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SELECT A WORD TO VIEW THE COMPLETE DEFINITION:





said





adj. a reference back to a thing that was previously mentioned or identified, popular in legal documents, as “the said driver drove said automobile in a negligent manner.”






sale





n. transfer of something (and title to it) in return for money (or other thing of value) on terms agreed upon between buyer and seller. The price paid may be based on a posted cost, established by negotiation between seller and buyer, or by auction with potential buyers bidding until the highest bid…






salvage





1) v. to save goods. 2) n. payment to a person or group which saves cargo from a shipwreck.






sanction





n. 1) a financial penalty imposed by a judge on a party or attorney for violation of a court rule, for receiving a special waiver of a rule, or as a fine for contempt of court. If a fine, the sanction may be paid to the court or to the opposing party to compensate the other side for inconvenience or…






satisfaction





n. receiving payment or performance of what is due.






satisfaction of judgment





n. a document signed by a judgment creditor (the party owed the money judgment) stating that the full amount due on the judgment has been paid. The judgment creditor (the party who paid the judgment) is entitled to demand that the judgment creditor (the party to whom the money judgment is owed) sign…






satisfaction of mortgage





n. a document signed by a lender acknowledging that a mortgage has been fully paid. It must be recorded with the County Recorder (or Recorder of Deeds) to clear the title to the real property owned by the person who paid off the debt.






save harmless





v. 1) also called hold harmless, to indemnify (protect) another from harm or cost. 2) to agree to guarantee that any debt, lawsuit or claim which may arise as a result of a contract or contract performance will be paid or taken care of by the party making the guarantee. Example: the seller of a busi…






savings and loan





n. a banking and lending institution, chartered either by a state or the federal government. Savings and loans only make loans secured by real property from deposits, upon which they pay interest slightly higher than that paid by most banks. In the early 1980s savings and loans were “de-regulated,” …






scienter





n. Latin for “having knowledge.” In criminal law, it refers to knowledge by a defendant that his/her acts were illegal or his/her statements were lies and thus fraudulent.






scintilla





n. Latin for “spark.” Scintilla is commonly used in reference to evidence, in the context that there must be a “scintilla of evidence” (at least a faint spark) upon which to base a judgment.






scope of employment





n. actions of an employee which further the business of the employer and are not personal business, which becomes the test as to whether an employer is liable for damages due to such actions under the doctrine of respondeat superior (make the master answer). Example: Dick Deliver drives a truck deli…






scrivener





n. a person who writes a document for another, usually for a fee. If a lawyer merely writes out the terms of a lease or contract exactly as requested by the client, without giving legal advice, then the lawyer is just a scrivener and is probably not responsible for legal errors (unless they were so …






seal





n. a device which creates an impression upon paper or melted wax, used by government agencies, corporations and notaries public to show that the document is validly executed, acknowledged or witnessed, since the seal is unique to the sealer. Corporate seals state the name, date and state of incorpor…






sealed verdict





n. the decision of a jury when there is a delay in announcing the result, such as waiting for the judge, the parties and the attorneys to come back to court. The verdict is kept in a sealed envelope until handed to the judge when court reconvenes.






sealing of records





n. trial records and decisions which a judge orders kept secret. Usually these are the criminal records of under-age offenders which cannot be examined without a special court order or only by those connected with law enforcement. On occasion records in civil trials are sealed on the motion of a par…






search





v. 1) to examine another’s premises (including a vehicle) to look for evidence of criminal activity. It is unconstitutional under the 4th and 14th Amendments for law enforcement officers to conduct a search without a “search warrant” issued by a judge or without facts which give the officer “probabl…






search and seizure





n. examination of a person’s premises (residence, business or vehicle) by law enforcement officers looking for evidence of the commission of a crime, and the taking (seizure and removal) of articles of evidence (such as controlled narcotics, a pistol, counterfeit bills, a blood-soaked blanket). The …






search warrant





n. a written order by a judge which permits a law enforcement officer to search a specific place (eg. 112 Magnolia Avenue, Apartment 3, or a 1991 Pontiac, Texas license number 123ABC) and identifies the persons (if known) and any articles intended to be seized (often specified by type, such as “weap…






second degree murder





n. a non-premeditated killing, resulting from an assault in which death of the victim was a distinct possibility. Second degree murder is different from first degree murder, which is a premeditated, intentional killing or results from a vicious crime such as arson, rape or armed robbery. Exact disti…






secondary boycott





n. an organized refusal to purchase the products of, do business with or perform services for (such as deliver goods) a company which is doing business with another company where the employees are on strike or in a labor dispute. Example: Big Basket Markets are being struck by the Retail Clerks Unio…






secret rebate





n. a kickback of money by a business to a “preferred” customer, not offered to the public or by a subcontractor to a contractor not shown on a job estimate. Both are illegal in most states as unfair business practices and may result in criminal penalties or refusal of a court to enforce a contract (…






secured transaction





n. any loan or credit in which property is pledged as security in the event payment is not made.






securities





n. generic term for shares of stock, bonds and debentures issued by corporations and governments to evidence ownership and terms of payment of dividends or final pay-off. They are called securities because the assets and/or the profits of the corporation or the credit of the government stand as secu…






security deposit





n. a payment required by a landlord from a tenant to cover the expenses of any repairs of damages to the premises greater than normal “wear and tear.” The security deposit must be returned within a short time (varying by states) after the tenant vacates, less the cost of repairing any unusual damage…






security interest





n. generic term for the property rights of a lender or creditor whose right to collect a debt is secured by property.






sedition





n. the federal crime of advocacy of insurrection against the government or support for an enemy of the nation during time of war, by speeches, publications and organization. Sedition usually involves actually conspiring to disrupt the legal operation of the government and is beyond expression of an …






seduction





n. the use of charm, salesmanship, promises, gifts and flattery to induce another person to have sexual intercourse outside marriage, without any use of force or intimidation. At one time seduction was a crime in many states, but if the seducee (usually female) is of the age of consent and is not dr…






seisin





(sees-in) n. an old feudal term for having both possession and title of real property. The word is found in some old deeds, meaning ownership in fee simple (full title to real property).






seized





(seised) n. 1) having ownership, commonly used in wills as “I give all the property of which I die seized as follows:….” 2) having taken possession of evidence for use in a criminal prosecution. 3) having taken property or a person by force.






seizure





n. the taking by law enforcement officers of potential evidence in a criminal case. The constitutional limitations on seizure are the same as for search. Thus, evidence seized without a search warrant or without “probable cause” to believe a crime has been committed and without time to get a search …






self-dealing





n. in the stock market, using secret “inside” information gained by being an official of a corporation (or from such an officer) to buy or sell stock (or real property wanted by the corporation) before the information becomes public (like a merger, poor profit report, striking oil). Self-dealing can…






self-defense





n. the use of reasonable force to protect oneself or members of the family from bodily harm from the attack of an aggressor, if the defender has reason to believe he/she/they is/are in danger. Self-defense is a common defense by a person accused of assault, battery or homicide. The force used in sel…






self-executing





adj. immediately effective without further action, legislation or legal steps. Some statutes are self-executing, as are some legal rights (such as when a person holds property as security and title passes automatically when payments are not made). Most judgments in lawsuits are not self-executing an…






self-help





n. 1) obtaining relief or enforcing one’s rights without resorting to legal action, such as repossessing a car when payments have not been made, retrieving borrowed or stolen goods, demanding and receiving payment or abating a nuisance (such as digging a ditch to divert flooding from another’s prope…






self-incrimination





n. making statements or producing evidence which tends to prove that one is guilty of a crime. The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that one cannot “be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself…” and the 14th Amendment applies that guarantee to state cases. Thus…






self-serving





adj. referring to a question asked of a party to a lawsuit or a statement by that person that serves no purpose and provides no evidence, but only argues or reinforces the legal position of that party. Example: Question asked by a lawyer of his own client: “Are you the sort of person who would never…






sell





v. to transfer possession and ownership of goods or other property for money or something of equivalent value.






seller





n. one who sells goods or other property to a buyer (purchaser).






senior lien





n. the first security interest (lien or claim) placed upon property at a time before other liens, which are called “junior” liens.






sentence





1) n. the punishment given to a person convicted of a crime. A sentence is ordered by the judge, based on the verdict of the jury (or the judge’s decision if there is no jury) within the possible punishments set by state law (or federal law in convictions for a federal crime). Popularly, “sentence” …






separate property





n. in community property states (California, Texas, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington), the property owned by one spouse which he/she acquired: a) before marriage, b) by inheritance, c) as a gift, d) assets traceable to other separate property such as money received from s…






separation





n. married persons living apart, either informally by one leaving the home or agreeing to “separate” while sharing a residence without sexual relations, or formally by obtaining a “legal separation” or negotiating a “separation agreement” setting out the terms of separate living.






separation agreement





n. an agreement between two married people who have agreed to live apart for an unspecified period of time, perhaps forever. The agreement generally covers any alimony (money paid for spousal support), child support, custody arrangements if there are children, payment of bills and management of sepa…






sequester





v. to keep separate or apart. In so-called “high-profile” criminal prosecutions (involving major crimes, events or persons given wide publicity) the jury is sometimes “sequestered” in a hotel without access to news media, the general public or their families except under supervision, in order to pre…






sequestration





n. the act of a judge issuing an order that a jury or witness be sequestered (kept apart from outside contacts during trial).






seriatim





(sear-ee-ah-tim) prep. Latin for “one after another” as in a series. Thus, issues or facts are discussed seriatim (or “ad seriatim”), meaning one by one in order.






servant





n. an employee of an employer, technically one who works for a master. A servant is distinguished from an “independent contractor” who operates his/her own business even though spending much time on the work of a particular person or entity. The servant has established hours or piece work, is under …






service





n. 1) paid work by another person, either by contract or as an employee. “Personal services” is work that is either unique (such as an artist or actor) or based on a person’s particular relationship to employer (such as a butler, nanny, traveling companion or live-in health care giver). 2) the domes…






service by FAX





n. delivery of legal documents required by statute to be “served” by transmitting through telecopier phone (FAX), followed by mailing an original (“hard copy”). Increasingly, the courts recognize this as legitimate service since it is instantaneous.






service by mail





n. mailing legal pleadings to opposing attorneys or parties, while filing the original with the court clerk with a declaration stating that the copy was mailed to a particular person at a specific address. Once a party has responded by filing an answer, subsequent pleadings (except orders to show ca…






service by publication





n. serving a summons or other legal document in a lawsuit on a defendant by publishing the document in an advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation. Service by publication is used to give “constructive notice” to a defendant who is intentionally absent, in hiding, unknown (as a possible de…






service of process





n. the delivery of copies of legal documents such as summons, complaint, subpena, order to show cause (order to appear and argue against a proposed order), writs, notice to quit the premises and certain other documents, usually by personal delivery to the defendant or other person to whom the docume…






services





n. work performed for pay.






servient estate





n. real property which has an easement or other use imposed upon it in favor of another property (called the “dominant estate”), such as right of way or use for access to an adjoining property or utility lines. The property giving usage is the servient estate, and the property holding usage of the e…






session





n. 1) a meeting (or “sitting”) of a court for a particular period of time. “Session” technically means one day’s business (as in “today’s session”). 2) the term of an appeals court covering several months (as in the “Spring Term” or the “October Term”).






set





v. to schedule, as to “set a case for trial.”






set aside





v. to annul or negate a court order or judgment by another court order. Example: a court dismisses a complaint believing the case had been settled. Upon being informed by a lawyer’s motion that the lawsuit was not settled, the judge will issue an order to “set aside” the original dismissal.






setoff





(offset) n. a claim by a defendant in a lawsuit that the plaintiff (party filing the original suit) owes the defendant money which should be subtracted from the amount of damages claimed by plaintiff. By claiming a setoff the defendant does not necessarily deny the plaintiff’s original demand, but h…






setting





n. the action of a court, clerk or commissioner in scheduling a trial or hearing.






settle





v. to resolve a lawsuit without a final court judgment by negotiation between the parties, usually with the assistance of attorneys and/or insurance adjusters, and sometimes prodding by a judge. Most legal disputes are settled prior to trial.






settlement





n. the resolution of a lawsuit (or of a legal dispute prior to filing a complaint or petition) without going forward to a final court judgment. Most settlements are achieved by negotiation in which the attorneys (and sometimes an insurance adjuster with authority to pay a settlement amount on behalf…






settlor





n. the person who creates a trust by a written trust declaration, called a “Trustor” in many (particularly western) states and sometimes referred to as the “Donor.” The settlor usually transfers the original assets into the trust.






severable contract





n. an agreement which is made up of several separate contracts between the same parties, such as series of sales, shipments or different pieces of equipment. Therefore, breach of one of the separate (severable) contracts is not a breach of the remainder of the overall contract and is not an excuse f…






several liability





n. referring to responsibility of one party for the entire debt (as in “joint and several”) or judgment when those who jointly agreed to pay the debt or are jointly ordered to pay a judgment do not do so. A person who is stuck with “several liability” because the others do not pay their part may sue…






severance





n. 1) a separating by court order, such as separate trials for criminal defendants who were charged with the same crime, or trying the negligence aspect of a lawsuit before a trial on the damages. Such division of issues in a trial is sometimes also called “bifurcation.” Severance is granted when a …






sex offender





n. generic term for all persons convicted of crimes involving sex, including rape, molestation, sexual harassment and pornography production or distribution. In most states convicted sex offenders are supposed to report to local police authorities, but many do not.






sexual harassment





n. unwanted sexual approaches (including touching, feeling, groping) and/or repeated unpleasant, degrading and/or sexist remarks directed toward an employee with the implied suggestion that the target’s employment status, promotion or favorable treatment depend upon a positive response and/or “coope…






shall





v. 1) an imperative command as in “you shall not kill.” 2) in some statutes, “shall” is a direction but does not mean mandatory, depending on the context.






share





n. 1) a portion of a benefit from a trust, estate, claim or business usually in equal division (or a specifically stated fraction) with others (“to my three daughters, in equal shares”). 2) a portion of ownership interest in a corporation, represented by a stock certificate stating the number of sha…






share and share alike





adj. referring to the equal division of a benefit from an estate, trust or gift, which includes the right of the survivors to divide the portion of any beneficiary who dies before receiving the gift. Example: Teal Testator wills her 2,000 shares of IBM stock “to my four nephews, Matthew, Mark, Luke …






shareholder





n. the owner of one or more shares of stock in a corporation, commonly also called a “stockholder.” The benefits of being a shareholder include receiving dividends for each share as determined by the board of directors, the right to vote (except for certain preferred shares) for members of the board…






shareholders’ agreement





n. an employment agreement among the shareholders of a small corporation permitting a shareholder to take a management position with the corporation without any claim of conflict of interest or self-dealing against the shareholder/manager. Such agreements are common when there are only three or four…






shareholders’ derivative action





n. a lawsuit by a corporation’s shareholders, theoretically on behalf of the corporation, to protect and benefit all shareholders against the corporation for improper management.






shareholders’ meeting





n. a meeting, usually annual, of all shareholders of a corporation (although in large corporations only a small percentage attend) to elect the board of directors and hear reports on the company’s business situation. In larger corporations top management people hold the proxies signed over to them b…






sharp practice





n. actions by a lawyer using misleading statements to opposing counsel or the court, denial of oral stipulations (agreements between attorneys) previously made, threats, improper use of process or tricky and/or dishonorable means barely within the law. A consistent pattern of sharp practice may lead…






Shepardize





n. a method of locating reports of appeals decisions based on prior precedents from Shepard’s Citations, books which list the volume and page number of published reports of every appeals court decision which cites a previously decided case or a statute. Shepard’s exists for all sets of reports of ap…






sheriff





n. the top law enforcement officer for a county, usually elected and responsible for police protection outside of incorporated cities, management of the county jail, providing bailiffs for protection of the courts, and such civil activities as serving summonses, subpenas and writs, conducting judgme…






sheriff’s sale





n. an auction sale of property held by the sheriff pursuant to a writ (court order) of execution (to seize and sell the property) to satisfy (pay) a judgment, after notice to the public.






shield laws





n. statutes enacted in some states which declare that communications between news reporters and informants are confidential and privileged and thus cannot be testified to in court. This is similar to the doctor-patient, lawyer-client or priest-parishioner privilege. The concept is to allow a journal…






shifting the burden of proof





n. the result of the plaintiff in a lawsuit meeting its burden of proof in the case, in effect placing the burden with the defendant, at which time it presents a defense. There may be shifts of burden of proof on specific factual issues during a trial, which may impact the opposing parties and their…






short cause





n. a lawsuit which is estimated by the parties (usually their attorneys) and the trial setting judge to take no more than one day. Thus, a short cause may be called on the “short cause” calendar and get priority on the calendar since it can be fitted into the court’s schedule and will not tie up a c…






shortening time





n. an order of the court in response to the motion of a party to a lawsuit which allows setting a motion or other legal matter at a time shorter than provided by law or court rules. Shortening time is usually granted when the time for trial or some other court action is approaching and a hearing mus…






show cause order





n. an order of the court, also called an order to show cause or OSC, directing a party to a lawsuit to appear on a certain date to show cause why the judge should not issue a specific order or make a certain finding. Examples: an order to a husband directing that he show cause why the wife in a divo…






sidebar





n. 1) physically, an area in front of or next to the judge’s bench (the raised desk in front of the judge) away from the witness stand and the jury box, where lawyers are called to speak confidentially with the judge out of earshot of the jury. 2) a discussion between the judge and attorneys at the …






sign





v. 1) to write one’s signature on a document, including an “X” by an illiterate or physically impaired person, provided the mark is properly witnessed in writing as “Eddie Jones, his mark.” An attorney-in-fact given authority to act for another person by a power of attorney may sign for the one givi…






silent partner





n. a non-legal term for an investor who puts money into a business, takes no part in management and is often unknown to customers. A “limited partner,” who is prohibited from taking part in management and has no liability for debts beyond his/her investment, is a true silent partner. However, withou…






similarly situated





adj. with the same problems and circumstances, referring to the people represented by a plaintiff in a “class action,” brought for the benefit of the party filing the suit as well as all those “similarly situated.” To be similarly situated, the defendants, basic facts and legal issues must be the sa…






simple trust





n. a trust which requires that all income be distributed each year and not accumulated.






simultaneous death act





n. a statute in effect in most states which provides that if a husband and wife or siblings die in an accident in which they died at the same moment or it cannot be determined who died first, it is presumed that each died before the other for determining inheritance.






sine qua non





(see-nay kwah nahn) prep. Latin for “without which it could not be,” an indispensable action or condition. Example: if Charlie Careless had not left the keys in the ignition, his 10-year-old son could not have started the car and backed it over Polly Playmate. So Charlie’s act was the sine qua non o…






situs





n. Latin for “location,” be it where the crime or accident took place or where the building stands.






slander





n. oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another, which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed. Slander is a civil wrong (tort) and can be the basis for a lawsuit. Damages (payoff for worth) for slander may be limited to actual (special) damages…






small claims court





n. a division of most municipal, city or other lowest local courts which hear cases involving relatively small amounts of money and without a request for court orders like eviction. The highest (jurisdictional) amount that can be considered in small claims court varies by state, but goes as high as …






sodomy





n. anal copulation by a man inserting his penis in the anus either of another man or a woman. If accomplished by force, without consent or with someone incapable of consent, sodomy is a felony in all states in the same way that rape is. Homosexual (male to male) sodomy between consenting adults has …






sole proprietorship





n. a business owned by one person, as distinguished from a partnership or corporation.






solicitation





n. the crime of encouraging or inducing another to commit a crime or join in the commission of a crime. Solicitation may refer to a prostitute’s (or her pimp’s) offer of sexual acts for pay.






solicitor





n. an English attorney who may perform all legal services except appear in court. Under the British system, the litigator or trial attorney takes special training in trial work and is called a “barrister.” Occasionally a solicitor becomes a barrister, which is called “taking the silk.” In the United…






Solicitor General





n. the chief trial attorney in the federal Department of Justice responsible for arguing cases before the Supreme Court and ranking second to the Attorney General in the Department.






solitary confinement





n. the placement of a prisoner in a federal or state prison in a cell away from other prisoners, usually as a form of internal penal discipline, but occasionally to protect the con- vict from other prisoners or to prevent the prisoner from causing trouble. Long-term solitary confinement may be found…






solvency





n. 1) having sufficient funds or other assets to pay debts. 2) having more assets than liabilities (debts). The contrast is “insolvency,” which may be a basis for filing a petition in bankruptcy.






sound mind and memory





n. having an understanding of one’s actions and reasonable knowledge of one’s family, possessions and surroundings. This is a phrase often included in the introductory paragraph of a will in which the testator (writer of the will) declares that he/she is “of sound mind and memory.” The general test …






sounds in





adj. referring to the underlying legal basis for a lawsuit or one of several causes of action in a suit, such as contract or tort (civil wrong). The phrasing might be: “Plaintiff’s first cause of action against Defendant sounds in tort, and his second cause of action sounds in contract.”






speaking demurrer





n. an attempt to introduce evidence during a hearing on a demurrer. A demurrer is a legal opposition to a complaint in a lawsuit (or to an answer), which says, in effect, that even if the factual claims (allegations) are true, there are legal flaws or failures in the lawsuit. Therefore, since the fa…






special





adj. referring to a particular purpose, person or happening. In law these include hearings, proceedings, administrator, master, orders and so forth.






special administrator





n. a person appointed by the court in a probate proceeding (management of the estate of a deceased person) to take charge of the assets and/or investigate the status of the estate and report to the court, usually when there is a dispute between beneficiaries (those who may receive from the estate) a…






special appearance





n. the representation by an attorney of a person in court for: a) only that particular session of the court; b) on behalf of the client’s regular attorney of record; c) as a favor for an unrepresented person; or d) pending a decision as to whether the attorney agrees to handle the person’s case. A s…






special circumstances





n. in criminal cases, particularly homicides, actions of the accused or the situation under which the crime was committed for which state statutes allow or require imposition of a more severe punishment. “Special circumstances” in murder cases may well result in the imposition of the death penalty f…






special damages





n. damages claimed and/or awarded in a lawsuit which were out-of-pocket costs directly as the result of the breach of contract, negligence or other wrongful act by the defendant. Special damages can include medical bills, repairs and replacement of property, loss of wages and other damages which are…






special master





n. a person appointed by the court to carry out an order of the court, such as selling property or mediating child custody cases. A “special” master differs from a “master” in that he/she takes positive action rather than just investigating and reporting to the judge.






special prosecutor





n. an attorney from outside of the government selected by the Attorney General or Congress to investigate and possibly prosecute a federal government official for wrongdoing in office. The theory behind appointing a special prosecutor is that there is a built-in conflict of interest between the Depa…






special verdict





n. the jury’s decisions or findings of fact with the application of the law to those facts left up to the judge, who will then render the final verdict. This type of limited verdict is used when the legal issues to be applied are complex or require difficult computation.






specific bequest





n. the gift in a will of a certain article to a certain person or persons. Example: “I give my diamond engagement ring to my niece, Sophie.”






specific devise





n. the gift in a will of a certain piece of real estate to a certain person or persons. Example: “I leave the Lazy Z Ranch to my brother, David.”






specific finding





n. a decision on a fact made by a jury in its verdict and which the judge has requested the jury to determine as part of its deliberations. Often the judge gives a jury a list of decisions on findings of fact to be made to help the jurors focus on the issues. Example: Findings: Was defendant exceedi…






specific legacy





n. a gift in a will of a certain article or property to a certain person or persons.






specific performance





n. the right of a party to a contract to demand that the defendant (the party who it is claimed breached the contract) be ordered in the judgment to perform the contract. Specific performance may be ordered instead of (or in addition to) a judgment for money if the contract can still be performed an…






speculative damages





n. possible financial loss or expenses claimed by a plaintiff (person filing a lawsuit) which are contingent upon a future occurrence, purely conjectural or highly improbable. Speculative damages should not be awarded, and jury instructions should so state. Examples: a) plaintiff believes that ten y…






speedy trial





n. in criminal prosecutions, the right of a defendant to demand a trial within a short time since to be held in jail without trial is a violation of the “due process” provision of the 5th Amendment (applied to the states by the 14th Amendment). Each state has a statute or constitutional provision li…






spendthrift clause





n. a provision in a trust or will that states that if a prospective beneficiary has pledged to turn over a gift he/she hopes to receive to a third party, the trustee or executor shall not honor such a pledge. The purpose is to prevent a “spendthrift” beneficiary from using a potential gift as securi…






spontaneous exclamation





n. a sudden statement caused by the speaker having seen a surprising, startling or shocking event (such as an accident or a death), or having suffered an injury. Even though the person who made the spontaneous exclamation is not available (such as he/she is dead or missing), a person who heard the e…






spot zoning





n. a provision in a general plan which benefits a single parcel of land by creating a zone for use just for that parcel and different from the surrounding properties in the area. Example: in a residential neighborhood zoned for single-family dwellings with a minimum of 10,000 square feet, the corner…






spousal support





n. payment for support of an ex-spouse (or a spouse while a divorce is pending) ordered by the court. More commonly called alimony, spousal support is the term used in California and a few other states as part of new non-confrontational language (such as “dissolution” instead of “divorce”) now used …






springing interest





n. a future right to title to real property created by a deed or will. Example: “I give title to my daughter Mabel for her lifetime, and, on her death, title to my grandson Rex.” Rex has a springing interest in the property.






stakeholder





n. a person having in his/her possession (holding) money or property in which he/she has no interest, right or title, awaiting the outcome of a dispute between two or more claimants to the money or property. The stakeholder has a duty to deliver to the owner or owners the money or assets once the ri…






standard of care





n. the watchfulness, attention, caution and prudence that a reasonable person in the circumstances would exercise. If a person’s actions do not meet this standard of care, then his/her acts fail to meet the duty of care which all people (supposedly) have toward others. Failure to meet the standard i…






standing





n. the right to file a lawsuit or file a petition under the circumstances. A plaintiff will have standing to sue in federal court if a) there is an actual controversy, b) a federal statute gives the federal court jurisdiction, and c) the parties are residents of different states or otherwise fit the…






star chamber proceedings





n. any judicial or quasi-judicial action, trial or hearing which so grossly violates standards of “due process” that a party appearing in the proceedings (hearing or trial) is denied a fair hearing. The term comes from a large room with a ceiling decorated with stars in which secret hearings of the …






stare decisis





: (stah-ree duh-sigh-sis) n. Latin for “to stand by a decision,” the doctrine that a trial court is bound by appellate court decisions (precedents) on a legal question which is raised in the lower court. Reliance on such precedents is required of trial courts until such time as an appellate court ch…






state





n. 1) the federal or state government and any of its departments, agencies or components (such as a city, county or board). 2) any of the 50 states comprising the United States. 3) a nation’s government.






state action





n. in federal Civil Rights Acts, dating back to 1875, any activity by the government of a state, any of its components or employees (like a sheriff) who uses the “color of law” (claim of legal right) to violate an individual’s civil rights. Such “state action” gives the person whose rights have been…






state of domicile





n. the state in which a person has his/her permanent residence or intends to make his/her residence, as compared to where the person is living temporarily. Domicile depends on intent, location of a home where a person regularly sleeps and some conduct. A corporation’s state of domicile is the state …






status conference





n. a pre-trial meeting of attorneys before a judge required under federal Rules of Procedure and in many states required to inform the court as to how the case is proceeding, what discovery has been conducted (depositions, interrogatories, production of documents), any settlement negotiations, proba…






statute





n. a federal or state written law enacted by the Congress or state legislature, respectively. Local statutes or laws are usually called “ordinances.” Regulations, rulings, opinions, executive orders and proclamations are not statutes.






statute of frauds





n. law in every state which requires that certain documents be in writing, such as real property titles and transfers (conveyances), leases for more than a year, wills and some types of contracts. The original statute was enacted in England in 1677 to prevent fraudulent title claims.






statute of limitations





n. a law which sets the maximum period which one can wait before filing a lawsuit, depending on the type of case or claim. The periods vary by state. Federal statutes set the limitations for suits filed in federal courts. If the lawsuit or claim is not filed before the statutory deadline, the right …






statutory offer of settlement





n. a written offer of a specific sum of money made by a defendant to a plaintiff, which will settle the lawsuit if accepted within a short time. The offer may be filed with the court, and if the eventual judgment for the plaintiff is less than the offer, the plaintiff will not be able to claim the c…






statutory rape





n. sexual intercourse with a female below the legal age of consent but above the age of a child, even if the female gave her consent, did not resist and/or mutually participated. In all but three states the age of consent is 18, and the age above which the female is no longer a child varies, althoug…






stay





n. a court-ordered short-term delay in judicial proceedings to give a losing defendant time to arrange for payment of the judgment or move out of the premises in an unlawful detainer case.






stay away order





n. a court order that a person may not come near and/or contact another.






stay of execution





n. a court-ordered delay in inflicting the death penalty.






stipulation





n. an agreement, usually on a procedural matter, between the attorneys for the two sides in a legal action. Some stipulations are oral, but the courts often require that the stipulation be put in writing, signed and filed with the court.






stock





1) n. inventory (goods) of a business meant for sale (as distinguished from equipment and facilities). 2) share in the ownership of a corporation (called “shares of stock” or simply “shares”). 3) cattle. 4) v. to keep goods ready for sale in a business.






stock certificate





n. printed document which states the name, incorporation state, date of incorporation, the registered number of the certificate, the number of shares of stock in a corporation the certificate represents, the name of the shareholder, the date of issuance and the number of shares authorized in the par…






stock in trade





n. the inventory of merchandise held for sale.






stock option





n. the right to purchase stock in the future at a price set at the time the option is granted (by sale or as compensation by the corporation). To actually obtain the shares of stock the owner of the option must “exercise” the option by paying the agreed upon price and requesting issuance of the shar…






stockholder





n. shareholder in a corporation.








stop and frisk





n. a law enforcement officer’s search for a weapon confined to a suspect’s outer clothing when either a bulge in the clothing or the outline of the weapon is visible. The search is commonly called a “pat down,” and any further search requires either a search warrant or “probable cause” to believe th…






straw man





n. 1) a person to whom title to property or a business interest is transferred for the sole purpose of concealing the true owner and/or the business machinations of the parties. Thus, the straw man has no real interest or participation but is merely a passive stand-in for a real participant who secr…






street





n. a roadway in an urban area, owned and maintained by the municipality for public use. A private road cannot be a street.






strict construction





(narrow construction) n. interpreting the Constitution based on a literal and narrow definition of the language without reference to the differences in conditions when the Constitution was written and modern conditions, inventions and societal changes. By contrast “broad construction” looks to what …






strict liability





n. automatic responsibility (without having to prove negligence) for damages due to possession and/or use of equipment, materials or possessions which are inherently dangerous, such as explosives, wild animals, poisonous snakes or assault weapons. This is analogous to the doctrine of res ipsa loquit…






strike





1) v. to remove a statement from the record of the court proceedings by order of the judge due to impropriety of a question, answer or comment to which there has been an objection. Often after a judge has stricken some comment or testimony (an answer made before an objection has stopped the witness)…






structure





n. anything built by man/woman, from a shed to a highrise or a bridge.






sua sponte





: (sooh-uh spahn-tay) adj. Latin for “of one’s own will,” meaning on one’s own volition, usually referring to a judge’s order made without a request by any party to the case. These include an order transferring a case to another judge due to a conflict of interest or the judge’s determination that h…






subchapter S corporation





n. the choice by a small corporation to be treated under “subchapter S” by the Internal Revenue Service, which allows the corporation to be treated like a partnership for taxation purposes. This may provide the benefit of passing losses (particularly in the early development of the business) to the …






subcontractor





n. a person or business which has a contract (as an “independent contractor” and not an employee) with a contractor to provide some portion of the work or services on a project which the contractor has agreed to perform. In building construction, subcontractors may include such trades as plumbing, e…






subject to





adj. referring to the acquisition of title to real property upon which there is an existing mortgage or deed of trust when the new owner agrees to take title with the responsibility to continue to make the payments on the promissory note secured by the mortgage or deed of trust. Thus, the new owner …






sublease





n. the lease to another of all or a portion of premises by a tenant who has leased the premises from the owner. A sublease may be prohibited by the original lease, or require written permission from the owner. In any event, the original tenant (lessee) is still responsible for paying the rent to the…






submitted





n. the conclusion of all evidence and argument in a hearing or trial, leaving the decision in the hands of the judge. Typically the judge will ask the attorneys after final arguments: “Is it submitted?” If so, no further argument is permitted.






subordination





n. allowing a debt or claim which has priority to take second position behind another debt, particularly a new loan. A property owner with a loan secured by the property who applies for another loan to make additions or repairs usually must get a subordination of the original loan so the new obligat…






subordination agreement





n. a written contract in which a lender who has secured a loan by a mortgage or deed of trust agrees with the property owner to subordinate the first loan to a new loan (thus giving the new loan priority in any foreclosure or payoff). The agreement must be acknowledged by a notary so it can be recor…






subornation of perjury





n. the crime of encouraging, inducing or assisting another in the commission of perjury, which is knowingly telling an untruth under oath. Example: lawyer Frank Foghorn is interviewing a witness in an accident case who tells Foghorn that Foghorn’s client was jaywalking outside the crosswalk when str…






subpena





(subpoena): (suh-pea-nah) n. an order of the court for a witness to appear at a particular time and place to testify and/or produce documents in the control of the witness (if a “subpena duces tecum”). A subpena is used to obtain testimony from a witness at both depositions (testimony under oath tak…






subpena duces tecum





: (suh-pea-nah dooh-chess-take-uhm or dooh-kess-take-uhm): a court order requiring a witness to bring documents in the possession or under the control of the witness to a certain place at a certain time. This subpena must be served personally on the person subpenaed. It is the common way to obtain p…






subpoena





n. the original spelling of subpena, still commonly used.






subrogation





n. assuming the legal rights of a person for whom expenses or a debt has been paid. Typically, subrogation occurs when an insurance company which pays its insured client for injuries and losses then sues the party which the injured person contends caused the damages to him/her. Example: Fred Farmer …






subrogee





n. the person or entity that assumes the legal right to attempt to collect a claim of another (subrogor) in return for paying the other’s expenses or debts which the other claims against a third party. A subrogee is usually the insurance company which has insured the party whose expenses were paid. …






subrogor





n. a person or entity that transfers his/her/its legal right to collect a claim to another (subrogee) in return for payment of the subrogor’s expenses or debts which he/she/it claims. Thus, a person injured in an accident (subrogor) is paid by his/her/its own insurance company (subrogee) for the dam…






subscribe





v. 1) to sign at the end of a document. The courts have been flexible in recognizing signatures elsewhere on a contract or will, on the theory that a document should be found valid if possible. 2) to order and agree to pay for an issue of stock, bonds, limited partnership interest, investment or per…






substantial performance





n. in the law of contracts, fulfillment of the obligations agreed to in a contract, with only slight variances from the exact terms and/or unimportant omissions or minor defects. A simple test is whether the omission, variance or defect can be easily compensated for with money. Examples: a) the cont…






substantive law





n. law which establishes principles and creates and defines rights limitations under which society is governed, as differentiated from “procedural law,” which sets the rules and methods employed to obtain one’s rights and, in particular, how the courts are conducted.






substitute in





v. to take over a case from another lawyer, which must be confirmed by a written statement filed with the court.






substituted service





n. accomplishing service (delivery) of legal documents required to be served personally by leaving the documents with an adult resident of the home of the person to be served, with an employee with management duties at the office of an individual, with such an employee at corporate headquarters, wit…






substitution





n. putting one person in place of another, in particular replacement of the attorney of record in a lawsuit with another attorney (or the party acting in propria persona).






substitution of attorney





n. a document in which the party to a lawsuit states that his/her attorney of record is being substituted for by another attorney or by the party acting for himself/herself (in propria persona). Normally the departing attorney and the replacement attorney will both sign the document, agreeing to the…






succession





n. the statutory rules of inheritance of a dead person’s estate when the property is not given by the terms of a will, also called laws of “descent and distribution.”






successive sentences





n. in criminal law, the imposition of the penalty for each of several crimes, one after the other, as compared to “concurrent sentences” (at the same time). Example: Carl Convict has been found guilty of manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon and armed robbery, for which the maximum sentences ar…






suffering





n. the pain, hurt, inconvenience, embarrassment and/or inability to perform normal activities as a result of injury, usually in the combination “pain and suffering,” for which a person injured by another’s negligence or wrongdoing may recover “general damages” (a money amount not based on specific c…






sui generis





(sooh-ee jen-ur-iss) n. Latin for “one of a kind,” unique.






suicide





n. the intentional killing of oneself. Ironically, in most states suicide is a crime, but if successful there is no one to punish. However, attempted suicide can be a punishable crime (seldom charged against one surviving the attempt). “Assisted suicide” is usually treated as a crime, either specifi…






suit





n. generic term for any filing of a complaint (or petition) asking for legal redress by judicial action, often called a “lawsuit.” In common parlance a suit asking for a court order for action rather than a money judgment is often called a “petition,” but technically it is a “suit in equity.”






sum certain





n. a specific amount stated in a contract or negotiable instrument (like a promissory note) at the time the document is written. A sum certain does not require future calculation or the awaiting of future happenings. Example: “Wanda Williams will pay Wilma Jackson $10,000 for redecorating her house,…






summary adjudication of issues





n. a court order ruling that certain factual issues are already determined prior to trial. This summary adjudication is based upon a motion by one of the parties contending that these issues are settled and need not be tried. The motion is supported by declarations under oath, excerpts from depositi…






summary judgment





n. a court order ruling that no factual issues remain to be tried and therefore a cause of action or all causes of action in a complaint can be decided upon certain facts without trial. A summary judgment is based upon a motion by one of the parties that contends that all necessary factual issues ar…






summation





n. the final argument of an attorney at the close of a trial in which he/she attempts to convince the judge and/or jury of the virtues of the client’s case.






summons





n. a document issued by the court at the time a lawsuit is filed, stating the name of both plaintiff and defendant, the title and file number of the case, the court and its address, the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney, and instructions as to the need to file a response to the complaint …






Superior Court





n. the name used in 16 states for the basic county trial court.






supersedeas





(sooh-purr-said-ee-uhs) Latin for “you shall desist,” an order (writ) by an appeals court commanding a lower court not to enforce or proceed with a judgment or sentence pending the decision on the appeal or until further order of the appeals court.






superseding cause





n. the same as an “intervening cause” or “supervening cause,” which is an event which occurs after the initial act leading to an accident and substantially causes the accident. The superseding cause relieves from responsibility (liability) the party whose act started the series of events which led t…






supplemental





adj. referring to anything that is added to complete something, particularly a document, such as a supplemental declaration, supplemental complaint, supplemental answer, supplemental claim.






suppression of evidence





n. 1) a judge’s determination not to allow evidence to be admitted in a criminal trial because it was illegally obtained or was discovered due to an illegal search. 2) the improper hiding of evidence by a prosecutor who is constitutionally required to reveal to the defense all evidence. Such suppres…






supra





(sooh-prah) Latin for “above,” in legal briefs and decisions it refers to the citation of a court decision which has been previously mentioned. Thus a case when first cited will be referred to as Guinn v. United States, (1915) 238 U.S. 347, meaning it can be found in volume 238 of the U.S. Reports (…






supremacy clause





n. Article VI, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which reads: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judge…






Supreme Court





n. 1) the highest court in the United States, which has the ultimate power to decide constitutional questions and other appeals based on the jurisdiction granted by the Constitution, including cases based on federal statutes, between citizens of different states, and when the federal government is a…






surcharge





n. an additional charge of money made because it was omitted in the original calculation or as a penalty, such as for being late in making a payment.






surety





n. a guarantor of payment or performance if another fails to pay or perform, such as a bonding company which posts a bond for a guardian, an administrator or a building contractor. Most surety agreements require that a person looking to the surety (asking for payment) must first attempt to collect o…






surplusage





n. a term used in analyzing legal documents and pleadings to refer to wording or statements which have no legal effect and, therefore, can be ignored.






surrebutal





n. in written or oral legal argument, the response to the other party’s response (rebuttal) to the initial argument. In written briefs most courts will not allow more than a single surrebutal. The rule is usually the same for oral argument. However, occasionally the parties joust back and forth unti…






surrender





v. 1) to turn over possession of real property, either voluntarily or upon demand, by tenant to landlord. 2) to give oneself up to law enforcement officials.






surrogate





n. 1) a person acting on behalf of another or a substitute, including a woman who gives birth to a baby of a mother who is unable to carry the child. 2) a judge in some states (notably New York) responsible only for probates, estates and adoptions.






surrogate court





n. a court in a few states (including New York) with jurisdiction over probates, estates and adoptions.






survivor





n. a person who outlives another, as in “to my sons, Arnold and Zeke, or the survivor.” The survivor is determined at the time the asset or property is received, so if both sons are alive they are both survivors.






survivorship





n. the right to receive full title or ownership due to having survived another person. Survivorship is particularly applied to persons owning real property or other assets, such as bank accounts or stocks, in “joint tenancy.” Joint tenancy includes the right of survivorship automatically, except tha…






suspended sentence





n. in criminal law, a penalty applied by a judge to a defendant convicted of a crime which the judge provides will not be enforced (is suspended) if the defendant performs certain services, makes restitution to persons harmed, stays out of trouble or meets other conditions. Should the sentenced part…






sustain





v. in trial practice, for a judge to agree that an attorney’s objection, such as to a question, is valid. Thus, an attorney asks a witness a question, and the opposing lawyer objects, saying the question is “irrelevant, immaterial and incompetent,” “leading,” “argumentative,” or some other objection…






swear





v. 1) to declare under oath that one will tell the truth (sometimes “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”). Failure to tell the truth and do so knowingly is the crime of perjury. 2) to administer an oath to a witness that he/she will tell the truth, which is done by a notary public,…






swindle





v. to cheat through trick, device, false statements or other fraudulent methods with the intent to acquire money or property from another to which the swindler is not entitled. Swindling is a crime as one form of theft.






syndicate





n. a joint venture among individuals and/or corporations to accomplish a particular business objective, such as the purchase, development and sale of a tract of real property, followed by division of the profits. A joint venture, and thus a syndicate, is much like a partnership, but has a specific o…


































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