An abbreviation of the Latin words exempli gratia, meaning "for example." (Compare: i.e.)

See: enrolled agent (EA)

Earned Income
Compensation for services rendered, such as wages, commissions, and tips.

Earned Surplus
See: retained earnings

Earnest Payment
A partial payment (deposit) demonstrating commitment in a contractual relationship, and commonly made in real estate transactions. The remainder of the payment is due on a particular date or after a particular event has occurred. The seller keeps the earnest money if the buyer fails to make timely payment in full (or if there is a similar breach of the agreement).

Earnings Record
The record of a person's earnings over his or her lifetime that is maintained by the Social Security Administration for purposes of calculating the amount of benefits to which one may be entitled -- including retirement benefits, disability benefits, or dependents or survivors benefits. Ask the Social Security Administration for a copy of your Social Security Statement to make sure your earnings record is accurate.

Someone who heard something but didn't actually see it, and can so testify in court. Compare: eyewitness

A right to use another person's real estate for a specific purpose. The most common type of easement is the right to travel over another person's land, known as a right of way. In addition, property owners commonly grant easements for the placement of utility poles, utility trenches, water lines, or sewer lines. An easement may be for an identified path or for use at any reasonable place.

Easement By Prescription
See: prescriptive easement

Listening to conversations or observing conduct that is meant to be private. The term comes from the common law offense of listening to private conversations by crouching under the windows or eaves of a house. Generally, the term is used when the activity is not legally authorized by a search warrant or court order. Compare: surveillance

Economic Stimulus Act Of 2008
A federal law that attempted to avoid or mitigate an economic recession. The Act authorized federal payments of $300 to $1,200 to approximately 130 million American individuals and families. In addition, households received $300 for each qualifying child under the child tax credit. The law also included tax cuts to help the auto industry and to encourage spending by businesses.

See: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Effective Assistance Of Counsel
The right of a criminal defendant or appellant to have competent legal representation, whether the lawyer was appointed by the court or retained by the defendant. In general, competent legal representation is without errors that would result in the denial of a fair trial. This means that most attorney errors do not amount to ineffective assistance.

Effective Date
The date at which a contract or statutory obligation commences. The effective date may be different than the date a contract is signed or a statute is enacted. For example, the effective date for the Copyright Act of 1976 is January 1, 1978.

Effluxion Of Time
The normal expiration of a lease due to the passage of time, rather than due to a specific event that might cause the lease to end, such as destruction of the building.

Egelhoff v. Egelhoff (2001)
U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court ruled that a woman who was named as the beneficiary of her former husband's 401(k) plan was entitled to inherit the money in the plan, even though state law said that the divorce had automatically revoked her right to inherit. Because a 401(k) plan is ruled by federal law (ERISA), it overruled the state law.

Eggshell Skull
A legal rule that a person who causes injury is at fault for all the consequences whether foreseen or not. It is derived from a situation in which a light blow to the head killed an individual, even though it could not have been predicted that such a blow would cause death.

An exit, or the act of exiting. The most famous use of this word was by P.T. Barnum, who put up a large sign in his circus tent saying "This Way to the Egress." Thinking an egress was some type of exotic bird, people eagerly went though the passage and found themselves outside the tent. Compare: ingress

See: environmental impact report

A lawsuit brought to remove a party who is occupying real property. This is not the same as an unlawful detainer (eviction) suit, because it is against someone who has wrongfully tried to claim title to the property, not a tenant who only has a right of possession. Example: George lives on a ranch which he claims he has inherited from his great uncle, but Betty sues for ejectment on the basis that, in fact, she was entitled to the property through her parents.

Ejusdem generis
(ee-joose-dem gen-ris) adj. Latin for "of the same kind." Used to interpret statutes when a law lists classes of persons or things. For example, if a law refers to automobiles, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, and other motor-powered vehicles, a court might use ejusdem generis to hold that such vehicles would not include airplanes, because the list included only land-based transportation.

Elder Law
An area of law that addresses the legal needs of elderly people, including retirement benefits, estate planning, health care, and other issues.

Election Of Remedies
An outmoded requirement that if a party files a claim based on two inconsistent legal theories, the party must choose one theory to pursue, usually just before the trial begins. Because it's unfair to force the party to choose before all of the evidence is presented, courts now generally won't require the party to make a choice.

Election Under The Will
See: taking against the will

Campaigning near a polling place. Electioneering is prohibited within a certain distance from a polling place, typically 100 feet.

Elective Share
The portion of a deceased person's estate that the surviving spouse is entitled to claim under state law. In many states, the elective share (also called the statutory share) is about one-third of the deceased spouse's property. In some states, however, the amount the surviving spouse can claim depends on whether or not the couple has young children and, in a few states, on how long the couple was married. In most states, if the deceased spouse left a will, the surviving spouse must choose either what the will provides or the elective share. (See also: dower, curtesy)

Electronic Funds Transfer Act
A federal law that gives consumers the right to correct errors in ATM or bank statements relating to electronic funds transfers (such as ATM use, point-of-sale purchases, and preauthorized withdrawals from a bank account) and limits a consumer's liability for losses in the event of a stolen or lost ATM card.

Electronic Signature
A paperless method of entering into an electronic contract. Under the Electronic Signatures Act, enacted in 2000, electronic contracts (with a few exceptions) are as enforceable as those executed on paper. The law does not specify an approved method of signing electronic agreements and various methods have been improvised including clicking an "I Accept" button, typing "Yes," typing in a name, or using a "key" to encrypt (scramble) information that uniquely identifies the signer.

Electronic Surveillance
An advanced form of eavesdropping. Electronic surveillance employs sophisticated electronic equipment to intercept private conversations or observe conduct that is meant to be private. It includes the use of small radio transmitters or "bugs" to listen in on telephone or in-person conversations, the use of lasers to intercept conversations inside a room from the slight vibrations of the window glass, and the use of thermal imaging scopes for observing conduct inside a structure. Many of these sophisticated forms of surveillance require a search warrant because they violate a person's reasonable expectation of privacy. This area of law is in a constant state of flux as courts interpret the use of new technologies.

(eh-luh-moss-uh-nary) Charitable, as applied to a purpose or institution.

1) An essential requirement necessary to make a claim or defense in court . For example, one element of assault is the intention to cause apprehension of harmful or offensive contact. If there is no evidence that the defendant intended to cause apprehension, there is no assault. 2) An essential requirement of a General Plan (a government's long-range land-use policy). .

Elements (Of A Case)
The component parts of a legal claim or cause of action. To win a lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove every element of a legal claim. For example, here are the elements of a breach of contract claim:
There was a valid contract.
The plaintiff performed as specified by the contract.
The defendant failed to perform as specified by the contract.
The plaintiff suffered an economic loss as a result of the defendant's breach of contract.

Elements (Of A Crime)
The component parts of crimes. For example, "robbery" is defined as the taking and carrying away of property of another by force or fear with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Each of those four parts is an element that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Emancipated Minor
A minor who has been released from the custody and control of his or her parents.

1) The act of setting free or liberating from a restraint or bondage (as in slavery). 2) To release a minor child from the care and control of the minor's parents. Rules for emancipation vary from state to state.

U.S. embassies represent the U.S. government in other countries, and are where the U.S. ambassador works. The United States has embassies located in many countries around the world, usually in their capital city. The U.S. may also operate smaller versions of the embassy called "consulates" in other cities within the same country, presided over by a U.S. consul. Most U.S. embassies and consulates accept and process applications for both nonimmigrant and immigrant visas.

The crime of stealing the funds or property of an employer, company, or government or misappropriating money or assets held in trust.

A person who commits the crime of embezzlement by fraudulently taking funds or property of an employer or trust.

Annual crops to which a tenant who cultivated the land is entitled. If the tenant dies before harvest, the right to harvest the crops will pass to his or her heirs.

A sudden, unforeseen happening requiring action to protect lives or property.

Emergency Doctrine
A doctrine that excuses a person from having to act with reasonable care if that person acted with a sudden and urgent need for aid in an emergency.

Emergency Protective Order
Any court-issued order intended to protect a person from harm or harassment. An emergency protective order is issued by the police, when court is out of session, to prevent domestic violence. Most emergency protective orders are stopgap measures that last only for a weekend or holiday, after which the abused person is expected to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from a court.

Eminent Domain
The power of the federal or state government to take private property for a public purpose, even if the property owner objects. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows the government to take private property if the taking is for a public use and the owner is "justly compensated" (usually, paid fair market value) for his or her loss. A public use is virtually anything that is sanctioned by a federal or state legislative body, but such uses may include roads, parks, reservoirs, schools, hospitals, or other public buildings. Sometimes called condemnation, taking, or expropriation.

Payment, profit, or gain as a result of employment or holding an office.

Emotional Distress
Suffering in response to an experience caused by the negligence or intentional acts of another; a basis for a claim of damages in a lawsuit brought for such an injury. Originally damages for emotional distress were awardable only in conjunction with damages for actual physical harm, but recently some courts have recognized a right to an award of money damages for emotional distress without physical injury or contact. In sexual harassment and defamation claims, emotional distress can sometimes be the only harmful result. Professional testimony by a therapist or psychiatrist may be required to validate the existence and depth of the distress and place a dollar value upon it.

A person who is hired to work for another person or business (the employer) for compensation and is subject to the employer's direction as to the details of how to perform the job. Employees are subject to payroll tax code rules. Compare: independent contractor

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (Erisa)
A federal law that sets minimum standards for pension plans and health benefit plans, to protect the employees covered by these plans. ERISA requires plans to provide certain information to plan participants, imposes responsibilities on those who manage and control the plans, and requires plans to establish procedures for participants to get benefits from their plans, including an appeals process.

The person or entity that hires someone (an employee) to do work for compensation and has the right to control how the employee does the job.

1) The hiring of a person for compensation, in which the employer has the right to control how the employee does the job. 2) The job for which an employee is hired.

Employment Authorization Document (Ead)
More commonly called a work permit, this is a photo identification card that certain nonimmigrants (foreign-born persons with a temporary right to be in the United States) may apply for in order to show employers evidence of their right or approval to work.

En Banc
French for "on the bench," used to indicate that all of the judges on an appeals court panel are participating in a case. Courts generally hear cases en banc when a significant issue is at stake or at the request of the parties.

Enabling Clause
A provision in a new law that empowers a particular public official -- such as governor or state treasurer -- to put it into effect, including making expenditures.

Enclosure (Inclosure)
The act of creating a boundary around land that limits access to it, for example by a fence, wall, hedge, ditch, or other physical barrier.

To build a structure in whole or in part on another's real property. This may occur due to incorrect surveys, guesses or miscalculations by builders and or owners when erecting a building, or by deliberate choice. The solutions vary from giving the encroaching party an easement or lease (for a price, usually), or if the structure is small, actually moving it onto the owner's property.

The building of a structure entirely or partly on a neighbor's property. Encroachment may occur due to faulty surveying or by the builder's deliberate decision. Solutions range from paying the rightful property owner for the use of the property to the court-ordered removal of the structure.

To place a lien, mortgage, or other encumbrance on real estate.

Any claim or lien on real estate. Examples include mortgages, deeds of trust, tax liens, mechanic's liens, easements, and water or timber rights. Documents showing encumbrances are usually recorded in the local land records office (commonly called the county recorder or registry of deeds). Also called incumbrance.

Endangered Species
A species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its normal range and habitat. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 defines when a species is considered "endangered" for purposes of federal law.

Endangered Species Act Of 1973
A federal law that protects animal species that are deemed endangered species or threatened species throughout all or a significant portion of their normal range and habitat. The Act also protects the ecosystems on which these species depend.

Endorsement (Indorsement)
The placing of a signature on the back of a check, bill of exchange, or other negotiable instrument so as to make it cashable or transferable.

Money or property given to an institution for a specific purpose. Most often, an endowment is a gift of money and the principal isn't spent -- instead, the income from the principal is used for the benefit of the institution or its members.

Endowment Insurance
Provides that an insured person who lives for the specified endowment period receives the face value of the insurance policy -- that is, the amount paid at death. If the policyholder dies sooner, the beneficiary named in the policy receives the proceeds.

Enemy Combatant
Someone who is engaged in hostilities against the United States. Under federal law, there are two types of enemy combatants: lawful enemy combatants and unlawful enemy combatants.

Energy Independence And Security Act Of 2007
An omnibus energy policy law designed to increase energy efficiency and develop renewable energy. Signed by President George W. Bush, among other things, the law sets new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks (35 miles per gallon by 2020), encourages the development and production of advanced technology vehicles, encourages biofuel development, sets new efficiency standards for appliances and lighting, encourages alternate energy research and development, and mandates energy efficiency in public buildings.

1) To set free from slavery or an obligation. 2) To grant a person or class the rights of citizenship, especially voting rights. 3) To give political rights or privileges to a municipality.

Engel V. Vitale (1962)
The U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down officially mandated prayer in public schools as violating the separation of church and state, as guaranteed by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

English-Only Rule
A workplace requirement that prohibits employees from speaking any language other than English. An English-only rule is valid only if it is justified by business necessity and limited in scope to serve those business needs. For example, if an employer adopted an English-only policy for workers on a factory line for safety purposes, that would be justified by business necessity. If the same employer prohibited employees from speaking any other language while eating lunch or smoking in the company parking lot, that would probably be too broad.

A court order that someone do a specific act, cease a course of conduct, or be prohibited from committing a certain act. To obtain such an order, called an injunction, a private party or public agency has to convince a judge that speedy action is needed in order to prevent irreparable harm or injury. The court will hold a hearing to consider evidence from both sides. If the court grants the writ, the injunction can be preliminary (the court will consider more evidence later, at trial) or permanent (but despite its name, a permanent injunction might not last forever).

1) To exercise a right. 2) The use of funds or occupancy of property. (See also: quiet enjoyment)

Enrolled Agent (Ea)
A type of tax professional who is permitted to practice before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and can represent taxpayers in audits, collections, and appeals.

Enter A Judgment
To officially record a judgment on the "judgment roll" after the judge has approved and signed it. This task is the responsibility of the court clerk.

Environmental Impact Report (Eir)
A detailed, written analysis of all the effects that a land development or construction project would have on the local environment, such as on the air quality, noise levels, population, traffic patterns, fire danger, endangered species, archeological artifacts, and community beauty. Many states require submission of such reports to local governments, with a process for public comment, before a development or project can be approved.

Environmental Law
A body of state, federal, and international statutes and court decisions intended to protect the environment (natural resources, wildlife, landscape, and amenities) from pollution, misuse, overuse, and other damage. Environmental laws both regulate activities and give individuals and groups the right to bring legal actions to enforce its protections or remedy environmental harms.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Eeoc)
The federal agency responsible for interpreting and enforcing laws that prohibit employment discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Equal Pay Act
A federal law that prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who are performing under similar working conditions.

Equal Protection
The right, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to be treated the same, legally, as others in the same situation. If a law discriminates between one group of people and another, the government must have a rational basis for doing so. A law that discriminates on the basis of a supect classification -- that is, it makes a distinction based on race, gender, or another trait that has historically resulted in discriminatory treatment -- is constitutional only if there is a very compelling reason for the distinction.

Equal Rights Amendment
An attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution to guarantee equal rights between the sexes. More commonly called the ERA, this proposed amendment expired in 1982 and was never ratified.

Equal-Opportunity Employer
An employer that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, or disability. Employers typically claim to be equal-opportunity employers in job advertisements or postings (sometimes using the abbreviation EOE) to make themselves more attractive to job candidates.

Fair; based on principles of justice. (See also: equitable relief)

Equitable Distribution
A legal principle followed by most states, under which assets and earnings acquired during marriage are divided equitably (fairly) at divorce. Some states start with the presumption that equitable means equal, but the court is not required to divide assets equally. In some states, a spouse who is guilty of "fault" actions like adultery may receive less than an equal share, and other factors may contribute to an unequal distribution that is still considered equitable and fair. Compare: community property

Equitable Estoppel
See: estoppel

Equitable Link
A lien on property, imposed by a court to achieve a fair result. For example, if someone has embezzled money from a business, the business might sue an ask the court for an equitable lien on the embezzler's property. (See also: constructive trust)

Equitable Ownership
See: beneficial ownership

Equitable Relief
When a court awards a nonmonetary judgment, such as an order to do something (mandamus or specific performance) or refrain from doing something (injunction), when monetary damages are not sufficient to repair the injury.

1) The net value of real estate, determined by subtracting the amount of unpaid debts secured by the property from its market value. 2) A set of legal principles that operates in addition to statutes and common law and is intended to give judges flexibility to achieve a just result. If traditional legal remedies (which usually involve compensation with money) wouldn't be fair in a particular case, a judge can use an equitable remedie. A court might issue an order (injunction) directing someone to do something or stop doing something. For example, if someone has built a garage that extends over the neighbor's property, a court might order the garage owner to tear it down. By contrast, the legal remedy would be for the owner to compensate the neighbor for the loss in property value. The rules of equity arose in England when the strict limitations of common law would not solve all problems, so the crown set up courts of chancery (equity) to provide remedies through the royal power. Most eastern states had courts of equity or chancery separate from courts of law, but now most states combine law and equity.

Equity Of Redemption
In foreclosure, the homeowner's right, for a certain period of time, to redeem the mortgage and keep the house by refinancing and paying off the original mortgage. State statutes usually spell out the terms under which redemption is available. (See also: redemption)

Equal in value, force, or meaning.

Latin for therefore.

See: Employee Retirement Income Security Act

See: clearly erroneous

(1) A legal mistake. (2) A mistake of law or fact by a judge or court.

Errors And Omissions
Shorthand for malpractice insurance, which gives physicians, attorneys, architects, accountants, and other professionals coverage for claims by patients and clients for alleged professional errors and omissions that amount to negligence.

Escalator Clause
Provision in a lease or other agreement which provides for an increase (in rent, installment payments, alimony, or some other financial payment) when the cost of living index (or a similar gauge) goes up. Often there is a maximum amount or cap on the increase.

Escape Clause
A provision in a contract that allows one of the parties to be excused from an obligation if a certain event occurs.

The forfeit of all property to the state when a person dies without heirs, descendants, or named beneficiaries. Compare: intestate

The holding of funds or documents by a neutral third party prior to closing a sale. For example, buyers and sellers of real estate commonly hire an escrow agent to facilitate the transfer. Business sales also sometimes involve escrow arrangements.

Escrow Agent
A person (often an attorney) or a company that handles escrow arrangements. Also sometimes called a title agent.

Escrow Instructions
Written instructions, signed by a buyer and seller, telling an escrow agent what needs to happen before the deal (usually a real estate sale) closes.

The act of spying on or monitoring the activities of a government or company in order to gather secret information.

1) A promise between two people that they will marry each other. 2) Taking up an idea or cause.

A form of address showing that someone is an attorney, usually written Albert Pettifog, Esquire, or simply Esq.

Essential Job Functions
The fundamental duties of a position -- those things that the person holding the job absolutely must be able to do. An employee with a disability must be able to perform the essential job functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation, to be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Establishment Clause
Contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, this clause prohibits the government from establishing an official religion. It also prohibits the government from preferring one religion over another, preferring religion over nonreligion, or vice versa.

Generally, all the property a person owns at death.

Estate By Entirety
See: tenancy by the entirety

Estate Planning
The art of continuing to prosper when you're alive, and passing your property to your loved ones with a minimum of fuss and expense after you die. Planning your estate may involve making gifts, buying insurance, and creating a will, living trust, health care directives,durable power of attorney for finances, or other documents.

Estate Tax
A tax imposed by the federal government, and by some states, on property transferred during life or at someone's death; it is officially called the unified gift and estate tax. All property, however owned and whether or not it goes through probate court before being given to inheritors, is subject to estate tax. In practice, however, fewer than 1% of estates actually owe federal estate tax. That's because for deaths in 2011 or 2012, the first $5 million of property is exempt from the tax, and you can give away or leave an unlimited amount tax-free to a surviving spouse or charity. Spouses can combine their exemptions to leave a total of $10 million without owing any estate tax. See also: gift tax; compare: inheritance tax

Estate Tax Threshold
The dollar amount of an estate at which estate tax might be due. For example, if you die in a year where the federal estate tax exception is $3.5 million, then your estate may owe estate taxes if your estate is larger $3.5 million at that time.

Estimated Taxes
Quarterly tax payments made by self-employed individuals to the IRS and state tax agencies for their anticipated income tax liability for the year, in lieu of withholding from a paycheck. Estimated tax payments are used to pay both income and self-employment taxes.

To halt, bar, or prevent. (See: estoppel)

A legal principle that prevents a person from asserting or denying something in court that contradicts what has already been established as the truth. (See also: equitable estoppel, promissory estoppel, collateral estoppel, estoppel by deed, estoppel in pais)

Estoppel By Deed
A legal principle that prevents a person from asserting or denying the truth of anything that he or she stated in a deed, especially regarding who has valid ownership of property.

Estoppel By Silence
A type of estoppel that prevents someone from asserting something when that person had both the duty and the opportunity to speak up earlier, and his or her silence put another person at a disadvantage.

Estoppel In Pais
See: equitable estoppel

And Al
(et-ahl Abbreviation for the Latin phrase "et alia," meaning "and others." This is commonly used in shortening the name of a court case, so that instead of listing all the plaintiffs or defendants, one of them will be listed followed by the term "et al."

And Seq.
(et sek) Abbreviation for the Latin phrase "et sequentes," meaning "and the following." It is commonly used by lawyers to include numbered lists, pages, or sections after the first number is stated, as in "the rules of the road are found in Vehicle Code Section 1204, et seq."

And Ux.
See: and uxor

And Uxor
(et-ux-or) Latin for "and wife." Often appears in its abbreviated form, et ux. In older deeds and documents, the phrase was used to indicate that a property was owned by a couple, consisting of a named man and his unidentified wife (for example, John Smith et ux.). In the present day, both parties are usually identified by name.

Ethical Will
A document or materials in which a person expresses the beliefs and experiences that have mattered most in his or her life. An ethical will has no legal significance; it is intended to convey the maker's core values to loved ones.

Bringing about the death of a person who is terminally ill and, usually, suffering. Sometimes called mercy killing.

Evaluation Agreement
A contract in which one party promises to submit an idea and the other party promises to evaluate it. After the evaluation, the evaluator will either enter into an agreement to exploit the idea or promise not to use or disclose the idea.

Evasion Of Tax
The intentional attempt to avoid paying taxes through fraudulent means, as distinguished from errors, late payment, or using legal "loopholes."

Removal of a tenant from rental property by a law enforcement officer. First, the landlord must file and win an eviction lawsuit, also known as an "unlawful detainer."

The many types of information presented to a judge or jury designed to convince them of the truth or falsity of key facts. Evidence typically includes testimony of witnesses, documents, photographs, items of damaged property, government records, videos, and laboratory reports. Strict rules limit what can be properly admitted as evidence, but dozens of exceptions often mean that creative lawyers find a way to introduce such testimony or other items into evidence. (See: admissible evidence, inadmissible evidence)

(1) Constituting evidence or having the quality of evidence. For example, someone's statement at the scene of a car wreck that one of the drivers was speeding has evidentiary value because it says something about how the accident happened. (2) Something that relates to the evidence in a particular case. For example, if a judge holds a hearing to decide whether or not a particular piece of evidence can be admitted at trial, that hearing might be called an evidentiary hearing.

Ex delicto
(ex dee-lick-toe) Latin phrase referring to something that arises out of a fault or wrong (tort), but not out of a contract.

Ex Officio
(ex oh-fish-ee-oh) Latin for "from the office." Used when someone holds one position because of the authority he or she has from another position (such as being on a committee simply because one is president of the corporation).

Ex Parte
Latin meaning "for one party," referring to motions, hearings, or orders granted on the request of and for the benefit of one party only. This is an exception to the basic rule of court procedure that both parties must be present at any argument before a judge, and to the otherwise strict rule that an attorney may not notify a judge without previously notifying the opposition. Ex parte matters are usually temporary orders (like a restraining order or temporary custody) pending a formal hearing, or an emergency request for a continuance.

Ex Post Facto
Latin for "after the fact." Refers to laws adopted after an act is committed, making it illegal retroactively. Or, it can refer to laws that increase the penalty for a crime after it is committed. Such laws are specifically prohibited by the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9.

Ex Rel.
Abbreviation for Latin ex relatione, meaning "upon being related" or, more loosely, "on behalf of." The phrase is typically used in the title of a legal proceeding filed by the government, to indicate the name of an interested private party who pushed for the instigation of the suit. For example, a case caption might read: The State of Tennessee ex rel. Archie Johnson v. Hardy Products. Such suits usually happen when the private party's interests happen to coincide with those of the government or the public.

1) The questioning of a witness by an attorney (or other party if the other party is self-represented). Direct examination is interrogation by the attorney who called the witness, and cross-examination is questioning by the opposing attorney. 2) In bankruptcy, the questions asked of a debtor by the judge, trustee in bankruptcy, attorneys, or creditors, to determine the state of the debtor's affairs. 3) In criminal law, a preliminary examination is a hearing to determine whether a defendant charged with a felony should be held for trial.

Examination Report
The report issued by an IRS auditor after an audit is concluded with its findings.

1) A flowery way a lawyer might tell a judge that the lawyer disagrees with the judge's ruling, often said after the judge rules against a lawyer who has objected to the admission of evidence. In modern practice, it is not necessary "to take exception" to a judge's adverse ruling, because it is assumed that the attorney against whom the ruling is made objects. 2) In contracts, statutes, and deeds, a statement that something is not included, as in "Landlord rents to Tenant the first floor, with the exception of the storage room."

Exception In Deed
A statement in a deed transferring real estate, reserving certain rights --for example, mineral rights or a life estate -- to the transferor.

Excessive Bail
An amount of bail that's more than necessary or usual to assure that the defendant will appear for subsequent court appearances. A defendant can claim excessive bail and make a motion to have it reduced.

1) To trade or barter property, goods, or services for other property, goods, or services. 2) The act of making a trade or barter. 3) Short for "Starker" exchange, an exchange of investment real estate to defer capital gains tax.

A federal or state tax imposed on the manufacture, sale, or use of goods or on an occupation or activity (such as a business license). Sometimes called an excise tax.

Excited Utterance
An exception to the hearsay rule that finds an out-of-court statement to be inherently reliable if it is made about a startling event while the person making the statement is experiencing that event.

Exclusionary Rule
A rule of evidence that disallows the use of illegally obtained evidence in criminal trials. For example, the exclusionary rule would prevent a prosecutor from introducing at trial evidence seized during an illegal search.

Exclusive License
A written contract in which the owner of a patent, copyright, trademark, or trade secret authorizes, for a limited time, someone (the licensee) to exclusively exercise one or more of the rights. For example, the copyright owner of a comic book may exclusively license the video game rights to a game company. Once a license terminates, the owner regains the rights. Compare: assignment

To release from accusation, guilt, or blame -- for instance, "the defense lawyer will attempt to exculpate her client." (Compare: exonerate, acquit)

A description of evidence in a criminal trial that serves to justify, excuse, or introduce a reasonable doubt about the defendant's alleged actions or intentions. Exculpatory evidence may ultimately show that the defendant is not guilty. No wonder police and prosecutors must, to uphold the defendant's constitutional right to due process, tell the defense about any exculpatory evidence they've discovered.

Exculpatory Clause
A provision in a lease that absolves the landlord in advance from responsibility for all damages, injuries, or losses occurring on the property, including those caused by the landlord's actions. Most states have laws that void exculpatory clauses in rental agreements, which means that a court will not enforce them.

Exculpatory Evidence
Evidence that points toward a defendants innocence. Prosecutors are required to automatically hand over such evidence to the defense, even if the defense doesnt request it, and a showing that this rule was violated can sometimes result in a conviction being reversed.

Excusable Neglect
A legitimate excuse for the failure of a party or his or her lawyer to take required action on time (like filing an answer to a complaint). This is usually claimed to set aside a default judgment for failure to answer or otherwise respond within the required time period. Illness, press of business by the lawyer (but not necessarily the defendant), or an understandable oversight by the lawyer's staff ("just blame the secretary") are common excuses which the courts will often accept.

1) To finish, carry out, or perform as required, as in fulfilling one's obligations under a contract, plan, or court order. 2) To complete and otherwise make valid a document, such as a will, deed, or contract, for example by signing it and having it notarized. 3) To put someone to death pursuant to a court-rendered sentence (capital punishment). 4) To murder or assassinate.

Executed Remainder
See: vested remainder

The act of executing a task or carrying out a murder or death sentence. (See also: execute)

Executive Clemency
The power of a president or governor to pardon a person convicted of a crime or commute (shorten) the sentence to be served.

Executive Order
A declaration by the president or a governor which has the force of law, usually based on existing statutory powers, and requiring no action by the Congress or state legislature.

Executive Privilege
The privilege that allows the president and other high officials of the executive branch to keep certain communications private if disclosing those communications would disrupt the functions or decision-making processes of the executive branch. As demonstrated by the Watergate hearings, this privilege does not extend to information germane to a criminal investigation.

The person named in a will to handle the property of someone who has died. The executor collects the property, pays debts and taxes, and then distributes what's left, as specified in the will, The executor also handles any probate court proceedings and notifies people and organizations of the death. Also called personal representative. Compare: administrator

Not yet performed or done. For example, an executory contract is one in which all or part of the required performance has not been done, and an executory bequest is a gift in a will that has not yet been distributed to the beneficiary.

Executory Interest
An interest in property (particularly real estate) that will pass to another only if certain events occur.

Executory Remainder
See: contingent remainder

An old-fashioned term for a female executor -- the person named in a will to handle the distribution of the deceased person's property. Now, whether male or female, this person is called the executor or personal representative.

Exemplary Damages
Damages awarded over and above special and general damages to punish a losing party's willful or malicious misconduct. Sometimes called punitive damages.

Exempt Employee
An employee who is not entitled to extra pay for overtime hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Exempt Property
Property that may not be seized by creditors and does not have to be forfeited in Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Each state has its own list of exempt property; in some states, debtors may choose between the state's list and a federal list. Typically, states exempt clothing, household furnishings, tools of the debtor's trade, personal belongings, and other basic possessions. Many states also exempt a certain amount of the debtor's equity in a home and a vehicle.

1) In tax law, an amount taxpayers are allowed to deduct from their taxable income based on a circumstance or their status. Each year, taxpayers get an exemption for themselves, each dependent, blindness or other disability, and for being over age 65. 2) In debt and bankruptcy, protection for certain types and amounts of assets from being taken by creditors or by the trustee in bankruptcy court to pay off debts. (See: homestead exemption)

Exemption Trust
A bypass trust funded with an amount no larger than the personal federal estate tax exemption for the year of death. If the trust grantor leaves property worth more than that amount, it usually goes to the surviving spouse. The trust property passes free from estate tax because of the personal exemption, and the rest is shielded from tax under the surviving spouse's marital deduction.

A principle in patent law that a patent owner cannot later sue a customer who purchased an authorized copy of a patented product. In other words, the patent owners rights are exhausted after the sale.

1) A document or object (including a photograph) introduced as evidence during a trial. 2) a copy of a paper attached to a pleading (any legal paper filed in a lawsuit), declaration, affidavit, or other document, which is referred to and incorporated into the main document.

To release from accusation, liability, or responsibility. A defendant who is found not guilty of a crime is said to be exonerated. One may also be exonerated from paying a debt, and property may be exonerated from a lien against it.

The possibility of future enjoyment of something one counts on receiving, usually referring to real property or the estate of a deceased person, such as a remainder, reversion, or distribution after the death of someone who has use for life.

In business accounting and business taxation, any current cost of operation, such as rent, utilities, and payroll, as distinguished from a capital expenditure for long-term property and equipment.

Expenses Of Administration
The costs of wrapping up a deceased person's estate and distributing property. They may include attorney fees, appraisal, costs, and probate court fees.

Expert Testimony
An opinion stated during a trial or deposition (testimony under oath before trial) by an expert witness on a subject relevant to a lawsuit or a criminal case.

Expert Witness
A person who is a specialist in a subject who is asked present his or her expert opinion in a trial or deposition without having been a witness to any occurrence relating to the lawsuit or criminal case. Expert witnesses are paid for their services.

Directly and unambiguously stated or communicated, particularly in a contract.

Express Contract
A contract in which all of the essential terms are explicitly stated. Compare: implied contract
Express Notice
See: actual notice

Express Warranty
1) In consumer or commercial transactions, a guarantee about the quality of goods or services made by a seller, such as, "This item is guaranteed against defects in construction for one year." Most express warranties come directly from the manufacturer or are included in the sales contract. 2) An assurance or promise made by a contracting party.

Taking of property or rights by governmental authority, most commonly by eminent domain.

To intentionally destroy, obliterate, or strike out records or information in files, computers, and other depositories. For example, state law may allow the criminal records of a juvenile offender to be expunged when he reaches the age of majority, to allow him to begin his adult life with a clean record. Or, a company or government agency may routinely expunge out-of-date records to save storage space.

Extended Warranty Contracts
Warranty coverage on an item that kicks in after the warranty coverage provided by the manufacturer or seller expires. Many consumers are encouraged to buy extended warranties (also called service contracts) when they buy cars or appliances. In the case of appliances and electronic equipment, extended warranties are all profit for the seller and not much benefit to the buyer because only a small percentage of these goods ever break down during an extended warranty period. An extended warranty may make sense, however, if you are buying a brand new model in the first few months after it has been manufactured.

The granting of a specific amount of extra time to make a payment, file a legal document after the date due, or continue a lease after the original expiration of the term.

Extenuating Circumstances
Surrounding or mitigating factors that reduce a party's level of responsibility or guilt, whether in a civil or criminal trial. Successfully showing extenuating circumstances might result in a lower damage award, a more lenient punishment, or a lesser charge.

The cancellation or destruction of a right or interest, quite often because the time for enforcement has passed.

The crime of obtaining money or property by threat to a victim's property or loved ones, intimidation, or false claim of a right (such as pretending to be an IRS agent). A direct threat to harm the victim is usually treated as the crime of robbery, however. Extortion is a felony in all states. Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing and damaging information to family, friends, or the public.

To surrender someone who has been charged with a crime to another state or country, or to obtain the surrender of someone from another jurisdiction.

When a state or country surrenders a person charged with a crime to the state or country that made the charge (literally, sends the person back). The rules and procedures for extradition are governed by international treaties, the U.S. Constitution, and U.S. federal and state laws. Occasionally a leader will refuse to extradite a person if satisfied that the prosecution is not warranted.

Extraordinary Compensation
See: extraordinary fees

Extraordinary Fees
Attorneys fees claimed in the administration of a dead person's estate for work beyond normal estate administration, including filing collection suits, preparing tax returns, or requiring unusual effort beneficial to the estate. This claim is in addition to the usual statutory or court-approved legal fees. An attorney claiming extraordinary fees must submit proof of time, effort, and benefit to justify the claim, and the final determination is at the judge's discretion.

Extreme Cruelty
A ground for divorce based on the infliction of physical or mental harm on one spouse by the other. Although all states now have "no-fault divorce," some states still recognize fault as a ground for divorce, and in other states evidence of cruelty may result in division of property that favoring who was the victim of extreme cruelty.

Extrinsic Evidence
Evidence relating to a contract but not contained in the written document, such as circumstances surrounding the agreement or statements made by the parties. This evidence may be admitted if the document's meaning is ambiguous. (See: parol evidence rule)

Extrinsic Fraud
Fraudulent acts which keep a person from obtaining information about his or her rights to enforce a contract or getting evidence to defend against a lawsuit. This could include destroying evidence or misleading an ignorant person about the right to sue.

A person who has actually seen or observed an event and can so testify in court. Compare: earwitness.