P

Pain And Suffering
The physical or emotional distress resulting from an injury. Though the concept is somewhat abstract, the injured person (the plaintiff) can seek compensation in the form of cold, hard cash. How much the defendant owes for pain and suffering is calculated separately from the amount owing for more direct expenses, such as medical bills or time lost from work -- although sometimes these amounts are considered to arrive at a logical figure.

Palimony
A nonlegal term coined by journalists to describe the division of property or an order for support -- in the nature of alimony -- paid by one member of an unmarried couple to the other after they break up.

Palliative Care
Medical care designed to keep a patient comfortable and pain-free while also providing psychological and spiritual support. Rather than focusing on curing an illness, palliative care emphasizes quality of life for both the patient and the patient's family members. Used negatively, it may mean the provision of only perfunctory medical care when an illness could be cured.

Pander
1) To solicit customers for a prostitute. 2) A pimp, who procures customers for a prostitute or lures a woman into prostitution for the pimp's own profit. 3) To cater to special interests without principle.

Panderer
A person who panders or solicits for a prostitute.

Panel
The list of people selected to appear for jury duty.

Paper Hanger
A slang expression for someone who writes bad checks.

Par
The face value of a stock or bond, which is the amount the original purchaser paid the issuing corporation. (See also: par-value stock)

Par Value
The face value of a stock, assigned by a corporation at the time the stock is issued. The par value is often printed on the stock certificate, but the market value of the stock may be much more than par value. Most common stocks issued today do not have par values, except in states that require it. In some states, shares with a par value cannot be issued at a price less than the par value.

Par-Value Stock
Shares in a corporation that were given a stated share price (par value) when issued. Compare: no-par stock

Paralegal
A person who does legal work but is not licensed to practice law or give legal advice. Paralegals employed by a law office often handle the routine tasks and paperwork of a law practice. Independent paralegals (those who work directly with the public, not for lawyers) assist their customers by providing forms, helping people fill them out correctly, and filing them with the proper court.

Paramount Title
The original title, or a title that prevails over any other claim of title.

Parcel
A defined piece of real estate.

Pardon
To use the executive power of a governor or president to forgive a person charged with a crime or convicted of a crime, thus preventing any prosecution and removing any remaining penalties or punishments. A pardon is distinguished from "a commutation of sentence," which cuts short the term; "a reprieve," which is a temporary halt to punishment, particularly the death penalty, pending appeal or determination of whether the penalty should be reduced; "amnesty," which is a blanket forgiving of possible criminal charges due to a change in public circumstances (such as the end of a war or the draft system); or a "reduction in sentence," which shortens a sentence and can be granted by a judge or an executive. Sometimes called a commutation.

Parens Patriae
(par-ens pa-tree-ee) Latin for "parent of his or her country." The power of the state to act as guardian for those who are unable to care for themselves, such as children or disabled individuals. For example, under this doctrine a judge may change custody, child support, or other rulings affecting a child's well-being, regardless of what the parents may have agreed to.

Parent
The legal or natural father or mother of a person; the relationship can be established by birth or by adoption.

Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (Pkpa)
A federal law that seeks to control and prevent parental kidnapping by requiring states to ensure parents are in compliance with the terms of the PKPA before the court will make a custody order, and to refuse to enforce child custody orders made in another state when the parent obtaining the order did not have legal custody of the child.

Parental Neglect
A crime consisting of acts or omissions of a parent (including a stepparent, adoptive parent, or someone who, in practical terms, serves in a parent's role) which endangers the health and life of a child or fails to take steps necessary to the proper raising of a child. The neglect can include leaving a child alone when he or she needs protection, failure to provide food, clothing, medical attention, or education to a child, or placing the child in dangerous or harmful circumstances, including exposing the child to a violent, abusive, or sexually predatory person.

Parenting Plan
In a divorce, a document that sets out the parents' agreements about how they will share time with their children.

Pari Delicto
See: in pari delicto

Parish
1) An area served by a particular church; an ecclesiastical district. 2) In Louisiana, the governmental equivalent of a county.

Parody
When an author or artist ridicules a well-known work by imitating it in a comedic way. To the extent that the parodist copies material protected by copyright, the publication may be considered a copyright infringement unless excused by the fair use defense. The key factor for a parody to qualify as fair use is whether the parody is transformative -- it adds something new, with a further purpose or different character altering the copied work with new expression, meaning, or message.

Parol
Oral. See also: parol evidence rule

Parol Evidence Rule
If there is a written contract, the terms of the contract cannot be altered by evidence of oral (parol) agreements purporting to change, explain, or contradict the written document. (See also: extrinsic evidence)

Parole
The release of a convicted criminal defendant after that person has completed part of his or her prison sentence, based on the concept that during the period of parole, the released criminal can prove he or she is rehabilitated and can "make good" in society. A parole generally has a specific period and terms, such as reporting to a parole officer, not associating with other ex-convicts, and staying out of trouble. Violation of the terms may result in revocation of parole and a return to prison to complete his or her sentence. Compare: probation

Partial Breach
A failure to satisfy or meet a term of a contract which is so minimal that it does not cause the contract to fail; also referred to as an immaterial breach. A partial breach is remedied by payment or other adjustment -- for example if a landlord rents a furnished apartment and fails to supply a bed, the landlord may lower the rent temporarily until the bed is provided.

Partial Disability
The result of an injury that permanently reduces a worker's ability to function, but still permits the worker to do some gainful activity.

Partial Verdict
In a criminal trial in which the defendant is charged with more than one crime, the jury's verdict that the defendant is guilty of one or more of the charges,but not guilty of the others.

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act Of 2003
Bans a procedure called a partial-birth abortion, used for ending pregnancy. Whether an abortion meets this definition has to do with the method used by the doctor and not with viability of the fetus or the number of weeks that the patient is pregnant.

Partially Secured Debt
A debt that is secured by collateral that is worth less than the debt -- for example, a $12,000 car loan that is secured by a car that's now worth only $10,000.

Participate
To invest and in exchange, receive a part or share in business profits, payments on a promissory note, title to land, or as one of the beneficiaries of the estate of a person who has died.

Partition
A court-ordered sale or physical division of property, usually real estate, that's owned by more than one person as tenants in common or joint tenancy. Any co-owner has the right to demand a partition.

Partition By Sale
A division of property carried out by selling the property and dividing the proceeds among the owners. Also called "partition by licitation" or "partition by succession." (See also: partition)

Partition In Kind
A division of property carried out by severing the interests of the owners. Afterward, each owner controls an individual portion of the property. Also known as an "actual partition." (See also: partition)

Partner
One of the co-owners and investors in a partnership. Each partner claims a share of the the business's income or losses on the partner's individual tax return. General partners are responsible for the debts, contracts, and actions of all the partners in the business. Limited partners do not share responsibility for partnership debts and cannot share in management decisions.

Partnership
Refers to a legal structure for a business of two or more individuals; called a general partnership when used without a qualifier such as "limited" or "limited liability." Each owner (partner) is personally liable for all debts of the business, and each partner claims a share of the the business's income or losses on the partner's individual tax return. To form a partnership, each partner normally contributes money, property, or labor in exchange for an ownership interest in the partnership. Most partnerships are created by a formal written partnership agreement, although they may be based on an oral agreement or just a handshake. See also: limited partnership, limited liability partnership (LLP)

Party
1) A person, business, or other legal entity that files a lawsuit (the plaintiff or petitioner) or defends against one (the defendant or respondent). 2) A person or other legal entity that enters into an agreement.

Party Of The First Part
Antiquated language used to identify one of the parties to an agreement. Modern contract practice is to identify parties with abbreviations, or by an identifier such as buyer, seller, lessee, lessor, licensee, or licensor.

Party Of The Second Part
See: party of the first part

Party Wall
A wall that is shared by two adjoining premises, either residential or business, and that is on the property line.

Pass-Through Taxation
The taxation method applied to sole proprietorships, partnerships, and limited liability companies, where the owners pay taxes on all business profits on their individual tax returns (the business income "passes through" the business to the owners' tax returns). In contrast, a corporation, or a business that elects corporate-style taxation, is taxed directly on all business profits.

Passenger
A rider on a train, bus, airline, taxi, ship, ferry, automobile, or other carrier in the business of transporting people for a fee (a common carrier). A passenger is owed a duty of care by such a carrier.

Passive
Being inactive. For tax purposes, "passive income" includes income produced without active effort or management, such as bank interest, stock dividends, trust profits, and rent (when there is no management involvement). In estate planning, a "passive trustee" is one who has no responsibilities other than to hold title or wait for an event that would activate the trust.

Pat-Down
See: frisk

Patent
A grant by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that allows the patent owner to maintain a monopoly for a limited period of time on the use and development of a new innovation. The USPTO grants three types of patents: utility patents for useful, new, inventions that are not obvious to those in the field; design patents for new and original designs that ornament a manufactured product; and plant patents for new, asexually or sexually reproducible plants.

Patent Ambiguity
See: ambiguity

Patent And Trademark Office (Pto)
See: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)

Patent Claim
The portion of a patent that establishes the legal boundaries of the invention -- that is, the exclusive rights of the owner. Patent claims are written in a formal style and precise terminology, and they serve as the basis for any determination of patent infringement. During the application process, patent claims are often the subject of intense negotiation between the applicant and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Patent Claims
Statements included in a patent that describe (or recite) the structure of an invention in precise and exact terms, using a long-established formal style and precise terminology. Claims form the boundaries of an invention much like a deed describes the boundaries of real property. They may be broad or narrow in terms of the scope of the invention they address. The greater the scope of the invention defined in the claims (that is, the broader the claims), the wider the reach of the patent.

Patent Deed
The official document (sometimes referred to as letters patent) that is sent to an applicant by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office when the applicant's patent issues.

Patent Defect
An obvious flaw in a product or a document (such as leaving out the property description in a deed). Compare: latent defect

Patent Drawing
Visual representations of an invention that are included in a patent. Patent drawings show all the features of the invention described in the application, including those features that distinguish it from prior art. (See also: prior art)

Patent Infringement
See: infringement (of utility patent)

Patent Pending
The status of an invention between the time when:a utility patent application has been filed and when it is issued or rejected, or the time between when a provisional patent application has been submitted and when a subsequent patent application is issued or rejected. Inventors mark their devices patent pending in order to place others on notice that they claim priority. Patent pending status does not bestow any legal right to stop copying.

Patent Search
A search of all existing or publicly available information to determine whether an invention is new (novel) and whether persons with ordinary skill in the field could have deduced it (nonobvious). A patent search usually begins with a review of previously issued patents, and progresses to other types of documents, such as journal articles and scientific papers describing unpatented inventions. The most thorough patent searches are performed by professional patent searchers at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. (See also: prior art, novelty, nonobviousness)

Patent Troll
Disparaging term for someone who sues for patent infringement but who does not make or sell any product using the patented technology.

Paternity Suit
A lawsuit to determine the identity of the father of a child born outside of marriage. A paternity suit may be brought either by the mother or by the father himself if the mother is denying his paternity, and is usually proved by genetic testing. Once paternity is established, the father has all the rights and obligations of parenthood, including the duty to support the child and the right to petition for custody or visitation.

Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act Of 2010
Also know as the Health Care Reform Act, the federal law that overhauled the nation's health care system. Among other things, the law required almost all people to have health insurance or face a tax penalty, offered subsidies and credits to people who need help paying for insurance, gave tax credits to small businesses to make health insurance affordable for their employees, and required insurance companies to insure most people who have preexisting conditions.

Patriot Act
Shorthand label for a lengthy and complex package of federal antiterrorism and general crime control laws signed into law less than two months after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. (The legislations formal name is the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.) The Patriot Act was reenacted in 2006. Some sections of the original law were deleted or amended. Some provisions, including the authority for roving wiretaps, expire in 2009 unless they are reenacted. Under the Patriot Act, it is a federal crime to commit dangerous and illegal acts on U.S. soil with the intent to intimidate or coerce the government or a civilian population. It is also a federal crime to hack into government computers, give financial assistance to terrorists, and to possess substances that can be used for biological or chemical weapons for nonpeaceful purposes.

Pawn
To pledge an item of personal property as security for a loan, with the property left with the pawnbroker. The interest rates are on the high side, the amount of the loan is well below the value of the pledged property, and the broker has the right to sell the item without further notice if the loan is not paid. Pawnbrokers are licensed by the state. (See also: pledge)

Pawnbroker
One who lends money in exchange for items pledged as collateral.

Pay Or Quit
The type of written notice given to a tenant by a landlord, when the tenant is late with the rent. The notice tells the tenant to pay the rent, sometimes within a specified number of days, or leave the premises. If the tenant does neither, the landlord may file an eviction lawsuit.

Payable
See: accounts payable

Payable On Demand
A debt on a promissory note or bill of exchange which must be paid when demanded by the payee (the party to whom the debt is owed).

Payable-On-Death Designation
A way to avoid probate for bank accounts, government bonds, securities, individual retirement accounts, and, in some states, real estate or cars. To create a pay-on-death designation, you simply name someone on the ownership document (such as the registration card for a bank account) to inherit the property at your death. You retain complete control of your property while you are alive, and you can change the beneficiary (payee) at any time. At your death, the property is transferred directly to the beneficiary, free of probate.

Payback Provision
A provision in a special needs trust requiring that, after the beneficiary dies, the trustee must use any property left in the trust to reimburse Medicaid for benefits the beneficiary received. Special needs trusts containing property originally belonging to the beneficiary (self-settled trusts) must have a payback provision to avoid having the property considered the beneficiarys resource for program eligibility purposes. Third-party trusts do not have a payback provision.

Payee
The one named on a check or promissory note to receive payment.

Payment In Due Course
Payment of funds to the holder of a promissory note or other negotiable instrument made without knowledge that the document had been acquired by fraud or that the holder did not have valid title. The true owner of the note cannot also demand payment, but must look to the recipient of the funds.

Payment In Full
The giving of all funds due to another. This language is often inserted on the back of check above the place for endorsement to prove that the payee accepts the payment as complete.

Payment Into Court
1) Money or property that is given to the court clerk to be distributed after a lawsuit is concluded. Typically, the person making payment into court is not involved in the lawsuit, but owes money or property to which the parties dispute ownership. For example, a customer might make payment into court for money owed a business partnership, if the partnership has dissolved and one partner is suing the other for ownership of the business's assets. 2) In landlord-tenant law, rent money that a tenant deposits with a court during a dispute with the landlord, often to avoid eviction.

Payor
The person or entity that is responsible for payment on a promissory note or bill. May also be spelled payer.

Payroll Taxes
The income taxes withheld from an employee's paycheck plus unemployment contributions and FICA contributions -- including both Social Security and Medicare -- that must be deposited into an IRS account.

PbBGC
See: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

Peace Bond
An amount the court requires someone to pay as a guarantee that he or she will not threaten or bother a particular person or otherwise commit a breach of the peace. If the protected party is bothered or injured, the bond amount is forfeited to the party or his or her survivors.

Peaceable Possession
In real estate, holding property without any adverse claim to possession or title by another. See also: adverse possession

Peculation
Misappropriation of government funds or property.

Pecuniary
Relating to money. For example, a pecuniary award as an award of money.

Pedophilia
An abnormal obsession with children as sex objects. A person who acts upon this obsession, by molesting a child, taking explicit photographs, and performing other acts specified by law, is guilty of a crime.

Peeping Tom
A person who stealthily peeks into windows, holes in restroom walls, or other openings with the purpose of seeing people undressed or couples making love. The term comes from the legendary Tom who peeked when Lady Godiva rode her horse naked through the streets of Coventry to protest taxes. Being a peeping Tom is treated as a crime based on sexual deviancy, and a victim may sue a peeping Tom for invasion of privacy.

Peer
1) An equal. (See: jury of one's peers) 2) A member of the nobility in Great Britain.

Peer Review
An evaluation of someone's work by a group of people in the same profession or field. A peer-reviewed or "refereed" journal, for example, publishes submissions that have been read and selected by an editorial board of experts in the field. Hospitals, schools, and other institutions often have peer-review boards or committees who evaluate the work of their colleagues, sometimes in response to allegations of poor performance or malpractice.

Pen Register
A device that makes a record of the phone numbers called from a particular phone. When a court authorizes it, a law enforcement agency may use a pen register in a criminal investigation.

Penal
Relating to crime, as in "penal code" (the laws specifying crimes and punishment) or "penal institution" (a state prison or penitentiary confining convicted felons).

Penalty
Punishment upon conviction of a crime, generally in the form of a monetary fine, forfeiture of property, or imprisonment.

Penalty Clause
A contract clause that imposes an excessive monetary penalty in the event a party defaults. Courts generally don't enforce penalty clauses when the amount imposed is unrelated to the damages incurred.

Pendent Jurisdiction
In federal procedure, a federal court's right to decide a claim it would not ordinarily have a right to decide, because that claim arises out of the same incident as a claim that is properly before the court. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and they generally don't have the right to decide issues of state law between residents of the same state. If, however, a plaintiff sued and alleged both federal and state law claims, the federal court could decide the state law claims under the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction.

Pendente Lite
(pen-den-tay lee-tay) Latin for "while the action is pending" or "during litigation." Often used to describe a court order that is in effect only until the end of a lawsuit, such as an order for temporary child support pending the resolution of a divorce proceeding.

Penitentiary
A state or federal prison for convicted criminals.

Pension
A retirement fund for employees paid for or contributed to by some employers as part of a package of compensation for the employees' work. Pensions became widespread during the Second World War, when they were commonly used as lures because there were more jobs than workers.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (Pbgc)
A federal insurance fund that pays pension benefits to retirees whose pension plans have ended, generally because the plans cannot meet their financial obligations. The PBGC is funded by insurance premiums paid by employers that sponsor covered plans. The PBGC covers only defined benefit plans and only up to a maximum monthly amount.

People
The designation for the government in a criminal prosecution, as in People v. Capone. These cases may also be captioned State v. Davis (in a state prosecution) or United States v. Miller (in federal prosecutions).

People's Initiative To Limit Property Taxation
See: Proposition 13

Per
1) For each or every -- for example, "She spends five dollars per day." 2) According to -- for example "Per the judge's direction, the defendant took the stand."

Per Capita
Latin for "by head," meaning to be determined by the number of people. Under a will, this is the most common method of determining what share of property each beneficiary gets when one of the beneficiaries dies before the willmaker, leaving children of his or her own. For example, Fred leaves his house jointly to his son Alan and his daughter Julie. But Alan dies before Fred does, leaving two young children. If Freds will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property per capita, Julie and the two grandchildren will each take a third. If, on the other hand, Freds will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property per stirpes, Julie will receive one-half of the property, and Alans two children will share his half in equal shares (through Alan by right of representation).

Per Curiam
By the court. It usually refers to a decision made by the court as a whole, rather than by a specific judge.

Per Diem
(per dee-um) Latin for "per day," per diem refers to payment of a set amount for each day's expenses for an employee or agent. Typically, a per diem is available only for travel away from home. For example, someone who goes on an overnight business trip for an employer might receive a per diem of $50 to cover meals and incidentals on the trip.

Per Se
Latin for "by itself," meaning inherently. Thus, a published writing which falsely accuses another of being a convicted felon is libel per se, without further explanation of the meaning of the statement.

Per Stirpes
Under a will, a method of determining who inherits property when a beneficiary has died before the will maker, leaving living children of his or her own. For example, Fred leaves his house jointly to his son Alan and his daughter Julie. But Alan dies before Fred, leaving two young children. If Freds will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property "per stirpes," Julie will receive one-half of the property, and Alans two children will share his half in equal shares (through Alan by right of representation). If, on the other hand, Freds will states that the property is to be divided per capita, Julie and the two grandchildren will each take a third.

Percipient Witness
A witness who testifies about things she or he actually perceived. For example, an eyewitness.

Peremptory
1) Final and absolute. 2) Not requiring any showing of cause. (See also: peremptory challenge)

Peremptory Challenge
The right to dismiss or excuse a potential juror during jury selection without having to give a reason. Each party to a lawsuit gets a set number of peremptory challenges.Compare: challenge for cause

Peremptory Norm
See: jus cogens

Peremptory Writ Of Mandate (Or Mandamus)
A court order to any governmental body, government official, or a lower court requiring that the body, official, or court perform an act the court finds is an official duty required by law. Compare: alternative writ of mandate (mandamus)

Perfect
(per-fect) To take all required steps to achieve a legal result. For example a mechanic's lien is perfected by filing a lawsuit and obtaining a judgment.

Perfected
Having completed all necessary legal steps to achieve a result, such as completing and filing the necessary documents to record a security interest. (See: perfect)

Perform
To fulfill one's obligations under a contract.

Performance
Fulfillment of an obligation required by contract. Performance of a contract may be demanded in a lawsuit (specific performance) and it may also be short of full performance (part or partial performance).

Perjurer
A person who intentionally lies while under an oath administered by a notary public, court clerk, or other official, and thus commits the crime of perjury. A perjurer may commit perjury in oral testimony or by signing or acknowledging a written legal document (such as an affidavit, declaration under penalty of perjury, deed, license application,or tax return) knowing the document contains false information. (See also: perjury)

Perjury
The crime of intentionally lying after being duly sworn to tell the truth by a notary public, court clerk, or other official. This false statement may be made in testimony in court, administrative hearings, depositions, or answers to interrogatories, as well as by signing or acknowledging a written legal document (such as an affidavit, declaration under penalty of perjury, deed, license application, or tax return) known to contain false information.

PERM
The short name by which the "Labor Certification for the Permanent Employment of Aliens in the United States" is known. These regulations, drafted by the Department of Labor (DOL) and made effective in 2005, were meant to overhaul and improve the process for employer submissions and DOL handling of the "labor certification applications" filed by employers wanting to hire a foreign-born worker. For example, PERM introduced a new electronic filing option, and detailed recruitment requirements such as the need for Sunday edition newspaper ads. The PERM regulations are found at 20 C.F.R. Parts 655 and 656.

Permanent Disability
A physical or mental disability that indefinitely impairs a worker's ability to perform the duties or normal activities that the worker performed before the accident or serious illness.

Permanent Injunction
A court order that a person or entity take certain actions or refrain from certain activities. A permanent injunction is typically issued once a lawsuit over the underlying activity is resolved, as distinguished from a preliminary injunction, which is issued while the lawsuit is pending.

Permanent Injury
Physical or mental damage that will indefinitely restrict the employment or other normal activities of an individual. In a lawsuit to recover damages caused by the negligence or intentional wrongful act of another, a permanent injury can be a major element in an award of general damages.

Permanent Resident
See: lawful permanent resident (LPR)

Permit
A license or other document given by an authorized public official or agency -- for example, a building inspector or the department of motor vehicles -- that allows a person or business to perform certain acts. Permits are intended to guarantee that laws and regulations are obeyed, but they also are a source of public revenue.

Perpetuity
Forever. (See also: rule against perpetuities)

Person
1) A human being. 2) A corporation treated as having the rights and obligations of a person. Counties and cities can be treated as a person in the same manner as a corporation. However, corporations, counties, and cities cannot have the emotions of humans such as malice, and therefore are not liable for punitive damages.

Personal Effects
An expression often found in wills to refer to the personal property that the will maker owns at death. For example, "I leave my personal effects to my daughter Jane."

Personal Financial Responsibility Counseling
A class intended to teach budgeting and debt management skills to those who have filed for bankruptcy. Under the 2005 bankruptcy law, someone who files for bankruptcy must get personal financial responsibility counseling before he or she can receive a bankruptcy discharge.

Personal Guardian
See: guardian of the person

Personal Injury
An injury not to property, but to the body, mind, or emotions. For example, if you slip and fall on a banana peel in the grocery store, personal injury covers any actual physical harm (broken leg and bruises) you suffered in the fall as well as the humiliation of falling in public, but not the harm of shattering your watch.

Personal Injury Recovery
The amount that comes from a lawsuit or insurance settlement to compensate someone for physical and mental suffering, including injury to body, injury to reputation, or both.

Personal Property
All property other than land and buildings attached to land. Cars, bank accounts, wages, securities, a small business, furniture, insurance policies, jewelry, patents, pets, and season baseball tickets are all examples of personal property. Personal property may also be called personal effects, movable property, goods and chattel, and personalty. Compare: real estate

Personal Representative
An alternative term for the executor or administrator of an estate, commonly used in states that have adopted a law called the Uniform Probate Code.

Personal Service
A method for the formal delivery of court papers in which the papers are placed directly into the hands of the person to be served. Compare: substituted service

Personal Services
In contract law, the talents of a person such as an artist or actor that are unusual, special, or unique and cannot be performed exactly the same by another person. The value of personal services is greater than general labor; for instance, woodcarving is personal service and carpentry is general labor.

Personalty
See: personal property

Pet Trust
A trust set up to benefit one or more pets. Allowed by law in most states, these trusts typically name a trustee to handle the money left for the pets and a caregiver to provide day-to-day care.

Petit Jury
An old-fashioned name for the jury sitting to hear a lawsuit or criminal prosecution, called petit (small) to distinguish it from a grand jury, which has other duties.

Petition
1) A formal request for something, submitted to an authority such as a court or a government agency. For example, the party who loses a court case might petition to appeal. 2) Making a formal request of a court or presenting a written request to an organization's governing body signed by one or more members.

Petitioner
1) A person who signs a petition. 2) Sometimes a synonym for plaintiff, used almost universally in some states and in others for certain types of lawsuits, most commonly divorce and other family law cases. 3) Someone who sponsors an immigrant or nonimmigrant for a green card or visa.

Petty Larceny
A term used in many states for theft of a small amount of money or objects of little value (such as less than $500). It is distinguished from grand larceny which is theft of property of greater worth, which is a felony punishable by a term in state prison. Petty larceny is a misdemeanor punishable at maximum with a term in the county jail.

Phishing
A form of Internet fraud in which a fake website or email is made to resemble a legitimate one, in order to steal valuable information such as credit cards, Social Security numbers, user IDs, and passwords. "Spear phishing" is a fraudulent email targeted at a specific group, often employees of a large company or users of a networking website.

Physical Custody
The right of a parent to have a child live with him or her. In a divorce, physical custody may be either "sole" or "joint." Compare: legal custody

Physical Incapacity
The inability of a spouse to engage in sexual intercourse with the other spouse. In some states, physical incapacity is a ground for an annulment or fault divorce, assuming the incapacity was not disclosed to the other spouse before the marriage.

Physician-Assisted Suicide
See: assisted suicide

Physician-Patient Privilege
The right to withhold evidence in a trial or other legal proceeding on the basis that any information disclosed by a patient to a doctor for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment is confidential (unless the patient consents to disclosure).

Picketing
Protesting, typically by standing outside of a business or workplace to publicize a dispute or incident occuring there. Sometimes, picketers want to persuade others not to enter the place they are picketing (as might be the case with workers on strike or antiabortion protesters outside of an abortion clinic). Picketing may also happen online, as when IBM's campus on the Second Life website was picketed by avatars of IBM employees.

Piercing The Corporate Veil
See: piercing the veil

Piercing The Veil
A judicial doctrine that allows a plaintiff to hold otherwise immune corporate shareholders personally liable for the debts of or damages caused by a corporation under their control. The corporate veil can be pierced when shareholders have acted intentionally and illegally, when the corporation has neglected corporate formalities, and/or when the corporation is found to be a mere alter ego of the shareholders (a shield set up to defraud creditors). This doctrine applies to limited liability companies as well. Also known as disregarding the corporate entity.

Pilferage
The act of theft. Also used to refer to the items stolen -- for example, "He hid the pilferage in his car."

Pimp
A person who procures a prostitute for customers or vice versa, usually sharing the profits of the prostitute's activities. A pimp commits the crime of pandering.

Pink Slip
1) Slang for notice from an employer that one is being fired or laid off. 2) Slang for the official title certificate to a vehicle, because in some states the document is or was pink. This is the source of the phrase "racing for pinks," when the winner of a car race wins ownership of the loser's car.

Piracy
1) Crimes of robbery, kidnapping, and similar activities on the high seas. The trial and punishment of such pirates may be under international law, or under the laws of the particular nation where the pirate has been captured. 2) A colloquial term without legal significance often used to describe willful copyright, patent, and trademark infringement.

PITI
Abbreviation for the major expenses that make up a mortgage payment: principal (the amount borrowed), interest, (property) taxes, and (homeowners') insurance.

PKPA
See: Parental Kidnaping Prevention Act

Plagiarism
Deliberately passing off somebody elses original expression or creative ideas as ones own. Plagiarism can be a violation of law if copyrighted expression is taken. Often, however, plagiarism does not violate any law but marks the plagiarist as an unethical person in the political, academic, or scientific community where the plagiarism occurs.

Plain Error
When a trial court makes an error that is so obvious and substantial that the appellate court should address it, even though the parties failed to object to the error at the time it was made.

Plain View Doctrine
The rule that allows a law enforcement officer to seize evidence of a crime, without obtaining a search warrant, when that evidence is in plain sight. For example, a policeman who stops a motorist for a minor traffic violation and sees a handgun on the back seat may conclude that the driver is unlawfully in possession of the gun, and may enter the car to seize it.

Plaintiff
The person, corporation, or other legal entity that initiates a lawsuit seeking damages, enforcement of a contract, or a court determination of rights. In certain states and for some types of lawsuits, the term petitioner is used instead of plaintiff.

Plaintiff's Attorney
A lawyer who regularly represents people who are suing for damages.

Plan For Achieving Self-Support (PASS)
A program run by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to help Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients return to work. Under PASS, SSI recipients design a plan that shows how certain assets -- such as a car or tools -- will help them achieve a work goal. If the SSA approves the plan, then those assets will not be counted as resources in determining eligibility for SSI or in calculating the amount of the SSI benefit.

Planned Parenthood Of Southeastern Pennsylvania V. Casey (1992)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court reaffirmed a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy in the early stages, but also allowed such restrictions on abortion as informed consent, a 24-hour waiting period, and the consent of at least one parent when a minor seeks an abortion. The Court struck down a provision that required a married woman to get the consent of her husband before obtaining an abortion.

Plant Closing
For purposes of the WARN Act, the permanent or temporary shutdown of a single employment site, or one or more facilities or operating units within a site, which results in job loss or more than a 50% hours cut for at least 50 employees, not including part-time employees.

Plant Patent
A patent issued for new strains of asexually reproducing plants. Plant patents last for 20 years from the date the patent is filed. Certain sexually reproduced plants also may be protected under the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970 for periods ranging from 18 to 25 years.

Plea
An accused defendant's formal answer to criminal charges. Typically defendants enter one of the following pleas: guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere. A plea is usually entered when charges are formally brought (at arraignment). (See: nolo contendere)

Plea Bargain
A negotiation between the defense, prosecution, and the judge that settles a criminal case short of trial. The defendant typically pleads guilty to a lesser crime or fewer charges than originally charged, in exchange for a guaranteed sentence that is shorter than what the defendant would face if convicted at trial. The prosecution gets the certainty of a conviction and a known sentence; the defendant avoids the risk of a higher sentence; and the judge gets to move on to other cases.

Plea In Abatement
A pleading by the defendant, as a response to a plaintiff's claim, where the defendant does not dispute the plaintiff's claims but objects to its form or the time or place where it is asserted, thereby having an excuse which a judge should consider because it could affect the judge's sentence.

Plead
1) In civil lawsuits and petitions, the filing of any document (pleading) or the act of making an assertion or allegation in a legal proceeding. 2) In criminal law, the entry of plea of a defendant in response to each charge of criminal conduct.

Pleading
Any legal document filed in a lawsuit, including the complaint, petition, answer, demurrer, motion, declaration, and memorandum of points and authorities (written argument citing precedents and statutes).

Pledge
To deposit personal property as security for a personal loan of money. If the loan is not repaid when due, the personal property pledged shall be forfeit to the lender. The property is known as collateral. (See also: pawn)

Plenary
Full, complete, covering all matters, often referring to an order, hearing, or trial.

Plessy V. Ferguson (1896)
U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court ruled, despite a vigorous dissent by Justice John Harlan, that "separate but equal" facilities for blacks were constitutional, which remained the rule until Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

Plyler V. Doe (1982)
The U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that children who are undocumented immigrants are entitled to attend public schools. The Court based its decision on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

PMI
See: private mortgage insurance

POD
See: payable-on-death designation

Points And Authorities
The legal and factual basis for an argument in a lawsuit. A party who wants the judge to rule a particular way on a motion often must submit a memorandum of points and authorities, in which the party argues that the facts, statutes, and relevant precedents support that party's position.

Poison Pill
A defensive strategy for avoiding a hostile takeover in which a company offers low-price stock to its current shareholders in order to dilute the shares and make it more expensive for another company to buy them out.

Police Court
A court that handles minor criminal offenses, and that conducts hearings for more serious criminal cases, to determine whether there is enough evidence to send the case to a higher court for trial.

Police Powers
The fundamental right of a government to make all necessary laws. In the United States, state police power comes from the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gives states the rights and powers "not delegated to the United States." States are thus granted the power to establish and enforce laws protecting the welfare, safety, and health of the public.

Political Question
A question that a court declines to consider because it more properly belongs before the legislative or executive branch of the federal or state government.

Poll
1) The process of casting and recording votes in an election. Also the results of an election. 2) To receive votes -- for example, a candidate is said to "poll" a certain number of votes. 3) The place where votes are cast and recorded in an election. Often referred to as "the polls." 4) A survey of individual opinions on a given topic. Also, the process of collecting these opinions.

Poll Book
A list of all the registered voters in a voting district.

Polygamy
Having more than one wife or husband at the same time, usually more than just two (which is bigamy). It is a crime in all states.

Polygraph
A lie detector device that tests a person's physiological response (for example, changes in blood pressure and respiration) to questionning. The test's reliability is a matter of ongoing controversy, and in most U.S. states polygraph test results are not admissible in court.

POMS
Program Operations Manual System, a set of guidelines issued by the Social Security Administration to help lower-level employees interpret the federal statutes and regulations that govern the SSI and Medicaid programs.

Ponzi Scheme
A crooked investment arrangement by which investors, lured by the promise of outsized returns, are paid from money contributed by new investors, not from the profits earned by their investments. A Ponzi scheme is the same as a pyramid scheme. The term "Ponzi scheme" is used primarily in the United States, where it was named after Charles Ponzi, who used a pyramid scheme to take millions of dollars from investors in 1920.

Pooled Trust
A special needs trust operated by a nonprofit organization for the benefit of several beneficiaries. Assets are jointly managed and invested. SSI does not consider pooled trust funds donated by a third party for a beneficiary.

Pornography
Photographs, films, books, or other material depicting erotic or sexual acts designed to cause sexual arousal. Pornography is protected by the First Amendment free speech provisions unless it is found to be obscene.

Positive Law
Statutory man-made law, as compared to natural law, that is purportedly based on universally accepted moral principles or derived from nature and reason.

Posse Comitatus
(pah-see kom-i-tah-tuhs) Latin for "power of the county." The power of the sheriff to call upon any able-bodied citizens to help keep the peace or apprehend a criminal.

Possess
To own, have title to, occupy, physically hold, or have under exclusive control. In describing the estate of a deceased, wills sometimes use the phrase "of which I die possessed."

Possession
Any article, object, asset, or property which one owns, occupies, holds, or has under control.

Possession Of Stolen Goods
The crime of possession of goods which one knows or which any reasonable person would realize were stolen. It is generally a felony.

Possessory Interest
In real estate, the right of a person to occupy and/or exercise control over a particular plot of land; distinguished from an ownership interest. For example, a tenant with a long term lease has a possessory interest, but not an ownership interest.

Possibility Of A Reverter
The potential that the title to a real property interest will return to the original grantor. For example, a gift of a building to a hospital on condition that it be used forever for health care. If the building is no longer used for that purpose, the property will revert to the estate of the original grantor.

Post
1) To place a notice prominently. For example, employers are required to post notices about employee rights in a conspicuous location. 2) To mail. 3) To record a payment on a particular date. For example, when you pay a credit card bill, your next statement will show you the date payment was "posted to your account."

Post Hoc
The phrase represents the faulty logic of assuming that one thing was caused by another merely because it followed that prior event in time. From the Latin phrase post hoc ergo propter hoc, which means "after this, therefore because of this."

Post Mortem
Latin for "after death," an examination of a dead body to determine cause of death, generally called an autopsy.

Postdated Check
A check that is dated in the future, so it cannot be cashed until that date.

Posthumous Child
A child born after the death of his or her father.

Posting
The act of entering financial transactions into bookkeeping records or transferring data to a general ledger.

Postjudgment Interest
Interest on a court judgment that a creditor can collect from the time the judgment is entered in the court clerk's record until it is paid.

Pot
Slang for marijuana.

Pot Trust
A trust for children in which the trustee decides how to spend money on each child, taking money out of the trust to meet each child's specific needs. One important advantage of a pot trust over separate trusts is that it allows the trustee to provide for one child's unforeseen need, such as a medical emergency. But a pot trust can also make the trustee's life difficult by requiring choices about disbursing funds to the various children. Most pot trusts end when the youngest child reaches a certain age, usually 18 or 21.

Pour-Over Will
A will that "pours over" property into a trust when the will maker dies. A pour-over will is intended to guarantee that any assets which somehow were not included in the trust become assets of the trust upon the party's death. Property left through the will must go through probate before it goes into the trust.

Power Of Acceptance
The legal ability to consent to an offer and create a binding contract.

Power Of Appointment
The legal authority to decide who will receive someone else's property, usually property held in a trust. Most trustees can distribute the income from a trust only according to the terms of the trust, but a trustee with a power of appointment can choose the beneficiaries, sometimes from a list of candidates specified by the grantor. For example, Karin creates a trust with power of appointment to benefit either the local art museum, symphony, library, or park, depending on the trustee's assessment of need.

Power Of Attorney
A document that gives another person legal authority to act on your behalf. If you create such a document, you are called the principal, and the person to whom you give this authority is called your agent or attorney-in-fact. If you make a durable power of attorney, the document will continue in effect even if you become incapacitated. (See also: durable power of attorney for finances, durable power of attorney for health care, general power of attorney, limited power of attorney, special power of attorney)

PPA
See: provisional patent application

Practicable
When something can be done or performed.

Practice
1) Custom or habit -- for example, "It is the practice in the industry to confirm orders before shipping." 2) A legal business -- for example, "Her law practice is located on 4th Street."

Praecipe
(pree-suh-pee or pres-uh-pee) 1) A written order (also called a writ) that commands a defendant to do something or to show why it should not be done. 2) A written request for court action -- for example, setting a trial date or entering a judgment.

Pray
To formally request judicial judgment, relief, or damages at the end of a pleading.

Prayer For Relief
What the plaintiff in a lawsuit asks of the court -- for example, monetary damages, an injunction to make the defendant stop a certain activity, or both. The plaintiff usually makes a "special prayer" for specific relief (for example, a monetary amount to recover for an injury), and then follows with an unspecific "general prayer" to recover any additional amount not specified that a court decides is appropriate.

Pre-Dup
The equivalent of a prenuptial agreement, sometimes abbreviated to "prenup," for couples registering as domestic partners in states that allow it.

Precatory
Suggested or recommended, but not binding. For example, language in a will or trust that says "I hope my daughter will keep the house in the family" is precatory and not legally binding on the daughter who inherits the house.

Precedent
An opinion of a federal or state court of appeals establishing a legal principle or rule that must be followed by lower courts when faced with similar legal issues. For example, once the California Supreme Court decided that employers may fire an employee who fails a drug test because of his use of medical marijuana, all lower courts in California must follow this rule.

Predatory Lending
Any type of unscrupulous lending practice where a lender takes advantage of a borrower. It usually involves borrowers taking on high-cost loans they cannot afford to pay over time because the loans were based on the borrowers' assets and not on their ability to repay the debt. Low-income, elderly, or otherwise vulnerable people are often the target of this type of lending. While there are laws against certain specific types of predatory lending practices, the term is often used as a catchall for any fraudulent, abusive, discriminatory, or deceptive lending practice.

Predecease
To die before someone else. For example, in a will: "If Harry should predecease me, I leave his share of my estate to his son, Eugene."

Predeceased Spouse
In the law of wills, a spouse who dies before the will maker while still married to him or her.

Preemption
1) The principle that a federal law supercedes a state law (and a state law supercedes a local law) where both governments have made laws on the same subject and the laws conflict. 2) The right of purchasing before others (for example, a preemptive right).

Preemptive Right
The right of a shareholder in a corporation to have the first opportunity to purchase a new issue of stock of that corporation in proportion to the amount of stock already owned by the shareholder.

Preference
In bankruptcy, a debtor's payment to a creditor within a defined period of time before filing for bankruptcy -- three months for regular commercial creditors and one year for insider creditors, such as friends, family members, and business associates. Because a preference gives that creditor an edge over other creditors in the bankruptcy case, the bankruptcy trustee can get the preference back and distribute it among all of the creditors.

Preference Relative
An immigration term for certain people who may be eligible for U.S. permanent residence (a "green card") based on family relationships. Preference relatives include the married children of U.S. citizens, children over 21 of U.S. citizens, the spouses or children of U.S. green card holders, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens where the U.S. citizen is at least 21 years old. Preference relatives must usually wait to get a green card, because only around 480,000 are available to them in total each year. They must wait in line based on their priority date, which is the date when their U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitioner first filed a visa petition indicating willingness to sponsor the immigrant.

Preferred Dividend
A payment of a corporation's profits to holders of preferred shares of stock. (See also: preferred stock)

Pregnancy Discrimination Act
A federal law that prohibits discrimination against employees based on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Prejudgment Interest
The interest a creditor is entitled to collect under a loan agreement or by law before going to court and obtaining a judgment against the debtor.

Preliminary Hearing
In criminal law, a hearing to determine if a person charged with a felony (a serious crime punishable by a term in the state prison) should be tried for the crime charged. To bind the defendant over for trial, the judge must decide that there is substantial evidence that the defendant committed the offense.

Preliminary Injunction
A court order early in a lawsuit that prohibits the parties from taking a disputed action until the court can decide the merits of the case. For example, if a lawsuit is filed challenging the validity of a new government regulation, the court might issue a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing the regulation until the court can decide whether the regulation is valid. Generally, the party seeking a preliminary injunction must show a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the lawsuit and a substantial threat of irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted.

Premarital Agreement
See: prenuptial agreement

Premeditation
Planning, plotting, or deliberating before doing something. Premeditation is an element in first degree murder and shows intent to commit that crime. (See also: malice aforethought, murder, first degree murder)

Premises
A real estate term for land and the improvements on it, including a building, store, apartment, or other designated structure.

Premium
1) An extra payment for an act, option, or priority. 2) Payment for insurance coverage either in a lump sum or by installments.

Prenatal Tort
A tort involving injury to an unborn person.

Prenuptial Agreement
An agreement made by a couple before marriage that controls certain aspects of their relationship, usually the management and ownership of property, and sometimes whether alimony will be paid if the couple later divorces. Courts usually honor premarital agreements unless one person shows that the agreement was likely to promote divorce, was written with the intention of divorcing, or was entered into unfairly. A prenuptial agreement may also be known as a premarital agreement, antenuptial agreement, or simply a "prenup," for short.

Prepayment Penalty
A fee imposed on a borrower who pays off a loan (usually a mortgage) before its due date. Lenders impose this kind of fee to encourage borrowers to hold a debt -- and keep paying interest on it -- for the whole term of the loan.

Preponderance Of The Evidence
The burden of proof required in a civil (non-criminal) action to convince the court that a given proposition is true. The plaintiff must convince the judge or jury by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff's version is true -- that is, over 50% of the believable evidence is in the plaintiff's favor. Compare: reasonable doubt

Preregistration Agreement
The equivalent of a prenuptial agreement for couples (mostly same-sex) in states that allow registration as domestic partners or civil union partners.

Prerogative Writ
An antiquated term for any writ (court order) directed to government agencies, public officials, or another court. (See also: mandamus)

Prescription
The method of acquiring an interest in real property by continuous and open use, in opposition to the rights of the owner. (See also: adverse possession, easement by prescription)

Prescriptive Easement
A right to use property, acquired by open and obvious use, without the owner's permission, over a minimum period of time established by state law. For example, if hikers have been using a trail through your backyard for ten years and you've never complained, they probably have an easement by prescription through your yard to the trail.

Presenteeism
When employees come to work despite illness or injury that should have kept them home.

Presentment
1) A demand for payment of a promissory note when it is due. 2) A formal written accusation to a court by a grand jury, made on its own initiative without a request or presentation of evidence by the local prosecutor.

Presidential Signing Statements
Short documents that the President of the United States may issue when signing a bill into law. Presidents can use these documents for just about any purpose they choose -- to describe a bill, to explain the bill's purpose, to praise the bill's sponsors, or to interpret particular provisions of the bill.

Presiding Judge
In most courts, the judge who directs the management of the courts, including making policy decisions for the couret, making assignments of judges to specialized courts, overseeing the calendar, and facilitating meetings of the judges.

Presumed Abuse
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, when the debtor's current monthly income exceeds the family median income for his or her state, and the debtor cannot pass the means test, the court will presume that the debtor has enough income to fund a Chapter 13 plan. In this situation, the debtor will not be allowed to proceed with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy unless the debtor can prove that he or she is not abusing the Chapter 7 bankruptcy remedy.

Presumed Maximum Value (PMV)
The presumed value of food or shelter provided to an SSI recipient by a third party. The PMV is the amount of the federal portion of the SSI grant plus $20. The recipient can prove that the value is in fact less.

Presumption
A rule of law that permits a court to assume a fact is true until such time as there is a preponderance of evidence which disproves or outweighs the presumption. A presumption shifts the burden to the opposing party to prove that the assumption is untrue.

Presumption Of Innocence
One of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system, holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged.

Pretermitted Heir
A child who is not mentioned in a will and whom the court believes was accidentally overlooked by the person who made the will. For example, a child born or adopted after the will is made may be deemed a pretermitted heir. If the court determines that an heir was accidentally omitted, that heir is entitled to receive the same share of the estate as he or she would have if the deceased had died without a will. A pretermitted heir is sometimes called an omitted heir.

Pretrial Discovery
See: discovery

Prevailing Party
The winner in a lawsuit.

Price Fixing
A criminal violation of federal antitrust statutes, in which several competing businesses agree to set prices for their products to prevent real competition and keep the public from benefiting from price competition. (See also: antitrust laws)

Prima Facie
(pree-mah-fey-shah) Latin for "at first look" or "on its face." A prima facie case is one that at first glance presents sufficient evidence for the plaintiff to win. The defendant must refute the case in some way to have a chance of prevailing at trial. For example, if you can show that someone intentionally touched you in a harmful or offensive way and caused some injury to you, you have established a prima facie case of battery. However, this does not mean that you automatically win your case. The defendant would win if he could show that you consented to the harmful or offensive touching

Prima Facie Case
See: prima facie

Prime Suspect
The person whom law enforcement officers believe most probably committed a crime being investigated.

Primogeniture
Latin for "first born." Feudal England (and many other places) practiced male primogeniture, the practice of giving the oldest son the entire estate of his parents (or nearest ancestor). If there was no male heir, the daughters inherited the property in equal shares.The intent was to preserve large properties from being broken up into small holdings, which might weaken the power of nobles.

Principal
1) In commercial law, the total amount of a loan, not including any capitalized fees or interest. 2) When creating a power of attorney or other legal document, the person who appoints an attorney-in-fact or agent to act on his or her behalf. 3) In the law of trusts, the property of the trust, as opposed to the income generated by that property. The principal is also known as the trust corpus (that's Latin for "body"). 4) In criminal law, the main perpetrator of a crime.

Principal Place Of Business
The office of a business where the books and records are kept and where executives manage the company.

Principal Register
The primary list on which trademarks that meet certain federal filing standards are placed. The benefits of getting a mark placed on the Principal Register include the notice to potential copiers that your mark is valid and protected, the right to sue to stop copying, and the right to have the mark considered immune from legal challenge after five years of continuous use.

Prior Art
In patent law, all technology and publications available before the date of invention or anything available about the invention more than one year prior to filing the application. A patent will not issue if prior art is uncovered by a patent examiner that demonstrates somebody already came up with the same idea -- that is, all of the significant elements in the applicant's innovation were embodied in an existing innovation.

Prior Restraint
Government action that prevents a publication or broadcast. Prior restraints are considered a violation of the First Amendment and are rarely permitted except in cases in which the publication is obscene, defamatory, or represents a clear and present danger -- a theory articulated by the U. S. Supreme Court in Near v. Minnesota (1931).

Prior(S)
Slang for past convictions. A defendant with "priors" may face an enhanced sentence for a current offense, as happens when a defendant convicted of driving under the influence reoffends, thus earning the mandatory jail sentence provided for repeat offenders. In order to impose an enhanced sentence in a current case, the prosecutor must plead, or allege, the past conviction, and prove that it happened.

Priority
The right to be ahead of the rights or claims of others. In bankruptcy law, the right to collect before other creditors is given to taxing authorities, the holders of court judgments, secured creditors, bankruptcy trustees, and bankruptcy attorneys. The right can also apply to mortgages, deeds of trusts, or liens, which are given priority in the order they were recorded.

Priority Date
An immigration law term meaning the date on which a petition for immigration or a labor certification is first filed. The priority date is used to mark the intending immigrant's place in the green card waiting list (a list that tends to exist in every green card category that's subject to an annual numerical limit). Each month, the U.S. Department of State publishes a "Visa Bulletin" with an updated list of priority dates, meaning that anyone with a date that matches or is earlier than the dates on that list can stop waiting and continue with their application for a green card.

Priority Debt
A type of debt that is paid first if any creditors are paid in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, and must be paid in full in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Priority debts include alimony and child support, wages owed to employees, and fees owed to the trustee and the debtor's bankruptcy attorney.

Privacy
The right to be free of unnecessary public scrutiny, or to be let alone.

Private Annuity
An arrangement under which a parent transfers assets to a trust for children or grandchildren and in return gets regular lifetime payments (an annuity). Under certain circumstances, the trust assets won't be subject to estate tax when the parent dies.

Private Carrier
A business that transports goods or services for a fee but is under no obligation to do business with the general public. Compare: common carrier

Private Mortgage Insurance
Insurance that reimburses a mortgage lender if the buyer defaults on the loan and the foreclosure sale price is less than the amount owed the lender (the mortgage plus the costs of the sale). A home buyer who makes less than a 20% down payment may have to purchase private mortgage insurance, commonly referred to as PMI.

Private Nuisance
An activity or thing that interferes with the use of property by an individual (or a few individuals) by being irritating, offensive, or obstructive. Nuisances can include everything from noise and illegal gambling to posting indecent signs and misdirecting water on to other property. Conditions that affect an entire community are a public nuisance. Lawsuits may be brought to abate (remove or reduce) a nuisance.

Private Property
Land that is not owned by the government or dedicated to public use. The owner of private property has the right to manage and control it -- for example, by using, selling, mortgaging, or exchanging it.

Private Road
A road or driveway on privately owned property, limited to the use of the owner or a group of owners who share the use and maintain the road without help from the town, city, county, or state. (See also: public easement)

Privilege
A special benefit, exemption from a duty, or immunity from penalty, given to a particular person, a group, or a class of people.

Privilege Against Self-Incrimination
A witness's right to refuse to testify in court if the testimony might result in the witness revealing criminal activity and/or being criminally prosecuted. This right is guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, but is waivable under certain circumstances.

Privileged Communication
See: confidential communication

Privileges And Immunities Clause
A provision found in Article IV of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits states from discriminating against those who are not state citizens or from favoring its own citizens over citizens of other states. The Privileges and Immunities Clause has been interpreted to create a right to travel, in that it allows citizens of one state to go to another state and enjoy the same privileges and immunities as that state's citizens.

Privity
A legal relationship between two parties based on contract, estate, or other lawful status, that confers certain rights or remedies. For example, parties that are in privity of contract can enforce the contract or obtain remedies based on it.

Pro Bono
Short for pro bono publico, Latin "for the public good," legal work performed by lawyers without pay, often to help those without financial resources to pay for services, or to support social causes such as environmental, youth, battered women, or other educational organizations or charities.

Pro Forma
Latin for "as a matter of form." In the courts, a ruling made as a formality, intended to move matters along.

Pro Hac Vice
(proh-hock-vee-chay) Latin meaning "for this one particular occasion." The phrase usually refers to an out-of-state lawyer who has been granted special permission to participate in a particular case, even though the lawyer is not licensed to practice in the state where the case is being tried.

Pro Per
A term derived from the Latin "in propria persona," meaning "for one's self," used in some states to describe a person who handles his or her own case, without a lawyer. In other states, the term pro se is used. When a nonlawyer files his or her own legal papers, that party is expected to write "in pro per" under his or her name in the heading on the first page.

Pro Rata
(proh-rat-ah or proh-ray-tah) From Latin for "in proportion," refers to a share to be received or an amount to be paid based on the fractional share of ownership, responsibility, or time used. For example, a buyer of rental property will pay his or her pro rata share of the property taxes for that portion of the year in which he or she holds title.

Pro Se
(proh say) A Latin phrase meaning "for oneself" or "on one's own behalf." This phrase describes a party to a lawsuit who represents himself or herself, without a lawyer. It is used in some states in place of in pro per (or in propria persona) and has the same meaning.

Pro Tanto
(proh tan-toh) Latin for "for so much" or "to that extent." Often used to refer to partial payment on a claim (for example, the debt is pro tanto discharged).

Pro Tem
Temporarily or for the time being. A judge pro tem normally refers to a judge who is sitting temporarily for another judge or to an attorney who has been appointed to serve as a judge as a substitute for a regular judge.

Pro Tempore
(proh-temp-oh-ray) See: pro tem

Probable Cause
The amount and quality of information police must have before they can search or arrest without a warrant. Most of the time, police must present their probable cause to a judge or majistrate, whom they ask for a search or arrest warrant. Information is reliable if it shows that it's more likely than not that a crime has occurred and the evidence sought exists at the place named in the search warrant, or that the suspect named in the arrest warrant has committed a crime.

Probate
The court-supervised process following a person's death that includes
-proving the authenticity of the deceased person's will
-appointing someone to handle the deceased person's affairs
-identifying and inventorying the deceased person's property
-paying debts and taxes
-identifying heirs, and
-distributing the deceased person's property according to the will or, if there is no will, according to state law.
Formal probate is a costly, time-consuming process that is best avoided if possible. Most states now offer simplified probate procedures for estates of relatively small value. (See also: administrator, executor, personal representative)

Probate Estate
Property of a deceased person that goes through probate court proceedings before being distributed to those who inherit it.

Probation
A type of sentence for a criminal offense. The probationer (convicted person) is sentenced to jail, but that sentence is suspended for a period of months or years while the probationer is released into the community subject to certain conditions of behavior. Common conditions of probation include performing public service work, paying a fine, maintaining good behavior, receiving therapeutic services, paying restitution to a victim, and reporting regularly to a probation officer. If the probationer fails to comply with the conditions of probation, the probation office may have the person arrested and brought before a judge for a probation hearing. A judge who finds that probation conditions have not been met can revoke probation and impose the original sentence. Compare: parole

Probative
Tending to prove something. Courts can exclude evidence that is not probative (does not prove anything).

Probative Facts
See: probative

Probative Value
The term used to describe the weight of evidence submitted to prove something. Courts may exclude evidence when its probative value is outweighed by the prejudice the evidence may cause. For example, a prosecutor in a criminal case may wish to introduce the previous criminal conduct of a defendant to show a propensity to commit the crime at issue, but that must be weighed against the right of the accused to be tried on the facts of the present case.

Procedural Law
Law that establishes the rules of the court and the methods used to ensure the rights of individuals in the court system. In particular, laws that provide how the busines of the court is to be conducted. Compare: substantive law

Procedure
1) A method or act that furthers a legal process. Procedures include filing complaints, serving documents, setting hearings, and conducting trials. 2) The established rule or series of steps that governs a civil lawsuit or criminal prosecution. (See also: civil procedure, criminal procedure)

Proceeding
1) The ordinary process of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution, from the first filing to the final decision. 2) A procedure through which one seeks redress from a court or agency. 3) A filing, hearing, or other step that is part of a larger action. 4) A particular matter that arises and is dealt with in a bankruptcy case.

Proceeds For Damaged Exempt Property
In bankruptcy, money received through insurance coverage, arbitration, mediation, settlement, or a lawsuit to pay for exempt property that has been damaged or destroyed. For example, if a debtor had the right to use a $30,000 homestead exemption, but his or her home was destroyed by fire, the debtor may instead exempt $30,000 of the insurance proceeds.

Process
1) The legal means by which a person is given notice of a legal proceeding or required to appear in court. (See also: service of process) 2) Proceedings in a legal matter.

Process Server
A person who delivers papers informing another person or business of a pending lawsuit or requirement to appear in court. (See also: process, service of process)

Proctor
A term in admiralty law, referring to a lawyer.

Product Liability
The responsibility of manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of products to the public, to deliver products free of defects that harm someone and to make good on that responsibility if the products are defective. Defective products might include faulty auto brakes, contaminated baby food, exploding bottles of beer, flammable children's pajamas, or products that lack proper label warnings. A key feature of product liability law is that a person who suffers harm need not prove negligence, because the negligence is presumed and the result is strict liability (absolute responsibility) on the seller, distributor, and manufacturer.

Products Liability
A kind of civil lawsuit against the maker of a product, which claims that a person or group of people were injured or damaged by a product that was defective or not suitable for the use it was advertised for. Products liability lawsuits are often class actions. (See also: class action)

Professional Corporation
A type of corporation authorized by state law for a fairly narrow list of licensed professions, including lawyers, doctors, accountants, many types of higher-level health providers, and sometimes architects. A professional corporation does not free an owner from personal liability for his or her own negligence or malpractice, but owners are not personally liable for the malpractice of other owners. In some states, limited liability partnerships offer this same benefit and may be more desirable for other reasons.

Professional Negligence
See: malpractice

Proffer
To offer evidence for admission at trial.

Profit And Loss Statement
A spreadsheet showing a businesss gross income and expenses, used to determine the net profit or loss for a specific period.

Profit Margin
See: margin

Prohibition
See: writ of prohibition

Promise
1) A firm commitment to perform an act, refrain from acting, or make a payment or delivery. 2) In contract law, something of value provided in return for the other party's promise (both of which are referred to as consideration). Failure to fulfill a contractual promise is a breach, for which the other party may seek legal remedies such as performance and damages.

Promissory Estoppel
A legal principle that prevents a person who made a promise from reneging when someone else has reasonably relied on the promise and will suffer a loss if the promise is broken. (See also: estoppel)

Promissory Note
A written promise by one party (called maker, obligor, payor, or promisor) to pay a specific amount of money (called principal) to another party (called payee, obligee, or promisee), which often includes a specified amount of interest on the unpaid principal amount and penalties for failure to pay according to its terms.

Promoter
A person who puts together a new business, particularly a corporation, including the financing; an organizer of a new venture. Usually the promoter is the principal shareholder and receives shares of promotional stock for organizing the corporation.

Promotional Stock
Shares issued by a newly formed corporation to a promoter (organizer) of the corporation in payment for putting the company together and locating shareholders or other funding. Some states limit the amount of promotional stock the promoter can receive to an amount reasonable for the effort, since it is supported by labor alone and not by assets or cash.

Proof
Factual evidence that helps to establish that an event occurred or a statement is true. When someone is accused of a crime, the government must prove every element, or aspect, of the crime, such as who physically committed the act and whether that person did so with the intent to commit the crime. Unless all elements of the charged crime are proved, the prosecution will not prevail. In civil cases, too, the plaintiff must prove every aspect of the complaint. (See also: burden of proof)

Proper Party
A person or entity who has an interest in the subject matter of a lawsuit and, therefore, can join in the lawsuit or may be brought into the suit by one of the parties to the legal action. A proper party is distinguished from a "necessary party" who the court will order joined (brought into) the suit. Example: Marianne and Issac both use the road on Allen's property to reach their vacation cabins. Marianne brings a lawsuit to establish the right to use the road. Issac could join the lawsuit as a proper party.

Property
Anything that is owned by a person or entity. (See also: community property, personal property, public property, real property, separate property)

Property Control Trust
Any trust that imposes limits or controls over the rights of trust beneficiaries. These trusts include 1) special needs trusts designed to assist people who have special physical, emotional, or other requirements; 2) spendthrift trusts designed to prevent a beneficiary from wasting the trust principal; and 3) sprinkling trusts that allow the trustee to decide how to distribute trust income or principal among the beneficiaries.

Property Damage
Injury to real or personal property through another's negligence, willful destruction, or by an act of nature. In lawsuits for damages caused by negligence or a willful act, property damage is distinguished from personal injury. Property damage may include harm to an automobile, a fence, a tree, a home, or any other possession.

Property Guardian
See: guardian of the estate

Property Tax
A tax on the value of property (usually real estate, but sometimes personal property as well) levied by a local government. The property's value is usually established by a public assessor. Local government entities may also impose special taxes for particular public property improvements such as sidewalks, tree planting, or storm drains that benefit property owners. (See also: ad valorem tax, millage)

Property Tort
A tort involving damage to property.

Proposition 13
Also called the People's Initiative to Limit Property Taxation, a California state ballot measure and constitutional amendment passed in 1978 that limits property taxes to a maximum of 1% of a home's assessed value. The measure also means that property taxes in California cannot rise more than 2% in a year, unless the property is sold, in which case the taxes for the new homeowner are calculated by using the home's new assessed value.

Proposition 8
A California ballot measure that ended the brief period in 2008 when same-sex marriage was legal in the state. Passed by voters in November 2008, Prop 8 amended the state's constitution to read "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The California Supreme Court upheld the validity of Prop 8 in 2009, while also ruling that couples married between May and November of 2008 remained married. In January 2010 a California federal court took up a challenge to the law by same-sex couples and other proponents of same-sex marriage. In August 2010, Prop 8 was deemed unconstitutional in a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker. An appeal of this decision is already in the works -- the initial appeal goes to the Ninth Circuit federal court, but the last word in the case is likely to rest with the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, even though the legality of Prop 8 was struck down, same-sex marriages are on hold in California through December 2010, when the Ninth Circuit is expected to issue its ruling on the appeal.

Propria Persona
See: pro per

Proprietary
Refers to ownership.

Proprietary Interest
Total or partial ownership in a company.

Proprietary Lease
An agreement that gives a co-op owner the right to occupy a specific residential unit.

Proprietary Rights
Rights that come with ownership of a business or real property.

Proprietor
The owner of a business operated by that individual as a sole proprietorship.

Proprietorship
See: sole proprietorship

Prosecute
When a local District Attorney, state Attorney General, or federal United States Attorney brings a criminal case against a defendant.

Prosecuting Attorney
See: district attorney (DA), prosecutor

Prosecution
1) In criminal law, the government attorney charging and trying the case against a person accused of a crime. 2) A common term for the government's side in a criminal case, as in "The prosecution will present five witnesses," or "The prosecution rests" (completed its case).

Prosecutor
A lawyer who works for the local, state, or federal government to bring and litigate criminal cases.

Prospectus
A detailed statement by a corporation used to describe an issuance (offer) of stock to the general public. A prospectus includes the corporation's financial statements, information about its directors and officers, its business plans, any litigation in progress, its recent performance, and other matters that would assist a potential investor or investment adviser to evaluate the stock and the prospects of the company for profit, loss, or growth. The Federal Securities Act requires the filing of the prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission before any major stock issuance. State laws generally require similar documentation for some issuances of stock within the state.

Prostitute
A person who receives payment for sexual intercourse or other sexual acts, generally as a regular occupation.

Prostitution
The profession of performing sexual acts for money. Prostitution is a crime throughout the United States, except for a few counties in the State of Nevada. Soliciting acts of prostitution is also a crime, called pandering or simply, soliciting.

Protected Characteristic
In employment law, a trait that may not be the basis of employment decisions. Under federal law, protected characteristics include race, color, national origin, religion, gender (including pregnancy), disability, age (if the employee is at least 40 years old), and citizenship status.

Protected Class
A group of people protected by law from discrimination or harassment based on their membership in the group. For example, under federal law, race, national origin, sex, and age are examples of protected classes.

Protective Custody
The confinement of a person by the government, when the authorities think it's necessary for that person's own security or well-being. A witness who is being threatened may be placed in protective custody, as may a child or other person who may harm others.

Protest
1) To complain in a public way about an act, such as sending troops overseas, use of the death penalty, or adoption of a regulation or law. 2) To dispute the amount of property taxes, the assessed evaluation of property for tax purposes, or an import duty. 3) A written demand for payment of the amount owed on a promissory note that has not been paid or on a check that was refused by a bank.

Prove
In a legal proceeding, to present evidence or logic that makes a fact seem certain.

Proving A Will
Convincing a probate court that a document is truly the deceased person's will. Usually this is a simple formality that the executor or administrator easily satisfies by showing that the will was signed and dated by the deceased person in front of two witnesses. When the will is holographic -- that is, completely handwritten by the deceased and not witnessed, it is still valid in many states if the executor can produce relatives and friends to testify that the handwriting is that of the deceased.

Provisional Ballot
A paper ballot used by a voter when there is some problem in establishing a voters eligibility. The ballot will be counted only if election officials determine that the person was in fact entitled to vote.

Provisional Patent Application (PPA)
An interim patent application (also called a PPA ) that contains only a portion of the information required in a regular patent application. If the PPA sufficiently discloses the invention, and a regular patent application is filed within one year of the PPAs filing date, the inventor gets the benefit of the PPA filing date. In addition, the inventor gets the full 20-year patent term from the date the regular application is filed.

Provisional Remedy
Any temporary order of a court to protect a party from irreparable damage while a lawsuit or petition is pending. (See also: temporary restraining order (TRO), interlocutory decree, temporary injunction)

Proviso
A term or condition in a contract or title document, which sometimes begins with the phrase "provided that" followed by a condition or requirement of the agreement.

Provocation
The act of inciting another person to do a particular thing. In a fault divorce, provocation may constitute a defense to the divorce, preventing it from going through. For example, if a wife suing for divorce claims that her husband abandoned her, the husband might defend the suit on the grounds that she provoked the abandonment by driving him out of the house. In criminal law, provocation can be a defense that justifies an acquittal, mitigated sentence, or reduction of conviction to a lesser charge (for instance, from murder to manslaughter).

Proximate Cause
See: direct and proximate cause

Proxy
1) Someone who is authorized to serve in one's place at a meeting, and particularly to cast a vote. 2) The written authority given to someone to act or vote in someone's place. A proxy is commonly given to cast a shareholder's vote at a meeting of shareholders.

Prudent Person Rule
The requirement that a trustee, a city or county treasurer, an investment manager of pension funds, or any fiduciary (a trusted agent) must invest funds with discretion, care, and intelligence. Investments that are generally within the prudent person rule include solid "blue chip" securities, secured loans, federally guaranteed mortgages, treasury certificates, and other conservative investments providing a reasonable return. Some states have statutes that list the types of investments allowable under this rule.

PTO
See: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Public
1) The body politic, or the people of a state, nation, or municipality. 2) Under the authority of the government or belonging and available to the people; not private. It may refer to an entity, agency, or activity. For example, there are both public and private schools, public and private utilities, public and private hospitals, public and private lands, and public and private roads.

Public Administrator
Someone hired by a probate court to administer a deceased person's estate if no relatives or creditors are available to do it. Some states have public administrators who are responsible for temporarily preserving the assets of an estate if there are disputes about specific provisions in the will or about who will be appointed the regular administrator.

Public Benefit Corporation
A public benefit corporation is usually a corporation created by the government that performs a specific function for the benefit of the public, such as a public library or an adult day center. More broadly, a public benefit corporation can mean any corporation created for a charitable purpose, though these are usually called nonprofit or not-for profit corporations if they are not created by the government. Some states (California for example) define any charitable corporation as a public benefit corporation.

Public Charge
A general term for a person who is in economic distress and who must be cared for at public expense.

Public Corporation
1) A corporation whose shares are traded to the general public on a stock exchange. Also known as a publicly held corporation. 2) A corporation created to perform a governmental function, such as a municipal water company or hospital. A public corporation may operate under government control or be financially independent.

Public Defender
A lawyer appointed by the court and paid by the county, state, or federal government to represent clients who are charged with violations of criminal law and are unable to pay for their own defense.

Public Domain
The status of any creative work, invention, or device that is not protected by copyright law. Such items are available for use without permission. Often, works enter the public domain after patent, copyright, or trademark rights have expired or been abandoned.

Public Domain Lands
Land or interest in land owned by the United States and administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the Bureau of Land Management. Compare: public domain

Public Easement
The right of the general public to use certain streets, highways, paths, or airspace, even though the areas are owned by others.

Public Figure
A person of great public interest or familiarity, such as a government official, politician, celebrity, business leader, movie star, or sports hero. Incorrect harmful statements published about a public figure cannot be the basis of a lawsuit for defamation unless there is proof that the writer or publisher intentionally defamed the person with malice (hate).

Public Nuisance
An activity or thing that affects the health, safety, or morals of a community. It is distinguished from a private nuisance, which harms only a neighbor or a few individuals. For example, a factory that spews out clouds of noxious fumes is a public nuisance, but playing drums at three in the morning is a private nuisance bothering only the immediate neighbors.

Public Property
Property owned by the government or one of its agencies, divisions, or entities. Commonly a reference to parks, playgrounds, streets, sidewalks, schools, libraries, and other property regularly used by the general public.

Public Record
Any information, minutes, files, accounts, or other records which a governmental body is required to maintain, and which must be accessible to scrutiny by the public.

Public Trust Doctrine
The principle that certain natural and cultural resources are preserved for public use, and that the government owns and must protect and maintain these resources for the public's use. For example, under this doctrine, the government holds title to all submerged land under navigable waters. Thus, any use or sale of such land must be in the public interest.

Public Use
The right of the public to use property taken by the government through the exercise of its power of eminent domain. Any property taken by eminent domain must be for a public use. Some jurisdictions define public use broadly to mean a public benefit, while other jurisdictions limit its meaning to only actual use by the public.

Public Utility
Any organization which provides services to the general public, although it may be privately owned. Public utilities include electric, gas, telephone, water, and television cable systems, as well as streetcar and bus lines. Public utilities are allowed certain monopoly rights because of the practical need to service entire geographic areas with one system, but they are regulated by state, county, and city public utility commissions under state laws.

Publication
1) Information conveyed or made generally known to the public regardless of the media or method of communication. 2) A method of providing legal notice, usually by means of an approved newspaper in the appropriate county or district. 3) In defamation (libel and slander), the communication of an untrue statement to anyone other than the victim of the falsehood. 4) In copyright law, the act of making copies of a work available to the public on an unrestricted basis. (See also: published work)

Publish
See: publication

Published Work
When copies of a copyrighted work are made available to the public on an unrestricted basis. Both published and unpublished works are entitled to copyright protection, but some of the rules differ. For example, the duration of a copyright in an unpublished work made for an employer (a work made for hire), or an anonymous or pseudonymous work, can last up to 25 years longer than if the work were published.

Puffery
See: puffing

Puffing
The practice of exaggerating the value of a product, a business, or property for promotional purposes. Sellers are not generally held liable for exaggerations that are considered puffing. But they can be liable for misrepresenting the facts of a product. (See also: fraud)

Punitive Damages
See: exemplary damages

Pur Autre Vie
(per o -tra vee) Legal French meaning "for another's life." It is a phrase used to describe the duration of a property interest. For example, if Bob is given use of the family house for as long as his mother lives, he has possession of the house pur autre vie.

Put Option
An option to sell a particular commodity or security at a certain time for a certain price. Sometimes simply called a "put." Compare: call option

Putative
Commonly believed, supposed, or claimed. For example, a putative father is one believed to be the father unless proved otherwise; a putative marriage is one that is accepted as legal when in reality it was not lawful (for example, due to failure to complete a prior divorce).

Pyramid Scheme
A crooked investment arrangement by which investors, lured by the promise of outsized returns, are paid from money contributed by new investors, not from the profits earned by their investments. (See also: Ponzi scheme)