Short for "own recognizance." A person who is charged with a criminal offense may be released without having to post bail if the judge is convinced that the person will honor his obligation to show up at future court appearances. Defendants who are good candidates for "O.R. release" are those who are unlikely to flee, namely, those with substantial ties to the community (property owners) and people with close and supportive family nearby.

See: order to show cause

An attestation that one will tell the truth, or a promise to fulfill a pledge, often calling upon God as a witness. The best known oath is probably the witnesss pledge to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth during a legal proceeding. All witnesses are given the oath (sworn in) before testifying. In another context, a public official usually takes an oath of office before assuming the position, declaring that he or he will faithfully perform the job's duties.

Oath Of Office
See: oath

Obiter Dicta
Remarks of a judge which are not necessary to reaching a decision, but are made as comments, illustrations, or thoughts. Generally, obiter dicta is simply dicta.

Obiter Dictum
See: dictum

See: objection

An attorney's formal statement protesting something that has occurred in court and seeking the judge's immediate ruling. Often, lawyers object to questions posed to a witness by an opposing attorney because the inquiries do not meet legal standards. For example, the question may be irrelevant, immaterial, call for a conclusion (seeking opinion, not facts), argumentative, assuming facts not in evidence, or compound (two or more questions asked together). The trial attorney must be alert to object before an answer is given.

A legal duty to pay or do something.

The person or entity to whom an obligation is owed (for example, the party to be paid on a promissory note).

The person or entity that owes an obligation to another (for example, the party that must pay on a promissory note).

The federal Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, a law that, among other things, describes the circumstances under which property in a special needs trust may be considered the trust beneficiarys resource for the purpose of determining eligibility for SSI and Medicaid. (42 U.S.C. 1395 and following.)

A description of material that the average person, applying contemporary standards in their community, would find appeals to the prurient interest in sex, with no legitimate artistic, literary, or scientific purpose or value. Pictures, writings, films, or public acts that are obscene under this standard (from the U.S. Supreme Court) are not entitled to First Amendment protection as free speech, and may be regulated or even criminalized.

Material that is obscene.

Obstruction Of Justice
An attempt to interfere with the administration of the courts, the judicial system, or law enforcement officers, including threatening witnesses, improper conversations with jurors, hiding evidence, or interfering with an arrest. Such activity is a crime.

Living in or using premises or property as a tenant or owner; includes someone who lives in or uses abandoned property with the intention of acquiring ownership.

Occupancy Standard
A limit on the number of persons allowed per dwelling unit, based on the size of the unit, number of bedrooms and baths, and other factors, such as physical limitations of the building. Federal, state, and local laws may set either minimum occupancy standards or maximum occupancy limits (under health and safety codes).

Someone living in a residence or using premises as a tenant or owner; includes someone who lives in or uses abandoned property with the intention of acquiring ownership.

Fairly permanent trade, profession, employment, business, or means of livelihood.

Occupational Disease
A disease that an employee develops as the result of exposure to particular substances, working conditions, or requirements on the job. Black lung disease from mining, mesothelioma caused by asbestos exposure, and repetitive stress disorder caused by typing or running a cash register are all examples of occupational disease.

Occupational Hazard
A danger or risk particular to certain jobs. For example, hearing loss might be an occupational hazard for those who work around loud machinery or in a rock band.

Occupational Safety And Health Act (Osha)
The primary federal law establishing health and safety standards in the workplace. Generally, OSHA requires employers to provide a safe workplace by informing employees about potential hazards, following health and safety standards established for their industry, training employees, and recording workplace injuries.

Occupy The Field
To preempt or monopolize an area of statutory law by a higher authority, such as federal preemption over state laws on issues affecting interstate commerce, and state statutes or state constitutions prevailing over laws of cities and counties on certain topics.

Of Counsel
An attorney who is affiliated with a law firm, but not employed as a partner or associate. This designation often identifies a semiretired partner, an attorney who occasionally uses the office for a few clients, or one who only consults on certain matters.

Off Calendar
Refers to a court order to take a lawsuit, petition, or motion off the list of pending proceedings. The reasons might be that the lawyers agreed (stipulated) to drop or postpone the case, the moving party's lawyer failed to appear, the suit has been settled pending final documentation, or some other reason that the case should not proceed at that time. The matter can in most instances be put back "on calendar" by stipulation of the lawyers or upon motion of either party.

A quasi-legal term that refers to someone who has been convicted of a crime, as in "repeat offender."

A violation of the law, a crime. Often used when describing lesser crimes, as when the jury convicts the defendant of a "lesser offense" than the one charged.

Offensive Collateral Estoppel
A doctrine asserted by a plaintiff (the person in the offensive position) that prevents a defendant from relitigating an issue that was previously decided against that defendant in a case with a different plaintiff.

An element required in the creation of an enforceable contract. An offer is a proposal to enter into an agreement and must express the intent of the person making the offer to form a contract, must contain the essential terms -- including the price and subject matter of the contract -- and must be communicated by the person making the offer. A legally valid acceptance of the offer will create a binding contract.

Offer In Compromise
A proposal to the IRS (on an IRS tax form) to settle a tax debt for less than the amount owed.

Offer Of Proof
At trial, an explanation to a judge by a party or the party's attorney as to how a proposed line of questioning, or a certain item of physical evidence, would be relevant to its case and admissible under the rules of evidence. Offers of proof arise when a party begins a line of questioning that the other side objects to as calling for irrelevant or inadmissible information. If the judge thinks that the questions might lead to proper evidence, the questioner will be give a chance to show how the expected answers will be both relevant and admissible. This explanation is usually presented out of the jurys hearing, but it does become part of the trial record.

The person or entity to whom an offer is made, usually to enter into a contract.

The person or entity that makes an offer, usually to enter into a contract.

A person elected by a profit or nonprofit corporation's board of directors, or by the members or managers of a limited liability company, to manage the day-to-day operations of the organization. Officers generally hold titles such as president, secretary, or treasurer. Many states and most corporate bylaws or LLC operating agreements require a corporation or LLC to have a president, secretary, and treasurer. Election of a vice president may be required by state law.

Officer Of The Court
Any person who has an obligation to promote justice and uphold the law, including judges, clerks, court personnel, police oficers, and attorneys (who must be truthful in court and obey court rules).

1) An act, document, product, or anything else sanctioned or authorized by a public officer or public agency. Examples might include an Official Boy Scout knife or emblem, or an official warranty, membership card, or set of rules. 2) A public officer or government employee who is empowered to exercise judgment. 3) An officer of a corporation or business.

Official Misconduct
When a public official acts improperly or illegally in connection with his or her duties.

Officious Intermeddler
A person who does something to benefit another without being requested or legally obligated to do so, and is therefore not entitled to seek compensation for his or her actions. For example, someone who decides to wash all of the cars on the block would not be entitled to demand payment from each car's owner.

See: setoff

Offshore Corporation
A corporation chartered under the laws of a country other than the U.S. that does not conduct substantial business in its country of incorporation. Some countries (particularly in the Caribbean) are popular nations of incorporation since they have little corporate regulation or taxes and only moderate management fees. Reasons to use an offshore corporation may include avoidance of taxes, ease of international operations, freedom from state regulation, and placement of funds in accounts out of the country.

Oil Pollution Act Of 1990
A federal law that sought to prevent oil spills -- and lessen their impact on the environment -- by requiring oil transport vessels and facilities to have a plan for oil spill response and cleanup; enhancing penalties for pollution; increasing the federal government

Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA)
An amendment to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the OWBPA is a federal law that requires employers to offer older workers (those who are at least 40 years old) benefits that are equal to or, in some cases, cost the employer as much as, the benefits it offers to younger workers. The OWBPA also sets minimum standards for an employee waiver of the right to sue for age discrimination, designed to ensure that the waiver is knowing and voluntary.

Olographic Will
The Louisiana term for what other states call a holographic will. This is a will that is entirely handwritten, signed, and dated by the person making it. It does not need to be notarized or witnessed.

1) Failure to perform an act agreed to, especially if there was a duty to perform. 2) Leaving out a word, phrase, or other language from a written document. If the parties agree that an omission was due to a mutual mistake, the document may be reformed.

Omitted Heir
See: pretermitted heir

Omnibus Clause
1) A clause in a vehicle insurance policy that provides coverage for anyone driving the car with the insured person's express or implied consent. 2) A clause in a will or probate court order that disposes of property that was not otherwise specifically disposed of in the will. For example, it might say "I leave all other property not specifically mentioned in this will to Jane."

On All Fours
Slang for a case or other precedent which shares near-identical facts or issues. (See: precedent)

On Demand
In a promissory note, a requirement that the amount due must be paid when the person or company to whom the funds are owed demands payment (rather than upon a certain date or in installments). Such a note is called a demand note.

On Or About
A phrase used in a civil complaint or criminal charge that refers to a date or place. It is used to protect the person making the allegations of fact from being challenged as inaccurate. Thus, a complaint will read "On or about July 11, 2009, Defendant drove his vehicle negligently and without due care on or about the corner of Sunset and Vine Streets..."

On The Merits
Referring to a judgment, decision, or ruling of a court based upon the facts presented in evidence and the law applied to that evidence.

On The Stand
A phrase used to describe a witness who is testifying under oath during a trial. The witness almost always sits in a chair beside the judge's bench, often raised above the floor level of the courtroom, and behind a knee-high panel.

One-Bite Rule
A legal rule, still in force in many states, that makes a dog owner legally responsible for injury caused by the dog only if the owner knew (or should have known) that the dog was likely to cause that kind of injury. The injured person must show that the owner had this knowledge.

One-Person, One-Vote Rule
See: Reynolds v. Sims (1964)

One-Year Rule
A rule that requires a patent application to be filed within one year of: 1) any public use of the invention by the inventor, 2) a sale of the invention, 3) an offer to sell the invention, or 4) any description of the invention by the inventor in a published document. Failure to file a patent application within this one-year period results in the invention's passing into the public domain, where it is no longer eligible for a patent. The application of the one-year rule to sales is sometimes referred to as the on-sale bar.

Open Adoption
An adoption in which the adopting parents and birth parents are in contact before the birth and agree on some level of contact after the child is born. Contact may range from sending the birth parent(s) a photograph of the child once a year to including the birth parent(s) in family events.

Open Court
Judicial proceedings of a court in session that the public may attend. Certain proceedings, such as hearings on evidence that might prejudice the jury or reveal sensitive information that should not be made public, are not held in open court, but instead are held "in camera" (in the judge's chambers or after the courtroom has been cleared).

Open-Ended Loan
A loan that does not have a definite term or end date -- for example, a credit card account or line of credit.

Opening Statement
A statement made by an attorney or self-represented party at the beginning of a trial before evidence is introduced. The opening statement outlines the party's legal position and previews the evidence that will be introduced later. The purpose of an opening statement is to familiarize the jury with what it will hear -- and why it will hear it -- not to present an argument as to why the speaker's side should win; that comes after all evidence is presented as part of the closing argument.

Operating Agreement
An agreement signed by the members (owners) of a limited liability company that structures the members' financial rights and responsibilities, each member's percentage of ownership in the LLC and share of profits (or losses), the LLC's procedures for holding meetings, and what will happen to the business when a member leaves.

Operation Of Law
A way in which someone acquires certain rights or responsibilities automatically under the law, without taking individual action or being the subject of a court order. For example, when one joint tenant dies, any surviving joint tenants obtain title to the jointly owned property; when someone dies without a will, the person's legal heirs automatically become entitled to inherit property from the estate.

A court's written explanation of a judgment, usually including a summary of the facts, an explanation of the law on the issue, and the court's analysis for applying the law to those facts and coming to a conclusion. The opinions of appellate courts (courts that review the decisions of trial courts, the highest appellate court being the Supreme Court) are frequently published and create rules for future litigants to follow. Appellate judges who disagree with a majority opinion may file dissenting opinions.

An agreement that conveys the right to purchase property or engage in a transaction in the future upon agreed-upon terms. An option is paid for as part of a contract, but must be "exercised" in order for the property to be purchased or the transaction to be completed.

Option ARM
A type of adjustable rate mortgage that allows the borrower to choose the payment amount, each month, usually from the following four options: a minimum payment based on the borrower's initial interest rate, a payment that covers the interest that has accrued that month, a fully amortizing 30-year payment, or a fully amortizing 15-year payment.

Oral Contract
An agreement based on spoken words that is valid and enforceable, provided that it is provable, meets the condition of contract formation, and is not in violation of statutes that prohibit oral agreements -- for example state statutes that require sales of real property and agreements whose performance takes more than one year, must be in writing.

A decision issued by a court. It can be a simple command--for example, ordering a recalcitrant witness to answer a proper question--or it can be a complicated and reasoned decision made after a hearing, directing that a party either do or refrain from some act. For example, following a hearing, the court may order that evidence gathered by the police not be introduced at trial; or a judge may issue a temporary restraining order. This term usually does not describe the final decision in a case, which most often is called a judgment.

Order Of Examination
A hearing in which a judgment debtor must answer questions under oath about his or her assets, income, bank accounts, and other financial information. The judgment creditor is entitled to request this information to find a source from which he or she can collect the judgment.

Order To Show Cause
An order from a judge that directs a party to come to court and convince the judge why the judge shouldn't grant an action proposed by the other side or, occasionally, by the judge. For example, in a divorce, at the request of one parent a judge might issue an order directing the other parent to appear in court on a particular date and time to show cause why the first parent should not be given sole physical custody of the children.

A law adopted by a town or city council, county board of supervisors, or other municipal governing board. Typically, local governments issue ordinances establishing zoning and parking rules, and regulating noise, garbage removal, and the operation of parks and other areas within the locality's borders.

Ordinary Course Of Business
Conduct of business within normal commercial customs and practices. This term is used to determine the legitimacy of certain transactions.

Original Jurisdiction
The authority of a court to hear and decide a matter before it can be reviewed by another court. Compare: appellate jurisdiction

Original Work Of Authorship
A standard for copyright protection. Under copyright law, a work is considered original, if it owes its origin to the author -- that is, it is the result of independent effort, and not the result of copying.

Origination Fee
A fee paid to a lender to process a loan application. Commonly called "points" and calculated as a percentage of a loan amount.

A person, particularly a minor, whose parents are dead. In some cases, such as whether a child is eligible for public financial assistance, "orphan" can mean a child who has lost one parent.

Orphan Works
Works protected under copyright whose owners are difficult to locate -- for example, a photograph taken of Elvis Presley as a teenager, or a newspaper column from a 1950s newspaper.

See: Occupational Safety and Health Act

Ostensible Agent
One who has the apparent authority to act for another. (See also: apparent authority)

Ostensible Authority
See: apparent authority

1) Wrongfully excluding someone from property, as when a cotenant changes the locks, preventing another cotenant's entry. 2) The removal of a public official from office.

Out Of Court
Actions, including negotiations between parties or their attorneys, without any direct involvement of a judge or the judicial system. Most commonly it refers to an out-of-court settlement in which the parties work out a settlement agreement, which they may present to the court for inclusion in a judgment.

Out-Of-Pocket Expense
An expense paid from an individual's own funds.

A structure not connected with the primary residence on a parcel of property. This may include a shed, garage, barn, cabana, pool house, or cottage.

A popular term for anyone who commits serious crimes and acts outside the law.

Output Contract
An agreement in which a seller agrees to sell its entire production to the buyer, who in turn agrees to purchase the entire output.

A common practice whereby an airline, hotel, or other company accepts more reservations than it has seats or rooms available, on the presumption that a certain percentage of people will not show up. Airlines have a legal right to overbook, while hotels do not. A hotel must find a room for everyone who has a reservation and shows up on time. An airline may be required to offer compensation for people involuntarily bumped from a flight, depending on several factors, including how long they must wait for another flight.

1) To charge more than a posted or advertised price. 2) To file a criminal complaint for more serious crimes than the known facts support, most often to intimidate the accused into accepting a plea bargain.

1) A trial judge's decision to reject a party's objection--often, to a question for a witness or the admission of evidence. By overruling the objection, the judge allows the question or evidence in court. 2) An appellate court's decision that a prior appellate decision was incorrect, and is therefore no longer a valid precedent on the legal issue in question.

Overt Act
In criminal law, an action that might be innocent by itself, but when part of the preparation and active furtherance of a crime, is evidence of a defendant's participation in the crime. For example, when the first World Trade Center defendants were put on trial, evidence of their renting a van, buying explosives, obtaining a map of downtown New York City, and going back and forth to the World Trade Center was admitted to establish overt acts that proved their complicity in the bombing.

Under common law, an amount that one co-owner must pay to another after a lawsuit to partition real estate, so that each co-owner receives equal value from the property.

Own Recognizance (OR)
A way the defendant can get out of jail pending trial on the charges, without paying bail, by promising to appear in court when next required to be there. Sometimes called "personal recognizance." Only those with strong ties to the community, such as a steady job, local family, and no history of failing to appear in court are good candidates for "OR" release. If the charge is very serious, however, OR may not be an option.

One who has legal title or right to something. (See: ownership)

Owners' Agreement
See: buy-sell agreement

Having the legal right to use, possess, and give away property. (See also: joint ownership, conditional ownership)

Ownership In Common
Right of ownership shared by two or more people, where at the death of one owner his or her interest in the property passes to his or her heirs. This is in contrast to joint ownership, where that interest would pass to the remaining owner or owners.