for registration of copyrights, and accepts and (for some types of works) stores deposits made in connection with registration. The Copyright Office also issues opinions on whether certain types of items are subject to copyright protection.

Copyright Owner
The person or entity who retains legal control over all (or some) of the rights granted under copyright law, usually the author of the work. (See also: author)

Copyright Registration
The status of a work that meets the requirements of the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration is not required for copyright protection but it is required before a court action may be brought to stop infringement. Registration also confers strategic benefits in an infringement action, including a presumption that the registered owner is the rightful owner, as well as the ability to collect statutory damages and attorney fees.

Copyright Registration
The status of a work that meets the requirements of the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration is not required for copyright protection but it is required before a court action may be brought to stop infringement. Registration also confers strategic benefits in an infringement action, including a presumption that the registered owner is the rightful owner, as well as the ability to collect statutory damages and attorney fees.

A county official who determines the cause of death of anyone who dies violently (by attack or accident), suddenly, or suspiciously.

Corporate Charter
A document filed with state authorities (usually the Secretary of State or Division of Corporations, depending on the state) to form a corporation. As required by the general incorporation law of the state, the charter normally includes the purpose of the corporation, its principal place of business, the names of the initial directors who will control it, and the amounts and types of stock it is authorized to issue. In most states, this document is called the articles of incorporation.

Corporate Opportunity
A business opportunity that becomes known to a director or officer of a corporation or LLC due to his or her position within the company. The director or officer owes a duty of loyalty to the company not to use the opportunity or knowledge for his or her own benefit unless the company gives its permission.

Corporate Resolution
A written document that describes an action taken and approved by the board of directors of a corporation. For example, when a corporation issues a stock dividend, the declaration of the dividend is a corporate resolution. A board might also pass a resolution to take out a loan, buy or sell real estate, amend the corporate bylaws, or issue more stock. Resolutions are recorded with the corporate minutes.

Corporate Trustee
A bank or other financial institution that provides trustee services for various types of trusts.

A legal structure authorized by state law that allows a business to organize as a separate legal entity from its owners. A corporation is often referred to as an "artificial legal person," meaning that, like an individual, it can enter into contracts, sue and be sued, and do the many other things necessary to carry on a business. One advantage of incorporating is that a corporation's owners (shareholders) are legally shielded from personal liability for the corporation's liabilities and debts (unpaid taxes are often an exception). (See also: nonprofit corporation, C corporation, S corporation)

A thing that has a physical existence, as opposed to something incorporeal, like a right, which does not. Also called tangible.

Corporeal Ownership
The ownership of actual things, such as land, money, or a business. Compare: incorporeal ownership

From the Latin for body, a term used to refer to the principal of a trust, as distinguished from interest earned on that principal.

Corpus Delicti
(core-pus dee-lick-tie) Latin for the "body of the crime." Used to describe physical evidence that a crime has been committed, such as the corpse of a murder victim or the charred frame of a torched building. It's used to refer to the underlying principle that, without evidence of a crime having been committed, it would be unjust to convict someone.

Corpus Juris
(kor-pes jur-es) Latin for "the body of law," meaning a compendium of all laws. There are several encyclopedias of the law which fit this definition, the most famous of which is Corpus Juris Secundum. Several states have such series of books covering explanations of the law of that state.

To confirm and sometimes add substantiating (reinforcing) testimony to that of another witness or a party, particularly in a trial.

Corroborating Evidence
Evidence that strengthens, adds to, authenticates, or confirms already existing evidence.

Corroborating Witness
A witness whose testimony supports or confirms testimony already given.

To sign a document -- such as a promissory note or lease -- along with another person in order to share responsibility for the obligation.

A person who signs his or her name to a loan agreement, lease, or credit application. If the primary debtor does not pay, the cosigner is fully responsible for the loan or debt. Many people use cosigners to qualify for a loan or credit card. Landlords may require a cosigner when renting to a student or someone with a poor credit history.

Cost Basis
See: basis

Cost Bill
A list of claimed court costs submitted by the prevailing (winning) party in a lawsuit after the judge issues a judgment. Statutes limit what can be included in these costs.

Cost Of Completion
The amount of money damages that will be awarded when a contract has been breached by the failure to perform; the cost will reflect the amount of money required to finish the job. For example, when a general contractor breaches a contract by not completing a house, the cost of completion is the actual cost of bringing in a new builder to complete the construction.

The situation when more than one person has an interest in real property (such as by signing a rental agreement to share an apartment) at the same time. (See also: tenancy in common, joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety)

Two or more tenants who rent the same property under the same lease or rental agreement. Each cotenant is 100% responsible (also known as joint and severally liable) for carrying out the rental agreement, which includes paying the entire rent if the other tenant skips town and paying for damage caused by the other tenant. In addition, if one cotenant violates the lease or rental agreement, the landlord may evict all of them.

One of two or more trustees serving at the same time. Depending on the language of the trust document, the cotrustees may be required to act together, or each may be allowed to act independently.

1) The lawyer or lawyers representing a client. For example, on the advice of counsel, the defendant did not take the stand. 2) Used as a verb, to give legal advice.

See: attorney

In a civil case, each separate statement in the complaint that, standing alone, would support a lawsuit. For example, a complaint might begin with a "first count" for negligence, with detailed factual allegations; a second count for breach of contract, a third count for debt, and so forth. Also known as a "cause of action." In a criminal case, each count is a statement of a different alleged crime.

Countable Resource
Property that the SSI and Medicaid programs consider available to an applicant or recipient when determining that persons eligibility for benefits.

Counter Wills
See: mutual wills

A defendant's court papers that seek to reverse the thrust of the lawsuit by claiming that, despite the plaintiff having brought the lawsuit in the first place, the plaintiff is actually wholly or partly at fault concerning the same set of circumstances. The counterclaim goes on to allege that the plaintiff thus owes the defendant money damages or other relief. A counterclaim is commonly but not always based on the same events that form the basis of the plaintiff's complaint. For example, a defendant in an auto accident lawsuit might file a counterclaim alleging that it was really the plaintiff who caused the accident -- or could claim that, as long as they're in court, the plaintiff should pay for having chopped down the defendant's tree the previous week.

To fraudulently make money, a document, art, or other item which is forged or created to look real, and intended to pass for real.

The rejection of an offer to enter into a contract that simultaneously makes a different offer, changing the terms of the original offer in some way. For example, if a buyer offers $5000 for a used car, and the seller replies that he wants $5500, the seller has rejected the buyer's offer of $5000 and has made a counteroffer to sell at $5500. The legal significance of a counteroffer is that it completely voids the original offer.

In the law of contracts, a written paper that is one of several documents that constitute a contract, such as a written offer and a written acceptance. If the parties are in different localities, often a contract is executed in several counterparts that are the same, but each counterpart is signed by a different party.

County Attorney
A lawyer who represents a county in civil matters and litigates violations of county ordinances.

County Attorney
A lawyer who represents a county in civil matters and litigates violations of county ordinances.

Course Of Employment
The hours and circumstances of an employee's job. An employer is generally responsible for actions an employee takes within the course of employment. An employee who is injured in the course of employment is generally entitled to workers' compensation.

Any official tribunal presided over by a judge or judges in which legal issues and claims are heard and determined. In the United States, there are essentially two systems: federal courts and state courts. The basic federal court system has jurisdiction over cases involving federal statutes, constitutional questions, actions between citizens of different states, and certain other types of cases. There are also special federal courts such as bankruptcy and tax courts. Each state has local trial courts, which include courts for misdemeanors, smaller demand civil actions (called municipal, city, justice, or some other designation), and then superior or district courts to hear felonies, estates, divorces, and major lawsuits. Some states have specialty courts such as family, surrogate, and domestic relations. Small claims courts are an adjunct of the lowest courts handling lesser disputes.

Court Calendar
A list of the cases and hearings that will be held by a court on a particular day, week, or month. Because the length of time it will take to conduct a particular hearing or trial is at best a guess and many courts have a number of judges, accurately scheduling cases is difficult, with the result that court calendars are often revised and cases are often heard later than initially planned. A court calendar is sometimes called a docket, trial schedule, or trial list.

Court Costs
The fees charged for the use of a court, including the initial filing fee, fees for serving the summons, complaint, and other court papers, fees to pay a court reporter to transcribe depositions (pretrial interviews of witnesses) and in-court testimony, and, if a jury is involved, to pay the daily stipend of jurors. Often costs to photocopy court papers and exhibits are also included. Court costs must be paid by both the plaintiff and the defendant as the case progresses. In many types of cases, however, the losing party is held responsible for both parties' costs.

Court Docket
See: docket

Court Of Appeal(S)
1) Any court (state or federal) that hears appeals from trial courts or lower appeals courts. 2) The intermediate courts in most jurisdictions -- that is the courts positioned between trial courts and the courts of last appeal (usually the supreme court).

Court Of Appeals For The Federal Circuit
See: United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Court Of Claims
A U.S. federal court established in 1855 to hear monetary claims against the United States government, based on contracts, express or implied, or claims referred by Congress. It sits in Washington, DC, and is composed of five judges. Some states also have a court of claims.

Court Of Customs And Patent Appeals
The court that previously handled appeals from determinations by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Appeals are now heard by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC).

Court Of Equity
Courts that handle lawsuits requesting remedies other than monetary damages, such as writs, injunctions, and specific performance. Such courts existed, separate from courts of law, under English common law and in several states. Federal bankruptcy courts are an example of courts that continue to operate as courts of equity. Compare: court of law

Court Of International Trade
A U.S. federal court that provides judicial review of civil actions arising out of import transactions and federal laws concerning international trade matters. Formerly called the U.S. Customs Court

Court Of Law
Any tribunal within a judicial system. Under English common law and in some states, it was a court that heard only lawsuits in which money damages were sought, as distinguished from a court of equity, which could grant specific remedies. That distinction has dissolved and today every court (with the exception of federal bankruptcy courts) is a court of law. Compare: court of equity

Court Order
See: order

Court Reporter
The person who records every word that is said during official court proceedings (hearings and trials) and depositions, and who prepares a written transcript of those proceedings upon the request of the judge or a party.

Court Trial
A trial in which the judge decides factual as well as legal questions, and makes the final judgment. Compare: jury trial

Court Witness
A witness called by the court. For example, a judge may call an expert witness to clarify an issue for the court.

1) A military court for trying offenses of the Uniform Code of Military Justice by members of the armed services. 2) To charge a member of the military with an offense against military law.

An agreement, contract, or written promise between two parties that constitutes a pledge to do or refrain from doing something. In the case of real property, covenants are found in deeds or in documents that bind everyone who owns land in a particular development. (See also: covenants, conditions, and restrictions)

Covenant Marriage
A type of marriage available only in Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana, in which the spouses promise that they'll participate in marriage counseling before filing for divorce and agree to a longer waiting period before the divorce can be final. The filing spouse also must allege fault grounds for the divorce. (See: fault divorce, no-fault divorce)

Covenant Not To Compete
See: noncompetition agreement

Covenant Of Quiet Enjoyment
See: quiet enjoyment

Covenant That Runs With The Land
A formal agreement or promise that passes with land from owner to owner so that the land cannot be conveyed to a new owner without the covenant.

Covenants, Conditions, And Restrictions
A set of rules, commonly called "CC&Rs," that governs the use of real estate, usually enforced by a homeowners' association. For example, CC&Rs may tell you how big your house can be, how you must landscape your yard, or whether you can have pets. CC&Rs "run with the land," meaning any subsequent owner must also abide by them. Most state laws require that a copy of the CC&Rs be recorded with the county land records office and be provided to any prospective purchaser.

In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a reduction in the amount of a secured debt the debtor must repay to the replacement value of the collateral securing the debt. For example, if a debtor owes $5,000 on a car that's worth only $3,500, a cramdown would reduce the amount of the debt that had to be repaid in Chapter 13 to $3,500.
Learn how a cramdown works in our section on Reducing Loans and Non-Residential Mortgages in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The quality making testimony worthy of belief.

Credible Witness
A witness whose testimony is believable based on his or her experience, knowledge, training, and appearance of honesty and forthrightness.

Credit Bureau
See: credit reporting agency

Credit Card Accountability Responsibility And Disclosure Act Of 2009
A consumer protection law also called the Credit CARD Act. Among its provisions is a prohibition against retroactive rate increases, a requirement that terms be clearly spelled out, and an extension of time before late fees can be imposed. The law also increases protections for students and young people when it comes to new credit card offers.

Credit Card Act
See: Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009

Credit Counseling
Counseling that explores the possibility of repaying debts outside of bankruptcy and educates the debtor about credit, budgeting, and financial management. Under the 2005 bankruptcy law, a debtor must undergo credit counseling with an approved provider before filing for bankruptcy.

Credit File
See: credit report

Credit Insurance
An insurance policy a lender requires a borrower to purchase to cover a loan. If the borrower dies or becomes disabled before paying off the loan, the policy will pay off the remaining balance.

Credit Report
A written account of a consumer's credit history prepared by a credit reporting agency. Credit reports generally include information on loans, credit cards, and other bills and accounts, as well as a record of the consumer's addresses and employers. To get and use a consumer's credit report, a business must follow the procedures laid out in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Credit Reporting Agency
A private company that collects and sells information about a person's credit history. Clients, such as banks, mortgage lenders, credit card companies, landlords, and potential employers, use the information to screen applicants. There are three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and they are regulated by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Credit Score
Numerical calculation that creditors use to evaluate the creditworthiness of someone applying for credit, such as a mortgage or credit card. High credit scores (over 700) indicate less risk that you will default on payments, and low scores (under 400) indicate potential problems. Credit scores are based on information in your credit report, such as bill-paying history and outstanding debt. The biggest credit scoring company is Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO).

Credit Shelter Trust
See: bypass trust

Credit Union
A cooperative financial institution owned and controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting savings with fair interest rates and offering loans at reasonable rates. The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) charters and supervises federal credit unions.

Credit, N
1) The ability to borrow money; a lender

Credit, V
1) To believe or trust in the truth of something, for instance, by crediting a statement made at a court hearing. 2) To place on the credit side of an account, for example, by crediting the account with fifty dollars.

A person or entity (such as a bank or credit card company) to whom a debt is owed.

Creditor's Claim
1) A written claim filed in federal bankruptcy court by a person or entity owed money by a debtor who has filed for bankruptcy. 2) A written claim filed in probate court by a person or entity owed money by a person who has died. State law sets a deadline, usually a few months, for filing a claim in probate court. If the executor or administrator in charge of the probate denies the claim, the creditor can request a court hearing.

Creditor's Rights
The legal procedures and rights available to creditors for collecting debts and judgments.

A type of behavior that is has been defined by the state as deserving of punishment, which usually includes imprisonment in the county jail or state or federal prison. Crimes and their punishments are defined by Congress and state legislatures.

Crime Against Nature
An archaic term used to describe sexual practices deemed deviant or not natural by a legislature or a court. Examples range from bestiality (intercourse between a human and an animal) to necrophilia (intercourse with a dead body). Few states still have "crime against nature" statutes on the books, and any that still include consensual sexual acts, such as sodomy, between adults are unconstitutional under a 2003 United States 
Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas.

Crime Of Passion
A crime committed while in the throes of passion, with no opportunity to reflect on what is happening and what the person is about to do. For example, a husband who discovers his wife in bed with a lover and who attacks and kills the lover in a blind rage has committed a crime of passion. Because the husband has been overcome with emotion, he lacks the specific intent to kill, which is necessary for a conviction of murder. If a jury believes that he acted in the heat of passion, they will convict him only of manslaughter, which does not require an intent to kill. (See also: manslaughter, specific intent)

1) A popular term for anyone who has committed a crime, whether convicted of the offense or not. More properly, it applies only to those actually convicted of a crime. Repeat offenders are sometimes called habitual criminals. 2) Certain acts or people involved in or relating to a crime. Examples include "criminal taking," "criminal conspiracy," a "criminal gang."

Criminal Attorney
A popular term for an attorney who specializes in representing people charged with crimes, at the trial or appellate level. Many lawyers handle criminal defense and also have other clients. In some states, the licensing agency that regulates the practice of law certifies lawyers as "criminal law specialists" based on experience and extra training in that field.

Criminal Calendar
The list of criminal cases to be called in court on a particular day. The parties charged and their attorneys are given a written notice of the time and place to appear. The criminal calendar may include arraignments, bail settings, cases continued (put off) awaiting a plea, changes of pleas, setting hearing or trial dates, motions brought by attorneys, sentencing hearings, hearings to review reports from probation officers, appointing public defenders or other attorneys, and other business concerning criminal cases.

Criminal Case
A lawsuit brought by a prosecutor employed by the federal, state, or local government that charges a person with the commission of a crime.

Criminal Complaint
See: information

Criminal Insanity
A mental defect or disease that, as understood in most states, makes it impossible for a person to know what he or she is doing; or if he or she does know, to know that what they are doing is wrong. Some states define as insane those defendants who acted under an irresistible impulse, even if they knew their actions were wrong. Defendants who are criminally insane cannot be convicted of a crime, because criminal conduct involves the conscious intent to do wrong -- a choice that the criminally insane cannot meaningfully make. (See also: irresistible impulse test, McNaghten Rule)

Criminal Justice
A generic term for the procedure by which criminal conduct is investigated, arrests made, evidence gathered, charges brought, defenses raised, trials conducted, sentences rendered, and punishment carried out.

Criminal Law
Laws written by Congress and state legislators that make certain behavior illegal and punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. Criminal law also includes decisions by appellate courts that define crimes and regulate criminal procedure in the absence of clear legislated rules. By contrast, civil laws are not punishable by imprisonment. In order to be found guilty of a criminal law, the prosecution must show that the defendant intended to act as he did; in civil law, you may sometimes be responsible for your actions even though you did not intend the consequences. For example, civil law makes you financially responsible for a car accident you caused but didn't intend.

Criminal Procedure
The legal rules dealing with investigating, prosecuting, adjudicating, and punishing individuals for violating criminal laws. The rules, whether federal or state, may cover procedural issues such as criminal arraignment, bail, pretrial release, preliminary hearings, plea bargaining, criminal trials, and criminal discovery. Compare: civil procedure

See: cross-complaint

Sometimes called a cross-claim, legal paperwork that a defendant files to initiate his or her own lawsuit against the original plaintiff, a codefendant, or someone who is not yet a party to the lawsuit. A cross-complaint must concern the same events that gave rise to the original lawsuit. For example, a defendant accused of causing an injury when she failed to stop at a red light might cross-complain against the mechanic who recently repaired her car, claiming that his negligence resulted in the brakes failing and that, therefore, the accident was his fault. In some states where the defendant wishes to make a legal claim against the original plaintiff and no third party is claimed to be involved, a counterclaim, not a cross-complaint, should be used.

At trial, the opportunity to question any witness who testifies on behalf of any other party to the lawsuit (in civil cases) or for the prosecution or other codefendants (in criminal cases). The opportunity to cross-examine usually occurs as soon as a witness completes his or her initial testimony, called direct testimony. Cross-examiners attempt to get the witness to say something helpful to their side, or to cast doubt on the witness's testimony by eliciting something that reduces the witness's credibility -- for example, that the witness's eyesight is so poor that she may not have seen an event clearly. When a witness's direct testimony ends up being hostile to the party that called the witness, sometimes that party's lawyer is allowed to cross-examine his own witness.

The sharing of patent rights through licensing agreements so that businesses can use each other's technology and not fear infringement lawsuits.

Cruel And Unusual Punishment
Punishment that is extremely excessive in relation to the crime, shocking to ordinary sensibilities, or equivalent to torture. It is prohibited, but not defined, by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.The definition of cruel and unusual punishment changes over the years, as the courts respond to "evolving standards of decency." The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty, if it could be meted out by juries with wide discretion and little guidance or applied to insane or mentally retarded defendants, is cruel and unusual punishment. There is still much debate about whether certain methods of carrying out the death penalty, including lethal injection, violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Any act of inflicting unnecessary emotional or physical pain. Cruelty or mental cruelty is the most frequently used fault ground for divorce because as a practical matter, courts will accept minor wrongs or disagreements as sufficient evidence of cruelty to justify the divorce. Now that every state has some version of no-fault divorce, cruelty is rarely used as a ground for divorce.

Cruelty To Animals
A crime that is defined differently in different states and municipalities, but usually involves the willful infliction of pain, suffering, or death on an animal, or the intentional or malicious neglect of an animal.

Cruzan V. Missouri Department Of Health (1990)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court held that family members could not refuse life-sustaining medical treatment -- such as a feeding tube -- on behalf of incompetent patients, absent clear and convincing evidence that the refusal was in accordance with the patients' wishes.
Full text: Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health

Csi Effect
A phenomenon reported by prosecutors who claim that television shows based on scientific crime solving have made actual jurors reluctant to vote to convict when, as is typically true, forensic evidence is neither necessary nor available.

The short name for a 1998 class-action lawsuit called Catholic Social Services v. Reno. The plaintiffs were undocumented residents who had tried to apply for amnesty under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) based on their "continuous unlawful presence" in the United States since 1982. The plaintiffs were told that, because they'd taken a brief trip abroad without first getting authorization from immigration officials, theirs was not a "brief, casual, and innocent" departure and therefore broke the required continuity of their U.S. stay, rendering them ineligible for amnesty. After several appeals, the issue was ultimately resolved in the immigrants' favor through passage of the LIFE Act.

See: culpable

Sufficiently responsible for criminal acts or negligence to be at fault and liable for the conduct.

Cum Testamento Annexo
See: administrator with will annexed.

Cumis Counsel
An attorney employed by a defendant in a lawsuit when there is an insurance policy supposedly covering the claim, but there is a conflict of interest between the insurance company and the insured defendant. Such a conflict might arise if the insurance company is denying full or partial coverage. In California, the defendant can demand that the insurance company pay the attorney fees of a selected attorney rather than use an insurance company lawyer. The term is derived from the name of a 1984 California case.

Cumulative Sentence
See: consecutive sentence

Cumulative Voting
In corporations, a system of voting by shareholders for directors in which the shareholder can multiply his or her voting shares by the number of candidates and vote them all for one person for director. This is intended to give minority shareholders a chance to elect at least one director. For example, there are five directors to be elected and 10,000 shares issued. A shareholder with 1,000 shares could vote 5,000 for his or her candidate rather than being limited to 1,000 for each of five candidates and always being outvoted by shareholders with 1,001 or more shares.

See: conservator

To eliminate or correct a violation or defect. For example, a landlord's cure or quit notice gives the tenant a set amount of time to correct, or cure, a lease violation or face an eviction lawsuit.

Cure Or Quit
The type of written notice given to a tenant by a landlord, telling the tenant that he or she must cease a certain behavior within a certain number of days, or move out. If the tenant does neither, the landlord may proceed with an eviction lawsuit in most situations. Common reasons for a cure or quit notice are having a pet in violation of a no-pets lease clause, causing a nuisance or disturbance, and having an unauthorized occupant in the rental.

Current Monthly Income
As defined by the 2005 amendments to the bankruptcy law, a debtor's average monthly gross (before tax) income over the six months before the debtor files for bankruptcy. If the debtor's income has recently declined -- for example, because the debtor lost a job in the last few months -- then his or her current monthly income calculated according to this formula could be much more than the debtor is actually earning each month when he or she files for bankruptcy. The debtor's current monthly income is used to determine whether the debtor can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, among other things.
To learn more about how your income affects your ability to file for bankruptcy, see Chapter 7 Eligibility & the Means Test.

See: dower and curtesy

Custodial Interference
The taking of a child from a parent with the intent to interfere with that parent's physical custody of the child. This is a crime in most states, even if the taker also has custody rights.

Custodial Parent
A parent who has sole custody or primary custody of a child following divorce. Compare: noncustodial parent

A term used by the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) and Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) for the person named to manage property left or given to a child under the terms of either of those Acts. The custodian manages the property until the child reaches the age specified by state law -- 21, in most states. Then the child receives the property outright, and the custodian has no further role in its management.

1) In family law, the right to make decisions about or physically live with a child. 2) Holding property under one's control. 3) Holding an accused or convicted person in the control of the state, beginning with the arrest of the person.

Custody (Of A Child)
The legal authority to make decisions affecting a child's interests (legal custody) and the responsibility of taking care of the child (physical custody). When parents separate or divorce, they may share legal and physical custody, or one parent may have physical custody with the other parent having visitation. (See also: joint custody, sole custody, physical custody, legal custody)

Customs And Border Protection (Cbp)
Formerly referred to as the Border Patrol, this is now an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). One of its responsibilities is to keep the U.S. borders secure from people crossing illegally. Another one is to meet travelers and returning residents arriving at U.S. airports and border posts, and to check their visas or other admission documents in order to decide whether they should be allowed into the United States. If not, CBP has the power to order them to return home immediately.

Customs Court
See: Court of International Trade

See: Clean Water Act

Cy Pres Doctrine (See-<B>Pray</b>-Doctrine)
A doctrine used to give a gift to a similar beneficiary when the true beneficiary no longer exists or is not available. The cy pres doctrine is most often used with charitable gifts when the charity named in an estate planning document no longer exists. In that case, the trustee or court may use the cy pres doctrine to give the gift to a similar charity to match the donor's intention as closely as possible.

The practice of acquiring a business name, trademark, or celebrity name as a domain name, hoping to later profit by reselling the domain name back to the company or person who has been disadvantaged. The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999 authorizes a cybersquatting victim to file a federal lawsuit to regain a domain name or sue for financial compensation. Victims of cybersquatting can also use the provisions of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy adopted by ICANN, an international tribunal administering domain names.