Legal terms defined
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ABSTRACT OF TITLE – A summary of all the successive conveyances (deeds, mortgages, etc) affecting a person’s title to a parcel of property (land).
ACCESS - A privilege which recognizes the right of the child to spend time with an individual such as a parent living with the child.
ACCESS ORDER - a court order that provides for contact between a dependent and the person applying for contact, such as visits, phone calls, emails, mail.
ACCOUNT - the act of proving what one has done to meet one's responsibilities.
ACQUITTAL – Discharge of an accused person upon a verdict of “not guilty”
ACTION – A proceeding or law suit started by writ or notice following the rules of Court.
ACTUS REUS – The act by which an offence is committed. For example, you commit an assault by the act of hitting someone. See also Mens rea.
ADJUDICATION – Deliberation, judgment or decision by the Court. Also, decision-makers in Small Claims Court are called ‘adjudicators’.
ADJOURNMENT - postponement or continuance of a case on another date. For example, if you are accused of a crime and go to court for your first appearance (arraignment) and you have not obtained legal advice about whether to plead guilty or not guilty, you might ask the judge for an adjournment so that you will have time to see a lawyer before entering a plea.
ADMINISTRATOR – person appointed by the Probate Court to manage estate of a person who dies without leaving a Will. Also called ‘personal representative’. Dying without a will is also called dying ‘intestate’.
ADMINISTRATOR WITH WILL ANNEXED – Person appointed by the Probate Court when there is a will but no executor is named in the will or the person named does not want to act as executor
ADVANCEMENT – A gift by the parent to a child of property or assets the child would inherit on the death of the parent. The value of the gift is deducted from the child’s share of the parent’s estate under the Will. The purchase of land by the parent in the name of the child is presumed to be advancement. Money paid out for maintenance or education of a child is not presumed to be an advancement.
AFFIDAVIT – A sworn or affirmed statement in writing.
AFFIDAVIT OF EXECUTION - A statement sworn by a witness about the signing of a document.
AFFIRMATION – A solemn declaration of a person who does not wish to swear an oath.
AFFINITY – A relationship created by a marriage. For example, the in-law relationship created with your spouse’s parents, brothers and sisters.
AID AND ABET – To knowingly assist, encourage or urge someone to commit a crime or tort (civil wrong). For example, if you lend someone your car knowing that they are going to use it in a robbery you may be aiding them. If you suggest and then encourage them to commit the robbery you may be abetting them.
ALLEGATION – A statement of fact made in a legal proceeding, which the person making the allegation intends to prove is true. For example, you are suing X because you allege that he owes you money. In court you will be required to prove your allegation that he owes you money.
APPEAL – To apply to a higher court to correct or change the judgement of a lower court. The person making the appeal is called the appellant, or petitioner, and the opposite party is called the respondent. For example, if you are convicted of a criminal offence in Provincial Court and you think the sentence was too harsh, you can appeal to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
APPEARANCE – To come to court in response to a summons or appearance notice.
APPEARANCE NOTICE – A document issued by a police officer requiring a person accused of an offence to come to court on a certain date. See also Promise to Appear.
ARRAIGNMENT – A court procedure when a person accused of a crime is called before the court and the charges against him or her are read out and, usually, the accused is asked whether he or she pleads guilty or not guilty.
ASSIGN – To transfer property to someone else.
ASSIGNEE – A person or business receiving a transfer of a right or interest of another person or business.
ASSIGNOR – A person or business that assigns a right or interest to another.
ASSAULT – Intentionally using force against another person, or attempting or threatening to use force where the person has the ability to carry out the assault.
ATTEST– In the case of a Will it means that you sign your name as a witness at the same time and in the presence of the person making the will (the testator) and another witness.
ASSETS – Anything of value that you own; property passing under a Will; or property available for paying your debts.
ATTACHMENT – A proceeding where property is seized as the result of a legal proceeding and in order to satisfy judgment from that legal proceeding.
ATTORNEY - The person who receives the authority to act on another's behalf (see also 'Power of attorney'). This person is not necessarily a lawyer.
AUTREFOIS ACQUIT – A plea in a criminal case that the defendant has already been tried and acquitted on the particular offence. Also known as double jeopardy. Once you have been tried and acquitted of an offence and after all the appeals are dealt with, you cannot be tried for that same offence again For example, you are tried for robbing John Doe on June 5, 2008. If you are found not guilty, the police cannot come back a year later and charge you with that same robbery.
BAIL – Money, real property or other assets deposited with a Court to ensure an accused comes to court for trial.
BAILEE – A person to whom personal property is entrusted for a specific purpose. For example, you leave your car at a garage for repair. The garage is the bailee and you are the bailor.
BAILIFF – A person who serves court documents or seizes assets as ordered by a court. A bailiff may be part of the sheriff’s department or may be a private business hired by individuals or creditors.
BAILMENT – A delivery of goods on condition that they be returned.
BAILIWICK – An area over which a bailiff or sheriff’s officer has jurisdiction.
BANKRUPT – a person or business that is insolvent; unable to pay debts. Technically a person is not a bankrupt until a bankruptcy court has judged him or her to be one.
BATTERY – An unlawful touching, beating, or wounding of another person without his or her consent. In Canada, battery is covered under criminal offences dealing with assault, and is also a tort (civil wrong).
BENCH – Usually refers to the judiciary or judges.
BENCH WARRANT – An order issued by a judge that allows police to arrest a person, such as an accused or a witness, who fails to come to court when they have been summoned or subpoenaed.
BENEFICIARY - A person who receives property through a will as an inheritance. The plural is beneficiaries. Also called an heir.
BOND – A written contract under seal where one party agrees to pay a sum of money or to take on personal liability. A type of insurance policy.
BREACH OF CONTRACT – Failing to perform or complete a contract. For example, you sign a contract to buy a house and then refuse to complete the purchase. The vendor can sue you for losses that occur because of your refusal.
BRIEF / LEGAL BRIEF– A succinct printed or typewritten statement of a party’s case including a concise summary of the facts, applicable law on which he or she is basing the case, and arguments. The brief is submitted to the judge(s). The form and content are governed by the rules of the specific Court and any applicable legislation. For example, Nova Scotia's Civil Procedure Rules set out the rules for a brief filed with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
BUILDERS’ LIEN - A statutory charge against real property by those who have contributed material and/or labour to its improvement. Nova Scotia's Builders' Lien Act is the applicable statute. (Also sometimes called mechanics’ lien or construction lien)
BY-LAWS – Rules or “laws” made by a corporation or not-for –profit for its own management; or by municipal government. For example, municipal by-laws set out rules for building and land use, noise, dog control, skateboarding etc.
CAPACITY - To be competent to perform a specific task, such as signing one's own will and understanding the nature of the document. Also see testamentary capacity.
CASE LAW – the body of law that comes from centuries of judges deciding cases rather than laws set out in legislation passed by government. It is also called Common Law.
CAUSE OF ACTION – A flexible term. (1) A set of facts which will cause a court to grant relief, and therefore entitles a person to start and proceed with a lawsuit. (2) The concurrence of a right belonging to one person (the plaintiff), and a wrong committed by another (the defendant), which breaches that right and results in damage to the Plaintiff.
CAVEAT – (1) A formal warning. (2) Notice entered in the Court records to prevent a particular act from being done. For example, that a certain party is to be given notice before a certain action can take place.
CAVEAT EMPTOR – 'Let the buyer beware'. The legal principle means that a buyer of a good or service has a duty to ask, examine, investigate for themselves the item or service they wish to purchase, and that if they fail to do that, they cannot later hold the seller responsible for a problem with the condition of the good or service.
CERTIORARI – (pronounced ser-she-o-ra-re) An order issued by a higher court ordering a lower court to provide the record of some proceedings so that a judicial review can take place to assess the validity of those proceedings.
CHARGE – (1) An accusation of an offence; (2) a duty of obligation imposed on a person (3) a lien or claim on a property
CHATTEL – Moveable property – any property except real estate. For example, a car or furniture.
CIVIL ACTION – An action (law suit) between private citizens or corporations.
CIVIL LAW – Law governing relations between individuals as opposed to criminal law, which governs the relations of the individual to the state (see also CRIMINAL/CIVIL)
CLASS ACTION – A lawsuit initiated or defended by a person on behalf of a large group of people who have been harmed in the same way. For example, where one person sues a drug company on behalf a group do people who have suffered serious side effects from a drug.
CLEAR TITLE – Good title. Ownership of property free from encumbrances such as a mortgages or liens.
CODICIL – A document made by a testator (person who makes a will) adding to or altering his or her Will.
COHABITATION AGREEMENT - A written agreement between a couple who are living or plan to live together, which sets out their rights and responsibilities to one another.
COMMISSIONER OF OATHS - A person who has authority to administer oaths on legal documents.
COLLUSION – A secret agreement between persons for a fraudulent purpose. For example, an agreement between a married couple to lie about the date of separation in order to get a quicker divorce.
COMMON-LAW – That part of our law which is based on court decisions rather than on legislation. It is also called case law.
COMMON-LAW RELATIONSHIP – An agreement by two people to live together in a sexual relationship without a civil or church wedding ceremony. A common law partner is a person in an unregistered live-in relationship with a partner of the same or opposite sex.
CONDITIONAL SALE – A form of credit sale in which ownership of the title to the goods stays with the seller until the full purchase price has been paid, or some other condition has been met.
CONNIVANCE – (1) Guilty knowledge of, or assistance in, a crime. (2) Consent, express or implied, by one spouse to the adultery of the other.
CONSIDERATION – The price paid when you enter into a contract. Usually it is in the form of money but could be for something else of value.
CONSTRUCTION – The interpretation of a statute or written agreement.
CONSTRUCTIVE – Implied by law though not actual in fact. For example, constructive notice, constructive dismissal.
CONTEMPT OF COURT – A wilful disregard to the rules and rulings of a Court. It is punishable by fine or imprisonment.
CONTINUANCE – The adjournment or postponement of a case from one day to another.
CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE – The failure to exercise care by a person, which contributed to the damage he or she suffered. For example, if you are injured in a car accident and were not wearing a seatbelt, you might be found to have contributed to your injuries.
CONVERSION – Exercising right of ownership of another’s property without his or her consent.
CONVEYANCE – A document used to transfer the title of land from one person to another.
COUNT –In criminal law, each part of an indictment which charges a distinct offence.
COVENANT – The formal promise given by one party of an agreement to the other. For example, in an agreement for the sale of property the seller will covenant that he or she has power to convey the property.
CRIME – A violation of the law which is punished by the state (see also: Indictable/Summary).
CRIMINAL-CIVIL – All trials are either criminal or civil. A criminal prosecution is carried out in the name of Her Majesty the Queen (the Crown). Criminal prosecutions are initiated and undertaken by Her Majesty the Queen who is represented by a lawyer in the employ if the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service or the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
A civil proceeding is commenced by an individual who must either represent him or herself or hire a lawyer to represent him or her. The individual bears responsibility for the costs of the proceedings, unless the judge otherwise orders.
In some situations the issue could be dealt with under either the criminal or civil law or both. For example, an accused person is tried and if found guilty of fraud, and will be sentenced under the criminal law. If you are the victim of the fraud, you could also sue the person for fraud in civil court. If successful, the court may order him or her to repay you the money you lost because of the fraud.
CROWN COUNSEL – The public prosecutor. Also, called the Crown attorney or just the 'Crown'. In a criminal trial he or she represents the state and presents the case against the accused. Visit the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service website, or Public Prosecution Service of Canada website, for more information.
DAMAGES – Compensation or indemnity in money for loss suffered as a result of a tort (civil wrong) or breach of contract. For example, a court may award you compensation if you successfully sue someone for damaging your property.
DE FACTO - In fact; actually.
DECREE NISI – A court decision which is at first conditional, but becomes absolute, unless it is successfully appealed within a given time. For example, at the end of a divorce case, the judge issues a decree nisi which becomes absolute after 30 days unless one of the parties appeals.
DEED – A written document which is signed, sealed and delivered. For example, a deed to land.
DEFAMATION – Making a public, false statement about a person which injures his or her good name or reputation or tends to bring him or her into disrepute. Libel and slander are both forms of defamation.
DEFAULT JUDGMENT – Judgment for the plaintiff when the defendant fails to come to court or file an answer within the given time.
DEFENDANT – A person you are suing or starting a legal proceeding against.
DEPOSITION – A statement by a witness under oath or affirmation.
DEVISE – In a Will it is a gift of land or an interest in land.
DIRECT EVIDENCE – Testimony or other proof which proves some fact. For example, testimony from a witness as to who was driving a car at the time of a crash. It is the opposite of circumstantial evidence.
DIRECT EXAMINATION – Questioning of a witness by the lawyer who called him or her to court. It may be followed by cross-examination by the other side’s lawyer.
DISBURSEMENTS – Out of pocket expenses. Money paid out by a law firm or legal office on behalf of a client. Examples are court or witness fees.
DOMICILE – The place where a person has his or her permanent place of residence. It is used in court proceedings to decide which court should handle your case. For example, to get a divorce in Nova Scotia one of the parties must have had domicile in the province for the preceding 12 months.
EASEMENT – A privilege or right which the owner of one piece of real property has in regard to another’s property. For example, a right to use a path over a neighbour’s land.
EMERGENCY PROTECTION ORDER (EPO) – An order that can be made by a Justice of Peace to provide short term protection to a victim of domestic violence in an emergency situation. An EPO may last up to 30 days.
ENCUMBRANCE – A charge or liability attached to property such as a mortgage or lien.
ENTRAPMENT – A defence to a criminal charge where the police or other government body drew the accused into committing the office.
ESCROW – An arrangement whereby a share, contract etc. is delivered to an independent party to hold, pending fulfillment of some requirement by one or both parties to an agreement. For example, a purchaser of a house may issue a cheque for a deposit to the seller’s estate agent. The agent will hold it in escrow until the conditions in the offer to purchase are complete.
EXECUTED – Completed, carried out, signed or performed. For example, ‘it is an executed contract’, or ‘he executed all the promises made in the contract’.
FACTUM – Statement of facts in a case in court. In Canada, a written submission or memorandum of law submitted to a court. It includes a concise statement of facts, a list of issues, arguments, the relief sought, and appendices containing case, statutory, and other citations. For example, Nova Scotia's Civil Procedure Rules have rules about the format and contents of a factum filed with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
FEDERAL-PROVINCIAL – Under the Canadian constitution legislative authority is shared between the federal government and the provincial governments. The British North America Act sets out the authority for each government. For example, only the federal government can pass criminal laws. There is one criminal law for all of Canada. Provincial governments are responsible for the administration of justice. Municipal governments get their power to make by-laws from the provincial government.
FEE SIMPLE – A freehold estate with full ownership (subject to the rights of the Crown).
FIDUCIARY – Someone who has a duty to act for the benefit of someone else. Examples include a trustee and a guardian.
FINDING – The decision of a Court as to a question of fact. .
FIXTURE – Something annexed or attached to property. For example, a kitchen cabinets and wall to wall carpets are usually fixtures.
FORECLOSURE – Legal proceeding by a lender to end a borrower’s right redeem (pay off) a mortgage. In Nova Scotia foreclosure proceedings are governed by the Judicature Act, Civil Procedure Rules and Nova Scotia Supreme Court Practice Memorandum on Foreclosure Proceedings.
GARNISHEE – To attach debts (money) owing to a debtor so that this money can be used to pay the creditor. For example, if you owe money to a business, it can sue you, and if successful in getting a court order, have your wages garnished until the debt is paid off.
GENERAL DAMAGES – Damages which cannot be determined in any specific dollar amount before the trial, for example, damages for 'pain and suffering' for a personal injury that left you partially disabled. See also SPECIAL DAMAGES.
GOODS AND CHATTELS – Personal property that is not land, a house or other real property. Moveable property such as a car or television. See also PERSONAL PROPERTY
GRANTEE – The term used in a deed for land to describe the purchaser.
GRANTOR – The term used in a deed for land to describe seller.
HABEAS CORPUS – A court order (called a writ) directed to a person who holds another in custody to bring that person to the court so that the court can decide whether the custody is legal. The term is Latin for “you have the body”.
HEARSAY EVIDENCE – Statements by a witness, based upon what someone else has told him or her, and not upon what he or she personally saw or heard. Usually such evidence is not allowed in Court.
HOLOGRAPH WILL - A Will entirely handwritten by the testator (person who writes a will), signed by the testator, but not witnessed. Since August 19, 2008 holograph wills are valid in Nova Scotia
IMMEDIATE ISSUE – Children.
IMPEDIMENT – A legal barrier that limits or prevents a person from being able to act. Examples are being a minor or being of unsound mind.
IMPLIED – Suggested or understood without being openly expressed.
IN CAMERA – The hearing of a case in private, either in court or in a judge's 'chamber' (office), where only the parties and their lawyers are present (members of the public/media are excluded).
INADMISSIBLE – That which cannot be accepted or received by the Court. For example, hearsay evidence is not admissible in court in most cases. See also HEARSAY EVIDENCE
INDEMNIFY – To reimburse; to make good a loss.
INDICTABLE/ SUMMARY – All offences in Canadian law are either indictable or summary. We do not use the terms felonies and misdemeanours (those are American terms). Generally, the most serious offences are referred to as indictable, while the less serious offences are referred to as summary. Most summary offences (but not all) carry a maximum of 6 months imprisonment. The maximum penalty for indictable offences usually ranges from 2 years to life imprisonment. Often different procedures for trial are set out in the Criminal Code of Canada for indictable and summary offences.
Different procedures for arrest are set out as well.
INDICTMENT – The formal sworn written accusation that a person has committed an offence
INFANT – A minor; the status of an individual who is under the legal age of majority. In Nova Scotia that is a person under 19 years of age. (See also Minor)
INFORMATION – A formal accusation or complaint, charging someone with breaking the law.
INJUNCTION – A court order requiring a person to do or not to do a particular act. For example, an employer might seek an injunction to stop strikers from obstructing replacement labour.
INSOLVENT – A person who owes money to creditors and who is unable to pay debts as they come due. May also apply to a legal entity, such as an estate or corporation.
INSTRUMENT – A written legal document.
INTENT – Under criminal law it means the accused had purpose and desire to carry out the act at the time the alleged offence was committed. Intent may be presumed, if the necessary and probable results of the act were harmful, and the act was deliberately committed.
INTERLOCUTORY INJUNCTION – A court order made during or leading up to a court case, but not a final decision.
JOINT TENANCY – A type of joint ownership of land. If one owner dies the other automatically inherits the other’s share even if the dead person leaves it to someone else in his or her will. This is the most common form of ownership when a couple purchase a home together. See also TENANCY IN COMMON.
JOINTLY AND SEVERALLY – If two parties are jointly and severally liable for debt, the creditors can collect against either one for the whole of the debt or against each of the two parties for a part of the debt. You will often see the term used in residential leases where there are two or more tenants. If the rent is in arrears, the landlord could sue one or more of the tenants for the amount owing.
JUDGEMENT – The decision of a court in a legal proceeding.
JURISDICTION – the power of a Court to hear and decide a case. For example, one of the limits on the jurisdiction of Small Claims Court is that it can only hear certain civil cases such as cases involving contracts where the amount claimed is under $25,000. It has no power ('jurisdiction') to hear criminal cases.
LEADING QUESTION – A question which suggests to the witness the answer he or she should give. For example, Mr. Jones was angry that night, wasn’t he?
LEASE – An agreement whereby one party, such as a landlord, gives possession of property to the other party, the tenant, for a fixed period of time and subject to conditions - for example, the payment of rent.
LIABILITY – A duty, debt or obligation. For example, debts that you owe. It can also mean responsibility based on your conduct. Examples are if you break a contract or if you are responsible for an accident, you may be liable to pay compensation.
LIBEL – Defamation by printing, writing or other permanent form. See also DEFAMATION.
LIEN – The right to hold or charge the property of another as security for an obligation. For example, a tradesperson who has done work on your property could place a lien on the property if he or she is not paid for the work done. See also BUILDERS' LIEN.
LIMITATION PERIOD – A fixed period of time during which a law suit must be started if it is ever to be heard. The period varies for different types of action. For example, as a general rule you have six years to sue if a person stops payments on a debt. Time periods are set out in the Limitation of Actions Act. In some situations a limitation period may be extended by a court, if appropriate. Also called 'Statute of Limitations'
LIMITED COMPANY – An incorporated company. Always contains the word “Limited” in its name or the abbreviated “Ltd”.
LIQUIDATED DAMAGES – Damages agreed upon in a contract in the event of a breach of that contract.
LITIGATION – A law suit.
MEASURE OF DAMAGE – Various rules for the determination of the sum of money which will fairly compensate someone for personal injury, or because of loss caused by a breach of contract.
MECHANICS’ LIEN– see BUILDERS' LIEN
MEDIATION – The settlement of disputes with the assistance of an independent third party. The mediator helps the two parties reach an acceptable agreement. The mediator does not impose an agreement.
MENTAL CRUELTY – Behaving in such a cruel and inhuman manner as to show a real aversion to a person, usually a spouse, or to destroy permanently his or her peace and happiness. In Canada evidence of mental or physical cruelty is one of the ways to show that a marriage has broken down, for the purposes of applying for a divorce.
MENS REA – Criminal intent. Often referred to as “guilty mind”. It is the mental element in an offence. For example an intention to commit murder. Together with the Actus Reus they make up the commission of the crime. Mens rea is an essential element in most offences and must be proven. For example, if you accidently kill someone while driving away in a stolen car you would not have the necessary criminal intent to be charged with murder but you may be charged with manslaughter or a lesser offence. The Criminal Code of Canada sets out the necessary mens rea and actus reus for each criminal offence. See also ACTUS REUS
MINOR – The status of a person who is of less than the age of majority, which is age 19 in Nova Scotia. (See also Infant)
MISREPRESENTATION – A false statement, which may be grounds for cancelling a contract or for recovering damages for losses caused by a false statement.
MISTAKE – Something you do or omit to do because you are of ignorant of law or facts and which you would not have done if you had rightly understood the law or facts. In contract law mistake of fact may be a good defence; mistake of law is not.
MISTRIAL – A judge may end a trial if an event occurs which causes him or her to believe that a fair verdict cannot be obtained. This is called a mistrial. The judge may order another trial (a retrial).
MITIGATION – Reducing damages or punishment because of the action or behaviour of one party. For example, damages might be reduced if you are injured in a car accident and you were not wearing a seatbelt, if wearing a seatbelt would have reduced your injuries. As a further example, if you are unfairly (wrongfully) dismissed from your job you have a duty to mitigate your loss by making reasonable efforts to find another job.
MOTION – An application to go to court by either party to a lawsuit. For example, a motion to a judge to get direction about a disputed procedural issue in a law suit. Part 6 of Nova Scotia's Civil Procedure Rules contains specific rules about motions.
NEGLIGENCE – A term for the failure to act reasonably and use ordinary care in given circumstances.
NEXT FRIEND – A person who acts for a minor or mentally incompetent person in a legal action.
NOMINAL DAMAGES – A small award for damages where your rights have been breached but you have not proved that you suffered serious damage.
NUISANCE – Actions which annoy or harm other persons. There is a tort (civil wrong) of nuisance. Public nuisance interferes with the rights or enjoyment of all members of a community for example, blocking a public highway. Private nuisance interferes with the rights of an individual for example, blocking his or her access to their property.
OATH – a solemn promise by a person as to truth of a statement he or she is making. For example, if you are giving evidence in court you will be asked to swear or affirm an oath that the evidence you will give is the truth. It is a criminal offence to lie under oath.
OFFER – A proposal to do a thing in return for something else. It becomes the basis of a contact if unconditionally accepted by the other person. For example, you offer to buy your neighbour’s car for $1,000 and she accepts.
ONUS – Burden or responsibility. For example, in a criminal trial the onus (responsibility) is on the Prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
ORDER – A court's direction requiring a party to do something or refrain from doing something.
PARDON – It can mean officially forgiving a person for wrongdoing. It can also mean a process of having a criminal record sealed.
PAROL – By word of mouth, for example a verbal contact
PAROLE – In Canada after serving part of a sentence a prisoner is released from prison and serves the remainder of the sentence under supervision and conditions in a half –way house or in the community. If he or she breaks the conditions he or she may be returned to prison.
PARTY – A person who takes part in a legal proceeding or transaction. For example, in a divorce the spouses are 'parties' to the proceeding.
PAYMENT INTO COURT – The deposit of a sum of money into court by a party to a lawsuit. The usual effect of the payment is that, if he or she loses the case but the judgement is less than the amount paid into court, he or she will not be liable for the other side's court costs.
PEACE BOND – A court document in which a person agrees or is ordered to be of good behaviour and to obey the conditions set out in the bond. Usually you ask a court for a peace bond against a person who has threatened you or your property. Conditions in the peace bond might include staying away from your home and place of work, having no contact with you, and not carrying or possessing weapons. See also ORDER and RESTRAINING ORDER.
PER STIRPES – Used in a will to cover a situation where the testator addresses a situation that if a beneficiary named in the will dies the amount the beneficiary would have inherited is to be divided equally among his or her heirs.
PETITIONER – A person who starts an action in court by way of Petition. For example, a person filing a Petition for Divorce to start a divorce action.
PERSONAL PROPERTY – Moveable property; goods and chattels. For example, a car, furniture, jewelry, money but not real property such as land. (See also GOODS AND CHATTELS)
PERSONALTY – Personal property.
PLAINTIFF – A person who sues or starts a legal proceeding.
PLEADING – Written statements filed with the court and prepared by the parties. Each party sets out the facts and other information which will allow the other party to prepare an answer. Pleadings include the Notice of Action, Statement of Claim, Defendant’s Statement of Defence, any Counterclaim etc.
POLYGAMY – The criminal offence of being married to more than one person at the same time.
POWER OF ATTORNEY – A legal document by which you authorize another person (your agent or attorney) to perform acts on your behalf. An Enduring Power of Attorney allows the Power to continue even if you become mentally incompetent.
PRECEDENT – A court decision case which is followed by other courts in later cases.
PRELIMINARY HEARING – A court hearing prior to a criminal trial to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to send the case to trial. It is used only for serious criminal offences.
PREJUDICIAL ERROR – An error made during trial, which is important enough to be grounds for either a new trial or for reversal if the court decision is appealed.
PREMEDITATION – An intention and planning to commit a crime or do an act.
PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE – Under section 11 (d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms if you are charged with an offence you have a right to be presumed innocent until you are proved guilty according to the law and in a fair and public hearing by an independent court.
PROBATE – The legal procedure for deciding whether a will is valid and to appoint a person to handle a dead person’s estate. The Nova Scotia Probate Court deals with probate issues in the province.
PRO RATA – Proportionately, according to a certain rate, percentage, etc.
PROMISE TO APPEAR – A promise in writing by a person accused of a crime(s) to go to court. May also include a promise to go to the police station for fingerprints and photograph.
Q.C – Queen’s Counsel. In Canada, an honour given to senior lawyers by the provincial government. Contact the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society at http://www.nsbs.org/queensCouncilProcess.php for information about Queen's Counsel appointments in Nova Scotia.
QUIET ENOJYMENT – The right to enjoy property you lease or purchase. For example, a term in a lease by which the lessor (landlord) guarantees that the lessee (tenant) will not be disturbed in his possession by the landlord, his agents or others , such as other tenants in the building.
QUIT CLAIM DEED – A deed in which you convey to another person any right you may have in a property without guaranteeing that you have good title or indeed any title at all to the property.
REAL PROPERTY – Immovable property; an interest in land other than leasehold.
REASONABLE DOUBT – In a criminal trial, it is the degree of certainty that a jury must have, based on their review of the evidence presented in court, in order to find you guilty.
REASONABLE AND PROBABLE GROUNDS – Police must have reason before they arrest anyone without a warrant. They must have good reason to believe that the person committed or is about to commit a serious (indictable) offence based on all the information they have about the situation.
RECOGNIZANCE – An undertaking given by a person before a court binding that person to do or not to do something such as to appear in court at a certain time, or to keep the peace. It can also be an undertaking to come to court given by the accused to police prior to his or her being released from police custody.
RELIEF – The redress or assistance which a court grants to a person on account of the wrongs which another has done him or her.
REMAND – A term used in criminal law where an accused is kept in or returned to custody while awaiting trial.
REMEDY – The legal means to declare or enforce a right or to redress a wrong.
RECISSION – the The cancellation of a contract by one or more of the parties to it, either for a reason acceptable to both parties or because of fraud
RESPONDENT – The party being sued in court.
RESTRAINING ORDER – (1) In family law cases, an order restraining harassment that prohibits a person from molesting,annoying, harassing or communicating with their spouse, their children, or a person having custody. See also Peace Bond, Emergency Protection Order (2) In family law cases, an order stopping one spouse from selling or depleting his or her property.
RIPARIAN RIGHTS – Rights to property abutting a stream, river or other body of water, including legal rights regarding the use of the waterway itself.
SINE DIE – Indefinitely. For example, a judge might adjourn or postpone a hearing ‘sine die’, meaning without setting another court date.
SLANDER – Defamation by means of a spoken word or gesture.
SPECIAL DAMAGES – All damages which relate to out-of-pocket expenses and specific costs which have been borne by a person as a direct result of a specific event, for example personal injury. See also GENERAL DAMAGES.
SQUATTER’S TITLE or RIGHTS – The title acquired by a person who, without original right, occupies another’s land in such circumstances and for such length of time that he acquires ownership of it.
STARE DECISIS – To follow previous court decisions when making a judgment in a court case.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS – Prescribed time within which to start or respond to a lawsuit. See also Limitation Period.
STATUS QUO – The existing state of things at any given date.
STAY OF PROCEEDINGS – The suspension of a lawsuit. In criminal proceedings this can be for an indefinite time; it is done at the request of the prosecutor when there is insufficient evidence for conviction. In civil matters it occurs when the plaintiff has not the right, at present, to sue.
SUBPOENA – A written order commanding a person to come to Court as a witness and to bring with him or her and produce certain books, papers and documents.
SUBROGATION – Substitution of one person for another so that certain rights which attach to one person now attach to the other. You will often see the term used in insurance policies.
SUE – To bring civil (court) proceedings against another.
TENANTS-IN-COMMON – Two or more people having an interest in property but no rights of survivorship. For example you and your business partner might buy a property as tenants in common. If your partner dies, his share does not automatically come to you. It would become part of his or her estate and dealt with according to the terms of his or her will, or Intestate Succession Act, if there is no will. See also JOINT TENANTS
TORT – A civil injury or wrong recognized by the law. Examples are trespass, assault, libel, false imprisonment, conversion. Damages are usually awarded to the injured party.
TRUE COPIES – A true copy of a document is exactly the same as the original. All Court stamps, any signatures or initials have been written in.
ULTRA VIRES – Acting beyond your legal authority. This makes the act invalid.
UNDUE INFLUENCE – Improper persuasion. For example, by force, intimidation, bullying or threats which results in a person acting in a certain way.
VENUE – A place where a case is to be tried or heard.
WAIVER – Giving up some right.
WARRANTY – A term of a contract guaranteeing that goods are of a certain quality. Warranties are usually written, but the courts will sometimes imply a warranty – for example, machinery must be fit for the work it is intended by the manufacturer to do, and must be safe.
WILL – Last Will and Testament – A legal document saying who you want to give your property to on your death.
WITHOUT PREJUDICE – When a settlement offer or admission is made “without prejudice”, the offer cannot be held against you or introduced as evidence by the other side at a later time in litigation. The idea is to facilitate settlement negotiations without having to worry about whether an offer will be held against you if negotiations do not work out.
WRIT – A court order requiring you to carry out a specific act.