V

Vacant Succession
Succession that occurs when there are no known heirs for an estate to pass to. In vacant succession, the estate may escheat to the state.

Vacate
1) For a judge to set aside or nullify an order or judgment that he or she finds was improper. 2) To move out of real estate and cease occupancy.

Vagrancy
The condition, once considered a crime, of being without work or permanent home and dependent on begging/ Until the 1970s police used vagrancy laws to charge (or threaten) "undesirable" persons who might be suspected of criminal activity. Since then courts have struck down vagrancy laws as unconstitutionally vague.(See also: loiter)

Valuable Consideration
See: consideration

Van Orden V. Perry (2005)
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in which the Court held that the U.S. Constitution did not bar the state of Texas from having a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of its state capitol building.

Variable Annuity
An annuity that makes payments that vary in amount, depending on the performance of the investments made by the annuity company. Compare: fixed annuity

Variable Life Insurance
A type of whole life insurance in which the amount of death benefits varies, depending on the performance of investments. The insurance company places some or all of the fixed premium payments into an investment account; some companies let the insured person decide how the money is invested. The policyholder bears the risk of investment losses, though there is a guaranteed minimum benefit payment. One benefit of variable insurance is that interest and dividend income from the investment account is not taxed until it is paid out to the policyholder.

Variable Universal Life Insurance
A type of whole life insurance that provides greater potential for financial gain -- and brings greater risks. Like universal life insurance, variable universal life insurance offers flexible premiums, payment schedules, and benefits. But variable universal life policies are riskier because the premiums are invested in stocks, rather than more predictable money market accounts and bonds. Also called universal variable life insurance.

Variance
1) An exception to a zoning ordinance, usually granted by a local government. For example, if you own an oddly shaped lot that could not accommodate a house in accordance with your city's setback requirement, you could apply at the appropriate office (usually the zoning or planning department) for a variance allowing you to build closer to a boundary line. 2) In criminal cases, a discrepancy between what is alleged in the charges and what the prosecution produces as proof. If the judge or jury has nevertheless convicted the defendant, an appellate court may find that the discrepancy is a "fatal variance," requiring reversal. 3) In civil cases, the disparity between the plaintiff's claims (or allegations) and the proof that the plaintiff has produced. Modern pleading rules allow plaintiffs to amend their claims even during trial, to conform with the evidence they produce.

Vehicular Manslaughter
A violation of traffic laws that results in a fatality. Vehicular manslaughter can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. Drunk driving resulting in a death is most likely treated as a felony. The death of a passenger, including a loved one or friend, can also be vehicular manslaughter. (See also: manslaughter, reckless driving)

Vendee
A buyer of goods, services, or something for sale.

Vendor
A seller of goods, services, or something for sale.

Venire
See: jury panel

Veniremen
People who are summoned to the courthouse so that they may be questioned and perhaps chosen as jurors for civil or criminal trials.

Venue
The appropriate location(s), according to law and court rules, for a trial. In a criminal case, the proper venue is generally the judicial district or county where the crime was committed. In civil cases, venue is generally proper in the county or district where important events related to the case took place, such as the signing or performance of a contract or the accident or other incident that led to a personal injury case. Typically, the plaintiff in a civil case may also sue in the district or county where the defendant lives or does business.

Verdict
A jury's decision after a trial, which becomes final when accepted by the judge. (See also: directed verdict, special verdict)

Verification
A formal declaration under oath or upon penalty of perjury that a document or pleading is true.

Vertical Privity
A legal relationship in corporate law that exists between companies in the chain of distribution of a product. This relationship creates responsibilities between the companies involved, including being liable for defects in the product. For example, vertical privity exists between the manufacturer of a car and the dealership that sells it. Therefore, both the dealer and the manufacturer are liable for defects in cars sold by the dealership.

Vest
To give unconditional right to title or ownership. (See also: vested)

Vested
An unconditional right or title. For example, if an employee must work for ten years before his pension becomes vested, then after ten years of employment he has unconditional right to that pension. During the ten years prior, his right to the pension was unvested.

Vested Ownership
Complete, unconditional ownership. Compare: conditional ownership

Vested Remainder
An unconditional right to receive property at some point in the future. A vested interest may be created by a deed or a will. For example, if Julie leaves her house in a life estate to her husband and then to her daughter when her husband dies, the daughter has a vested remainder in the house.

Vexatious Litigation
A lawsuit that is filed when there is no legal basis, and with the purpose to bother, annoy, embarrass, and cause legal expenses to the defendant. Vexatious litigation also includes continuing a lawsuit after discovery of the facts shows it has absolutely no merit. Vexatious litigation may lead to a legal claim of malicious prosecution against the vexatious litigant. Most states allow a judge to penalize plaintiffs and attorneys for filing or continuing a frivolous legal action. (See also: frivolous)

Vicarious Liability
Responsibility for a civil wrong that a supervisor bears when a subordinate or associate has actually committed the acts that give rise to the liability. For example, the owner of a residential rental may be vicariously liable if the manager discriminates against tenants on the basis of their religion.

View Ordinance
A local law designed to protect property owners who have desirable (and valuable) views. Typically, these ordinances allow property owners to insist on the trimming of trees that have grown and now block the view, so that the original view is restored, The property owner must pay for the trimming. View ordinances generally don't cover buildings or other structures that block views.

Vigilante
Someone who takes the law into his or her own hands by seizing someone and attempting to convict and punish the supposed criminal.

Village Of Euclid V. Amber Realty (1926)
A U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that zoning ordinances are a legitimate exercise of the states' police powers.

Visa
The literal meaning is a stamp placed in a foreign national's passport by an official at a U.S. consulate outside of the United States. All visas allow their holders to enter the United States within a certain period of time. Visas can be designated as either "immigrant visas" or "nonimmigrant visas." Immigrant visas are given to people who have earned U.S. permanent residence or a "green card." Nonimmigrant visas are given to people coming to the U.S. for a temporary stay. However, immigration law also sometimes talks about visas "becoming available," which refers not to the stamp itself, but to instances where a limited number of visas are given out each year, and people who want them must place themselves on a waiting list.

Visa Waiver Program
A program that allows nationals from certain countries to come to the United States without a visa, so long as they're planning on being tourists, and to leave within 90 days. Persons coming to the United States under this program receive green-colored I-94 cards. They are not (except in rare cases) permitted to extend their stay or change their statuses. For example, someone who enters on the visa waiver program cannot then ask to stay on as a student, but would have to leave the U.S. and apply for a student visa.

Visitation Rights
The right to see a child regularly, typically awarded by the court to a parent who does not have primary physical custody of the child.

Viz
"To wit" or "namely." Example: "There were several problems, viz: leaky roof, dangerous electrical system, and broken windows."

Void
Status of a statute, contract, or ruling that is determined to be invalid and unenforceable. (See also: voidable)

Void For Vagueness
A civil or criminal statute that is so unclear or ambiguous that a reasonable person of average intelligence could not determine its meaning or application. A vague criminal statute is unconstitutional on the basis that a defendant could not defend against a charge which could not be understood. (See also: due process of law)

Voidable Contract
A contract that can be canceled because one party has wronged the other; the party who has been wronged may void (cancel) the contract. Even without wrongdoing, a contract may sometimes be voidable at the option of one party. For example, if a minor enters into a contract, the minor may usually choose to affirm or reject the contract upon reaching the age of majority. (Compare: unenforceable contract)

Voir Dire
(vwah-deer) French for "to speak the truth," this is the questioning in court of prospective jurors by a judge or attorneys. The purpose is to determine if any juror is biased or cannot deal with the issues fairly, or if there is cause not to allow a juror to serve (such as knowledge of the facts or acquaintance with the parties or witnesses). When attorneys are allowed to conduct the voir dire, they often try to ask questions that will reveal individuals' personalities and political or cultural persuasions. In cases where the facts are shocking or the evidence is difficult to view, attorneys may also use voir dire as a way to introduce the issues so that the eventual jurors are prepared for what will happen at trial.

Volenti Non Fit Injuria
(voh-len-tI non fit in-joor-ee) Latin for "to a willing person, no injury is done." This doctrine holds that a person who knowingly and willingly puts himself in a dangerous situation cannot sue for any resulting injuries.

Voluntary Bankruptcy
A bankruptcy case filed by the debtor. In contrast, an "involuntary bankruptcy" case is filed by the debtor's creditors.

Voter Bill Of Rights
A set of rules adopted by most states to protect the rights of voters in an election. These rights typically cover who can vote, how the voting process must be conducted, how votes will be counted, and how to resolve complaints about the voting process. You can usually find the voter bill of rights by contacting your Secretary of State's office.

Voting Trust
A trust created to combine the voting power of shareholders. The participating shareholders' shares and their accompanying voting rights are transferred to a trust for a designated period of time. A designated trustee votes to elect a board directors or vote on other important matters at a shareholders' meeting. A voting trust is usually established by current directors to ensure continued control, but occasionally a voting trust represents a person or group trying to gain control of the corporation.