M'naughten Rule
See: McNaghten Rule

See: modus operandi

Short for modified accelerated cost recovery system. A method of depreciation, established by the Internal Revenue Code, for rapidly claiming depreciation tax deductions.

1) In the U.S., a generic term for a court judge. 2) In a few U.S. states, a justice of the peace or other lower-level officer of the court, with limited power to hear certain types of cases, such as small claims lawsuits or minor crimes, or to conduct particular types of proceedings, such as preliminary hearings. 3) In U.S. federal district courts, a magistrate judge is an official who conducts routine hearings assigned by the federal judges, including preliminary hearings in criminal cases.

Magna Carta
An historical document from England that helped establish common law and statutes -- in other words, it is a founding document of the law as we know it today. When King John reluctantly signed it in 1215, it was essentially a document for the nobility; however it became the basis of modern individual rights.

Mail Or Telephone Order Rule
A Federal Trade Commission rule that requires a seller to ship goods ordered by mail, phone, computer, or fax to a customer within the time promised or, if no time was stated, within 30 days. If the seller cannot ship within that period, the seller must send the customer a notice with a new shipping date and give the options of canceling the order and getting a refund or agreeing to the delay.

Mailbox Rule
In contract law, the acceptance of a contract is effective when a properly prepaid and addressed letter of acceptance is posted, as long as it is sent within the time in which the offer must be accepted (and unless the offer requires acceptance by personal delivery on or before the specified date). The mailbox rule is an exception to the general principle is that a contract is formed when acceptance is actually communicated to the offeror.

To inflict serious bodily injury, including mutilation, disfigurement, or any harm that limits the victim's ability to function physically. Originally, in English common law it meant to cut off or permanently cripple a part of the body such as an arm, leg, hand, or foot. In criminal law, such serious harm can turn an ordinary assault into an aggravated assault.

See: least restrictive environment

Major Life Activity
Functions such as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an individual is considered to have a disability if he or she has an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.

1) More than half of something, such as the votes cast in an election. 2) The age at which a person can exercise the legal rights of an adult, such as entering into contracts or voting. (See also: age of majority)

To sign a check, promissory note, agreement, or other document -- for example, to make a contract.

Make One Whole
To award an amount of damages sufficient to put the injured party back into the position that party was in before the injury.

1) The person who signs a check or promissory note, which makes that person responsible for payment. 2) A person who endorses a check or note over to another person before it is delivered, making the endorser obligated to pay until it is delivered. (See: check, promissory note, payor, payee)

Intentionally doing something that is illegal. This term is often used when a professional or public official commits an illegal act that interferes with the performance of his or her duties. For example, an elected official who accepts a bribe in exchange for political favors has committed malfeasance. Compare: misfeasance, nonfeasance

A willful or intentional state of mind, in which the actor intends to bring about an injury or wrongdoing. 1) In criminal law, malice can be evident by the act itself, as when someone purposefully injures someone else. Murder requires proof of malicious intent, and first-degree murder requires "malice aforethought." 2) In a defamation lawsuit (libel or slander), the jury's finding that the defendant acted with malice may increase the plaintiff's damages. In order for a public figure to win a defamation lawsuit, he or she must prove malice on the part of the defendant. (See also: malice aforethought)

Malice Aforethought
The state of mind necessary to prove first-degree murder. The prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to cause death or great bodily harm, or exhibited extreme and reckless indifference to the value of life. Any intentional killing that does not involve justification, excuse, or mitigation is a killing with malice aforethought.

Malicious Prosecution
Filing a civil or criminal lawsuit for an improper purpose( civil) or without probable cause (criminal). If a wrongful prosecution ends in the defendant's favor, the defendant can sue the plaintiff for the wrong he has suffered.

The delivery of substandard care or services by a lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant, or other professional. Generally, malpractice occurs when a professional fails to provide the quality of care that should reasonably be expected in the circumstances, with the result that a patient or client is harmed. Such an error or omission may be through negligence, ignorance (when the professional should have known), or intentional wrongdoing. In the area of legal malpractice, the claimant must prove two things to show harm: first, that the lawyer failed to meet the standard of professional competence; and second, that if the lawyer had handled the work properly, you would have won the original case. (See also: errors and omissions)

Malum In Se
(mal-uhm in say) Latin for something "wrong in itself," even in the absence of a law making it illegal.In criminal law, it describes acts that have traditionally been considered crimes, whether or not a specific written law made them crimes, because they violate the principles of civilized society. Examples are murder, rape, and theft. By contrast, making a left turn at an intersection where a traffic law prohibits it would not be malum in se, because it is based only on statutory law. Compare: malum prohibitum

Malum Prohibitum
(mal-uhm prohibit-uhm) Latin for "wrong due to being prohibited," referring to acts made illegal by statute to benefit public welfare, not because they are inherently evil and obvious violations of society's standards. Generally, they do not involve immediate injury or damage to others. Examples include violations of regulatory acts, insider trading, and tax avoidance. Compare: malum in se

(man-dame-us) Latin for "we command." A writ of mandamus is a court order that requires another court, government official, public body, corporation, or individual to perform a certain act. For example, after a hearing, a court might issue a writ of mandamus forcing a public school to admit certain students on the grounds that the school illegally discriminated against them when it denied them admission. A writ of mandamus is the opposite of an order to cease and desist, or stop doing something (an injunction). Also called a "writ of mandate."

1) Any mandatory order or requirement under statute, regulation, or by a public agency. 2) An order from an appeallate court to a lower court (usually the original trial court in the case) directing the lower court to enforce a court order or to comply with the appeallate court's ruling. (See also: mandamus)

Required, compulsory, or obligatory.

Mandatory Injunction
An injunction that requires a person to carry out a positive act --for example, return stolen computer code. (See also: injunction)

Mandatory Joinder
The required inclusion in a lawsuit of a party whom the court finds is absolutely necessary to a resolution of all issues in the case. (See: joinder)

1) Apparent, obvious, or evident. 2) A written list or invoice of cargo.

Mann Act
A federal law that makes it a crime to transport women across state lines for prostitution or similar sexual activities. The Mann Act was intended to prevent the movement of prostitutes from one state to another or in and out of the country in the so-called "white slave" trade.

The crime of killing someone, but without the malice (evil intent) needed to make the killing murder. 1) Involuntary manslaughter is a death that results from criminal, or extreme, negligence; or during the commission of a crime not included within the felony-murder rule. 2) Voluntary manslaughter is an act of murder that is reduced to manslaughter due to extenuating circumstances, such as when the defendant acts in "the heat of passion" or is subject to diminished capacity. (See also: felony murder doctrine, diminished capacity)

Manual Accounting System
An accounting system maintained by hand, using paper, rather than on a computer.

Mapp V. Ohio (1961)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that evidence obtained by illegal search and seizure could not be introduced in state or federal trials.

Marbury V. Madison (1803)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which Chief Justice John Marshall used a dispute over judicial appointments to declare a judiciary act unconstitutional, establishing the power of the Supreme Court to decide the constitutionality of statutes.

1) The difference between the net sales price of an item or security and its cost. This is often called a profit margin and is frequently expressed as a percentage. For example, if you pay 50 cents for a pencil and sell it for a dollar, your profit margin is 50%. 2) The difference between the face value of a loan and the market value of the collateral that secures it. 3) An investor's equity in securities purchased on credit through a broker. 4) Cash or collateral that must be deposited with a broker who agrees to finance the purchase of securities.

Marginal Tax Rate
The percentage rate at which an individual's or business's next dollar of income is taxed. Compare: tax bracket

Marital Deduction
A deduction allowed by the federal estate tax laws for all property passed to a surviving spouse who is a U.S. citizen. This deduction (which really functions as an exemption) allows anyone, even a billionaire, to pass his or her entire estate to a surviving spouse without any estate tax at all.Under current federal law, this deduction is not available to same-sex couples even if they were validly married in a state that allows same-sex marriage.

Marital Misconduct
See: fault divorce

Marital Privilege
In a civil (noncriminal) court case, the right of spouses not to testify about confidential communications between them. In a criminal case, the right not to testify against a spouse.

Marital Property
Property that is considered under state law to be owned by both spouses. In community property states, all income earned and property acquired during marriage is marital (community) property. In other states, whether property is considered marital property depends on how it is titled and sometimes, other factors. Most states exclude inheritances from marital property.

Marital Settlement Agreement
The document that sets out the terms of a divorce settlement between two spouses. The marital settlement agreement (MSA) is usually incorporated into the final judgment issued by the judge so that it has the force of a court order.

Marital Termination Agreement
See: marital settlement agreement

Marital Tort
A tort (civil wrong) by one spouse against the other.

Maritime Court
A court that hears issues involving maritime law. These federal courts do not use juries and have unique rules of court. The cases are often handled by admiralty law specialists.

Maritime Law
The laws and regulations which exclusively govern activities at sea or in any navigable waters. In the United States, the federal courts have jurisdiction over maritime law. Also called admirality law.

An "X" or other writing that serves as a signature, made by a person who is too weak or does not know how to sign his or her full name.

Marked For Identification
Documents or objects presented during a trial before testimony confirms their authenticity or relevancy. Each item is given an exhibit identification letter or number, and can then be physically marked and referred to by that letter or number. The marked exhibits can be introduced into evidence (made part of the official record) upon request of the lawyer offering the evidence and approval by the judge or by stipulation of both attorneys.

Market Value
See: fair market value

Marketable Title
See: clear title

The legal union of two people. Once a couple is married, their rights and responsibilities toward one another concerning property and support are defined by the laws of the state in which they live. A marriage can only be terminated by a court granting a divorce or annulment.

Marriage Certificate
A document that provides proof of a marriage, typically issued to the newlyweds a few weeks after they file for the certificate in a county office. Most states require both spouses, the person who officiated the marriage, and one or two witnesses to sign the marriage certificate; often this is done just after the ceremony.

Marriage License
A document that authorizes a couple to get married, usually available from the county clerk's office in the state where the marriage will take place. Couples pay a small fee for a marriage license, and must often wait a few days before it is issued. In addition, a few states require a short waiting period -- usually not more than a day -- between the time the license is issued and the time the marriage may take place. And some states still require blood tests for couples before they will issue a marriage license, though most no longer do.

1) A law enforcement officer similar to a sheriff. 2) A judicial officer who serves papers and provides other services to the court. The U.S. Marshals (also called federal Marshals) provide security and other services to the federal courts.

Martial Law
Military control over all of a country's activities, usually during wartime or due to an emergency or widespread disaster. In the United States, martial law must be ordered by the president as commander-in-chief and must be limited to the duration of the warfare or emergency. In many foreign countries, martial law has become a method to establish and maintain dictatorships either by military leaders or politicians backed by the military. Compare: military law

Martin V. Hunter's Lessee (1816)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which a decision by Justice Joseph Story extended the Court's right of judicial review on the constitutionality of statutes to appeals from state and federal courts.

A directory of more than one million lawyers and law firms in the United States, Canada, and 160 other countries.

Mass Layoff
For purposes of the WARN Act, a reduction in force that results in job loss or at least a 50% hours cut at a single employment site for (1) 500 or more employees, not including part-time employees, or (2) 50 to 499 employees, not including part-time employees, if at least 33% of the employer's active workforce are laid off.

Mass Tort
A tort that causes injury to many people. For example, if toxic emissions from a factory cause injury to a whole community, it may be a mass tort.

Massachusetts Trust
A legal trust set up for the purpose of doing business. Investors give management authority to a trustee and receive "trust certificates" representing their investments. Since they own only the certificates and do not participate in management, the investors are not personally liable for any debts of the trust. Similar to a "limited partnership," a Massachusetts trust does not need to be set up in Massachusetts.

1) An outdated term for employer. Sometimes, "master and servant" law is used to refer to the field of employment law. 2) A person appointed by a court to assist with particular issues or proceedings in a case. For example, the master might hear testimony, conduct an investigation, or reach decisions on limited issues in a case. Also referred to as a "special master."

Master And Servant
An outdated term that refers to the employment relationship and the field of employment law.

Master Trust
A special needs trust under which a nonprofit organization operates a pooled trust on behalf of many individual beneficiaries.

1) Relevant and significant information -- for example, material evidence as distinguished from evidence of minor importance. 2) An essential contractual condition -- for example, a material provision -- which, if not performed is justification for the other party to claim breach of contract and seek remedies. 3) A type of representation made to induce someone to enter into a contract to which the person would not have agreed without that assertion. If a material representation proves not to be true, the contract can be rescinded or canceled without liability.

Material Breach
A violation of contract that is severe enough to undermine the entire agreement. A material breach usually releases the injured party from further obligation under the contract and may also give the injured party the right to sue for damages. For example, if a promoter signs a contract with a rock band and the band fails to show up for a concert as promised, the band has materially breached the contract and the promoter may sue for losses. (See also: breach of contract)

Material Witness
A witness who has significant information about the subject matter of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution, particularly when few, if any other witnesses have the same knowledge. Judges usually make every reasonable effort to allow such a witness to testify, including granting a continuance (delaying a trial) to accommodate the witness.

Matter Of Record
Anything in the record of the court. This may include testimony, evidence, rulings, and sometimes arguments which have been recorded by the court reporter or court clerk. It is an expression often heard in trials and legal arguments to refer to a fact recorded by the court in the course of a hearing. For example, if it was determined in cross-examination that Ms. Smith goes by another name, a lawyer might say "Ms. Smith's alias is a matter of record."

Matthew Shepard And James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
More commonly referred to as the Hate Crimes Act or the Matthew Shepard Act, this federal law gives the U.S. Department of Justice the power to investigate and prosecute defendants who selected their crime victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The law, passed in October 2009, is named for hate crime victims Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr.

1) The date when the payment of the principal amount owed under the terms of a promissory note, bill of exchange, or bond becomes due. 2) The age when one becomes an adult, which is 18 for most purposes. (See also: age of majority)

An expression of possibility, a permissive choice to act or not, as distinguished from "shall," which is an imperative or often mandatory course of action. (See also: shall)

Historically, injuring someone's body (particularly by depriving him of the use of his arms, legs, eyes, or other body parts), in a way that makes him less able to fight or defend himself. Modern law treats such acts as an aggravated battery. (See also: aggravated battery)

Mccain-Feingold Act
See: Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002

Mcculloch V. Maryland (1819)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which Chief Justice John Marshall established that the federal government has "implied powers" to carry out, without state interference, any and all rights given by the Constitution. Specifically, the Court ruled that the federal government could charter a bank and a state could not tax it.

Mcdonald V. City Of Chicago (2010)
U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court declared that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to the states, so the Amendment's protections can be used to strike down state and local laws that limit gun rights. The Court's 5-4 ruling came after a constitutional challenge to Chicago-area laws that amount to a near-outright ban on the possession of handguns.

Mcnabb-Mallory Rule
The rule that when a defendant has been detained for an unreasonably long time between arrest and a preliminary hearing, confessions obtained during that time are not admissible. This rule rarely comes into play because of the broader protections afforded by the Miranda rule. (See also: Miranda warnings)

Mcnaghten Rule
The earliest and most common test for criminal insanity, in which a defendant in a criminal trial is judged legally insane only if the defendant, at the time of the crime: 1) did not know what he or she was physically doing, or 2) did not know that what he or she was doing was wrong. For example, a delusional psychotic who believed that his assaultive acts were in response to the will of God would not be criminally responsible for his acts.

See: multidistrict litigation

Means Test
In bankruptcy, a formula that uses predefined income and expense categories to determine whether a debtor whose current monthly income is higher than the median family income for his or her state should be allowed to file for bankruptcy. Generally, a means test is any evaluation of inability to pay that is necessary to qualify for public assistance or another right. (See also: current monthly income)

Mechanic's Lien
A legal claim placed on real estate by someone who is owed money for labor, services, or supplies contributed to the property for the purpose of improving it. Typical lien claimants are general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers of building materials. A mechanics' lien claimant can sue to have the real estate sold at auction and recover the debt from the proceeds. Because property with a lien on it cannot be easily sold until the lien is satisfied (paid off), owners have a great incentive to pay their bills.

Median Family Income
An annual income figure representing the point at which there are as many families earning more than that amount as there are earning less than that amount. The Census Bureau publishes median family income figures for each state each year, depending on family size. In bankruptcy, a debtor whose current monthly income yields an annual figure higher than the median family income in his or her state must pass the means test in order to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. If the debtor chooses to or must use Chapter 13, the debtor must propose a five-year repayment plan.

A way that parties can resolve their own dispute without going to court. In mediation, a neutral third party (the mediator) meets with the opposing sides to help them find a mutually satisfactory solution. Unlike a judge or an arbitrator, the mediator has no power to impose a solution -- instead, the mediator facilitates the parties' communication and helps to develop and reality-test possible solutions. No formal rules of evidence or procedure control mediation; the mediator and the parties usually agree on their own informal ways to proceed. Mediation is very commonly used in divorce cases, and is mandatory in some places when child custody is in dispute. Compare: arbitration, trial

A program established by the federal government and administered by the states to help pay medical costs for financially needy people. Need is defined by the program of the state in which the applicant resides. Medicaid operates in addition to Medicare to help pay for some of the medical costs that Medicare does not cover.

Medical Certification
A document an employer may require an employee to provide when taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The medical certification form must be completed by a health care provider and must include facts sufficient to demonstrate that the employee (or the employee's family member, if the employee is taking time off to care for him or her) has a serious health condition as defined by the FMLA.

Medical Marijuana
A term that refers to the use of marijuana and its derivatives for medical purposes -- such as pain management, relief of spasticity, relief of nausea, and to increase appetite.

A federal government program that assists older and some disabled people in paying their medical costs. The program is divided into three parts. Part A is called hospital insurance and covers most of the costs of a stay in the hospital, as well as some follow-up costs after time in the hospital. Part B, medical insurance, pays some of the cost of doctors and outpatient medical care. Part D pays for some of the cost for prescription medicine.

Medicare Tax
A portion of the FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) tax that is 2.9% of an individual's net earned income. The employee's share of the Medicare tax is 1.45% of all wages. The employer's share of the Medicare tax is 1.45% of an employee's wages.

Meet And Confer
A requirement of some courts that before certain types of motions or petitions are heard by the judge, the lawyers (and sometimes their clients) must meet (usually, in person or on the phone) to try to resolve the matter. This can resolve many problems and limit the amount of court time needed to resolve disagreements.

Meeting Of Creditors
A meeting the debtor must attend in a bankruptcy case with the bankruptcy trustee and any creditors who choose to attend. Typically, the trustee reviews the debtor's papers and may ask a few questions; creditors also have the opportunity to ask questions. In a Chapter 7 case, creditors rarely attend, and the meeting takes only a few minutes. In a Chapter 13 case, creditors are more likely to attend, particularly if they wish to challenge the debtor's repayment plan.

Meeting Of The Minds
An essential requirement for contract formation, when two parties to a contract have an actual and mutual understanding of the terms.

Megan's Law
An informal name for a law that requires convicted sex offenders to register with law enforcement authorities, who then make certain information available to the public. Registered information varies from state to state, but it often includes the offender's name, address, date of conviction, type of crime, and photograph. This information may be made available on the Internet or distributed through newspapers, pamphlets, or other means. These laws are named for seven-year-old Megan Kanka, who was kidnapped, raped, and murdered in New Jersey in 1994.

A person or entity on the rolls of an organization, with rights and obligations. Also, the owner of a limited liability company.

Any written record, including a letter or note, that proves that a contract exists between two parties. This type of memo may be enough to validate an oral (spoken) contract that would otherwise be unenforceable because of the statute of frauds. (Under the statute of frauds, an oral contract is invalid if it can't be completed within one year from the date the contract is made.

Memorandum Decision
A single, very brief paragraph setting out a court's decision in a case. A memorandum decision does not usually include the court's reasons for reaching its result; those details may appear later in a comprehensive written opinion.

Memorandum Of Points And Authorities
A document that cites (refers to) legal authorities such as statutes and court cases, and explains how those authorities support the position advocated by the party who wrote the memorandum. Often written to support a motion.

Mens Rea
(menz-ray-ah) The mental component of criminal liability. To be guilty of most crimes, a defendant must have committed the criminal act in a certain mental state (the mens rea). The mens rea of robbery, for example, is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his property. Compare: actus reus

Mental Anguish
A type of suffering that can be compensated in a personal injury case, generally meaning significant mental suffering that may include fright, feelings of distress, anxiety, depression, trauma, or grief.

Mental Competence
See: competence

Mental Cruelty
An archaic term that in some states remains a ground for divorce, or a factor in division of marital property.

Mental Suffering
See: mental anguish

Mercantile Law
See: commercial law

Of a high enough quality to be fit for sale. To be merchantable, an article for sale must be usable for the purpose it is made. It must be of average worth in the marketplace and must not be broken, unworkable, damaged, contaminated, or flawed.

Mercy Killing
See: euthanasia

Mercy Rule (Character Evidence Admissibility)
A rule of evidence that permits a criminal defendant to offer relevant character evidence as a defense to a criminal charge. Character evidence under the mercy rule is usually offered in the form of opinions from the defendant

1) In corporate law, the joining together of two corporations in which one corporation transfers all of its assets to the other. In effect, one corporation "swallows" the other. The shareholders of the swallowed company receive shares of the surviving corporation. Distinguished from a "consolidation," in which both companies join together to create a new corporation. 2) In real property law, when an owner of an interest in property acquires a greater or lesser interest in the same property, the two interests become one. 3) In real property law, when a person acquires two parcels of land that had been previously subdivided and that are substandard size, the buyer who acquires title in the two lots may find that they are "merged" into one lot.

(meen) From old French for intermediate, the middle point between two extremes.Seldom used, except in the phrase "mesne profits."

Mesne Profits
(meen) Profits or value of land during the time someone was wrongfully occupying the land. For example, if someone farmed a plot of land without permission, any profit from that activity would be owed to the actual landowner. Similarly, a tenant who stays on after a court has issued a judgment for possession to the landlord owes the landlord the value of the time spent there without permission.

Metes And Bounds
From an old term meaning measures and directions, a method of coming up with a "legal description" of a parcel of real estate that is much more precise than a street address or parcel number. The description exactly describes the perimeter of the property,using carefully measured distances, angles, and directions. The description must start at an identifiable point and end there as well. It is recorded in the county land records office in the county where the property is located

Mileage Log
A record of miles traveled in a vehicle used for business, used to substantiate deductions for vehicle use by the business.

Military Commission
Historically, a body used to prosecute enemy combatants who violated the laws of war. Revamped by the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Military Commissions Act Of 2006
Gave the president the power to create military commissions to try alien unlawful enemy combatants (more commonly referred to as detained terrorism suspects) and established the jurisdiction and procedures for these trials. Part of President George W. Bush's "war on terror," this law was passed partly in response to the 2006 U.S. Supreme Court decision Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

Military Law
Regulations governing the conduct of men and women in the armed services in relation to their military (not civilian) activities. Compare: martial law

The tax rate on real estate, used to calculate property tax. One mill equals a tenth of a cent. To calculate property tax, divide the millage by 1,000 and multiply it by the propertys assessed taxable value. For example, if the millage rate is 20, and the taxable value of your house is $200,000, the property tax is 0.020 x $200,000 or $4,000.

See: Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977

Mine Improvement And New Emergency Response Act Of 2006
Also called the MINER Act, this law amended the MINE Act to require mine-specific emergency response plans in underground coal mines. The law mandates mine rescue teams, the sealing of abandoned areas, and prompt reporting of mine accidents.

Mine Safety And Health Administration
The federal agency responsible for protecting the safety and health of the nation's mine workers. MSHA administers the provisions of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, as amended by the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006.

See: Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006

Mineral Rights
An ownership interest in the minerals contained in a particular parcel of land, with or without ownership of the surface of the land. The owner of mineral rights is usually entitled to either take the minerals from the land or receive a royalty from the party that actually extracts the minerals.

Minimum Contacts
A legal requirement that for a lawsuit to go forward against a nonresident defendant of a given state, the defendant must have some connections with that state. For example, advertising or having business offices within a state may provide minimum contacts between a company and the state, even if the company is based elsewhere.

Minimum Wage
The minimum amount that nonexempt employees can be paid per hour. Federal law and many state laws designate a minimum wage; employees are entitled to whichever wage rate is higher.

Mining Claim
The right to use a portion of public lands to excavate metal ore or minerals. A request for a mining claim, describing the property, must be made with the appropriate federal, state, or local agency.

Ministerial Act
An act performed by a government employee following explicit instructions in a statute or other legal authority, or directions given from a superior, without exercising any discretion or independent judgment.

Someone under legal age, which is generally 18, except for certain purposes such as drinking alcoholic beverages.

1) In voting, a side with less than half the votes. 2) A term for people in a predominantly Caucasian country who are not Caucasian, including African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, indigenous Americans (Indians), and other people "of color." 3) The period of life under legal age.

1) The written record of meetings, particularly of boards of directors or shareholders of corporations, kept by the secretary of the corporation or organization. 2) The record of courtroom proceedings, such as the start and recess of hearings and trials, names of attorneys, witnesses, and rulings of the court, kept by the clerk of the court or the judge.

Miranda V. Arizona (1966)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court established the rights of a criminal suspect who has been arrested or is otherwise not free to leave. These rights are the right to remain silent, the right to have a lawyer present during questioning, the right to a court-appointed attorney if the suspect cannot afford one, and the warning that anything the suspect says can be used in court. To use a confession or admission in court, the prosecution must prove the suspect knowingly waived those rights, and thus the rights should be read or recited to the suspect. These became known as the Miranda rights or Miranda warnings.

Miranda Warnings
The warnings that law enforcement must give anyone who is in custody and about to be questioned by the police, if the police desire to use any resulting statements against the person questioned. Custodial suspects must be told that they have the right to remain silent; that they have the right to have a lawyer present during questioning; that they have the right to a court-appointed attorney if they cannot afford one; and that statements may be used against them in court.

Mirror Wills
See: mutual wills

The intentional, illegal use of the property or funds of another person for one's own use or other unauthorized purpose, particularly by a public official, a trustee of a trust, an executor or administrator of a deceased person's estate, or by any person with a responsibility to care for and protect another's assets.

A crime, less serious than a felony, punishable by no more than one year in jail. Petty theft (of articles worth less than a certain amount), first-time drunk driving, and leaving the scene of an accident are all common misdemeanors.

Performing a legal action in an improper way. This term is frequently used when a professional or public official does his job in a way that is not technically illegal, but is nevertheless mistaken or wrong. Here are some examples of misfeasance in a professional context: a lawyer who is mistaken about a deadline and files an important legal document too late, an accountant who makes unintentional errors on a client's tax return, or a doctor who writes a prescription and accidentally includes the wrong dosage. Compare: malfeasance, nonfeasance

The improper inclusion of parties (plaintiffs or defendants) or causes of action (legal claims) in a single lawsuit. (See also: joinder)

Misprision Of A Felony
Taking affirmative steps to hide the fact of another's felony. Merely remaining silent when one knows of a felony is not a misprision, but hiding evidence or intentionally misleading law enforcement could be.

A misstatement of facts to obtain money, goods, or benefits to which the person making the misrepresentation is not entitled. In some circumstances misrepresentation can be prosecuted as a crime. Examples include falsely claiming to represent a charity to obtain money for personal benefit, or entering into a marriage when already married (thereby misrepresenting the legal ability to marry).

1) An error which causes one party or both parties to enter into a contract without understanding the obligations or results. Such a mistake can entitle one party or both parties to a rescission (cancellation) of the contract. A mistaken understanding of the law (as distinguished from facts) by one party only is usually not a basis for rescission. 2) An error as to facts or law made by a judge. Such errors may be harmless (not meriting a reversal) or material (a reversible error).

A trial that ends prematurely and without a judgment, due either to a mistake that jeopardizes a right to a fair trial or to a jury that can't agree on a verdict (a "hung jury"). If a judge declares a mistrial in a civil case, he or she will direct that the case be set for a new trial at a future date. Mistrials in criminal cases can result in a retrial, a plea bargain, or a dismissal of the charges.

A mistake by both parties to a contract resulting in a failure of meeting of the minds. A misunderstanding between spouses at the time of marriage can serve as grounds for an annulment. For example, if one spouse went into the marriage wanting children while the other did not, they have a misunderstanding that might be judged serious enough for a court to annul the marriage.

Mitigating Circumstances
Information about the defendant that does not justify or excuse a criminal act or civil wrong, but that may reduce the defendant's degree of culpability. In criminal law, juries consider mitigating circumstances when deciding whether to impose the death sentence in a capital case, and judges may consider them when selecting a sentence. In civil cases, mitigating circumstances may reduce the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff.

See: multiple listing service

Model Rules Of Professional Conduct
A set of professional standards prescribing legal ethics and professional responsibility for attorneys in the United States. Developed by the American Bar Association (ABA) to replace the Code of Professional Responsibility, most states have adopted the rules in whole or in part.

1) A change in an existing court order or judgment, commonly sought in family law cases where a spouse paying support asks for a modificaiton of the amount based on a change in circumstances since the original order was made. 2) A physical change to a legally disabled tenant's living space, made because the alteration is necessary for the tenant to live safely and comfortably on the premises. Normally, tenants pay for the modifications and can be asked to undo them when they leave.

Modus Operandi
(mode-us ah-purr-and-eye or ah-purr-and-ee) A criminal investigation term for "way of operating," which may prove the accused has a pattern of repeating the same criminal acts using the same method. Examples: a repeat offender always pretended to be a telephone repairman to gain entrance.

Half of something -- for example, half of the property in an estate. Seldom used today.

The crime of sexual acts with children up to the age of 18, including touching of private parts, exposure of genitalia, taking of pornographic pictures, rape, inducement of sexual acts with the molester or with other children, and variations of these acts. Molestation also applies to incest by a relative with a minor family member, and any unwanted sexual acts with adults short of rape.

Money Order
A draft for a specified amount of money, purchased from a post office, bank, telegraph office, or other authorized entity. The purchaser must prepay the amount shown on the money order, making it a trustworthy method of payment. Unlike a check, a money order cannot bounce.

When a business controls so much of the production or sale of a product or service to control the market, including prices and distribution. Business practices and/or acquisitions that tend to create a monopoly may violate various federal statutes that regulate or prohibit business trusts and monopolies or prohibit restraint of trade, such as the Clayton Act. Public utilities such as electric, gas, and water companies may hold a monopoly in a particular geographic area since it is the only practical way to provide the public service; they are regulated by state public utility commissions.

Refers to a tenancy in which the tenant pays monthly rent and has no fixed-term lease; the tenancy can be terminated by the landlord at any time, typically on 30 days notice (subject to local rent control regulations).

Month-To-Month Tenancy
A rental agreement that provides for a one-month tenancy that automatically renews each month unless either tenant or landlord gives the other the proper amount of written notice (usually 30 days) to terminate the agreement. Some landlords prefer to use a month-to-month tenancy because it gives them the right to raise the rent after giving proper notice. This type of rental also provides a landlord with an easy way to get rid of troublesome tenants, because in most states (subject to rent control regulations) month-to-month tenancies can be terminated for any reason.

1) A permanent landmark established to make it possible for surveyors to to ascertain boundaries and create legal descriptions of real estate parcels. A monument can be a natural or an artificial object -- for example, a metal marker, a river, or a tree..2) A legal document.

Holding more than one job at a time. Moonlighting refers to working two jobs at the same time or to working for one employer while on leave from another.

1) Unsettled, open to argument, or debatable. 2) Without practical significance; hypothetical or academic. (See also: moot point, moot court)

Moot Court
A fictitious court held in law school where students argue both sides of a hypothetical case, usually at the appellate level.

Moot Point
1) An unsettled or debatable question. 2) An issue with no practical or relevant value. (See also: moot)

Moral Certainty
In a criminal trial, the reasonable belief (but short of absolute certainty) of the trier of the fact (the jury or judge sitting without a jury) that the evidence shows the defendant is guilty. Moral certainty is another way of saying "beyond a reasonable doubt." Because there is no exact measure of moral certainty, it is always somewhat subjective and based on the reasonable opinions of the judge and/or jury. (See also: reasonable doubt)

Moral Rights
Certain rights of authors, recognized primarily in European countries, beyond those traditionally granted under copyright law. Moral rights include the right to proclaim authorship of a work, disclaim authorship of a work, and object to any modification or use of the work that would be injurious to the author's reputation.

Moral Turpitude
A description of conduct that is shamefully wicked, an extreme departure from ordinary standards of morality, justice, or ethics; a base, vile, or depraved frame of mind. Used as a test of a criminal act when judging a violation of law.

1) An authorized period of delay in paying a debt or performing an obligation. 2) A suspension of activity.

Mortality Charge
A monthly deduction from a universal life insurance policy that increases as the policyholder ages.

An arrangement under which a borrower puts up the title to real estate as security (collateral) for a loan to buy the real estate. The borrower typically agrees to make regular payments of principal and interest to repay the loan. If the borrower falls behind (defaults) on the payments, the lender can foreclose on the real estate and have it sold to pay off the loan. Compare: trust deed

Mortgage Broker
See: loan broker

Mortgage Delinquency
When the borrower on a home mortgage is late in making payments --

Mortgage Rate Buydown
A subsidy on the interest rate a homebuyer pays on a loan; often used (usually by developers) as an incentive to encourage homebuyers to purchase a particular home or loan. For example, if the homebuyer's interest rate is 6%, a developer might offer to pay 2% of that the first year and 1% the second year, to lower the buyer's monthly payment.

Mortgage Servicer
A business that mortgage issuers pay to administer their mortgages. The servicer typically accepts and records mortgage payments, handles workout negotiations if the homeowner defaults, and may supervise the foreclosure process if negotiations fail.

Mortgage-Backed Security
A kind of investment backed by mortgage loans that have been packaged into pools in the secondary mortgage market. Payments on the mortgages generate the return on investment for the people who invest in these securities.

The person or business making a loan that is secured by the real property of the person (mortgagor) who owes the individual or business money. (See also: mortgage)

The person who has borrowed money and pledged his or her real property as security for the mortgagee (the person or business making the loan). (See also: mortgage)

(mort-maine) French for "deadhand," mortmain refers to lands that are permanently held by a church or other corporation.

A formal request that a judge enter a particular order or ruling in a lawsuit. An oral motion may be made during trial -- for example, to strike the testimony of a witness or admit an exhibit. Often, motions are made in writing, accompanied by a written statement explaining the legal reasons why the court should grant the motion. The other party has an opportunity to file a written response, and then the court decides whether to grant or deny the motion. The court may hold a hearing where each party can argue its side, or may decide the issue without a hearing.

Motion For New Trial
A request made by a party, after a judgment is entered in a lawsuit, that the judge vacate that judgment and order a new trial. Typically, a motion for new trial argues that the judge made a significant legal error or that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict. In many jurisdictions, a party must make a motion for new trial to reserve the right to make the same arguments on appeal.

Motion For Summary Judgment
See: summary judgment

Motion In Limine
A motion made before a trial begins, asking the court to decide whether particular evidence will be admissible. A motion in limine is most often made to exclude evidence by a party who believes that evidence would prejudice the jury against him or her. For example, a defendant in a criminal trial might make a motion in limine to exclude evidence of previous crimes.

Motion To Dismiss
A motion asking the judge to throw out one or more claims or an entire lawsuit. Sometimes, the plaintiff or a prosecutor makes a motion to dismiss a case because it has been settled out of court. Sometimes, the defendant files a motion to dismiss claiming that the plaintiff or prosecutor has committed some procedural error that prevents the court from hearing the case or that, even if all of the facts in the complaint are true, the plaintiff or prosecutor cannot win the case (this type of motion to dismiss is called a demurrer in some courts).

Motion To Strike
1) A request that the judge eliminate all or part of the other party's pleading. 2) A request that the judge order evidence deleted from the court record and instruct the jury to disregard it. Typically, this request is made regarding testimony by a witness in court.

Motion To Suppress
A request made by a defendant in a criminal trial that the court refuse to allow a particular piece of evidence to be admitted at trial, because that evidence was obtained illegally or in violation of the defendant's rights.

The probable reason a person committed a crime, as when one acts out of jealousy, greed, or revenge. While evidence of a motive may be admissible at trial, proof of motive is not necessary to prove a crime.

Slang for an attorney.

The party in a lawsuit or other legal proceeding who makes a motion (application for a court order or judgment).

To make a motion in court applying for judicial action, such as an order or judgment.

Moving Party
See: movant

1) To be robbed by force or threat, usually outdoors. 2) To a mug shot or photo taken during booking.

Muller V. Oregon (1908)
U.S. Supreme Court decision in which a state law setting a maximum number of working hours for women was upheld, with future Justice Louis D. Brandeis arguing for the state.

Multidistrict Litigation
A federal case management procedure in which a federal panel transfers several (or many) complex civil cases involving one or more common questions of fact to one federal district court (called the MDL court). The MDL court coordinates and oversees pretrial proceedings, signs off on settlement of some cases, and dismisses others. All remaining cases are sent back to the original court of filing for trial. MDL works well when plaintiffs nationwide file lawsuits against the same defendants, alleging the same issues. Types of litigation that lend themselves to MDL include cases against pharmaceutical drug companies, lawsuits based on an airplane crash, securities fraud cases, and some employment cases.

Multiple Listing Service
A computer-based service, commonly referred to as MLS, that provides real estate professionals with detailed listings of most homes currently on the market. The public can now access much of the information through websites like www.realtor.com.

Multiplicity Of Actions
More than one lawsuit raising the same issue(s) against the same defendant. Generally, multiplicity of actions is to be avoided because it could lead to inconsistent results.

Pertaining to a city or town government -- for example, a municipal park.

Municipal Court
A court that typically has authority over minor criminal matters, traffic tickets, and civil lawsuits where a relatively small amount of money is at stake. The rules vary from state to state; in some states, courts that handle minor local matters have other names.

Muniment Of Title
1) Written evidence of title to real estate. Examples might include a deed, a contract, or the death certificate of a co-owner if property was held in joint tenancy. 2) In Texas, a procedure to transfer assets left by will that is simpler than regular probate.

The killing of a human being by a sane person, with intent or malice aforethought, and with no legal excuse or authority. Many states make killings in which there is torture, movement of the person (kidnapping) before the killing, or death of a police officer or prison guard first degree murders with or without premeditation, with malice presumed. A killing that happens during the course of specified crimes (known as felony murder) may also be first degree murder. (See also: first degree murder, second degree murder, felony murder doctrine)

Anything in which both parties have reciprocal rights, understanding, or agreement.

Mutual Wills
Wills made by spouses or an unmarried couple that have identical or nearly identical provisions. For example, a husband and wife might make mutual wills that leave each person's property to the other or to the couple's children. Also called mirror wills and reciprocal wills.

Mystic Will
A will that is completed, signed, and sealed in secret. The will maker delivers the sealed document to a notary public along with a signed statement that the document is a valid will. In front of witnesses, the notary records on the envelope the circumstances of the transaction, then the notary and witnesses sign the envelope. Mystic wills are valid only in the state of Louisiana under certain circumstances. Also called a secret will, sealed will, or closed will.