n. a deposit paid to demonstrate commitment and to bind a contract, with the remainder due at a particular time. If the contract is breached by failure to pay, then the earnest payment is kept by the recipient as pre-determined (liquidated) or committed damages.easement

n. the right to use the real property of another for a specific purpose. The easement is itself a real property interest, but legal title to the underlying land is retained by the original owner for all other purposes. Typical easements are for access to another property (often redundantly stated a…egress

n. way of departure. A word usually used in conjunction with access or ingress.EIR

n. popular acronym for environmental impact report, required by many states as part of the application to a county or city for approval of a land development or project.ejectment

n. a lawsuit brought to remove a party who is occupying real property. This is not the same as an unlawful detainer (eviction) suit against a non-paying or unsatisfactory tenant. It is against someone who has tried to claim title to the property. Example: George Grabby lives on a ranch which he clai…ejusdem generis

(eh-youse-dem generous) v adj. Latin for of the same kind, used to interpret loosely written statutes. Where a law lists specific classes of persons or things and then refers to them in general, the general statements only apply to the same kind of persons or things specifically listed. Example: i…elder law

n. a specialty in legal practice, covering estate planning, wills, trusts, arrangements for care, social security and retirement benefits, protection against elder abuse (physical, emotional and financial), and other concerns of older people. As more people live longer it has become an increasingly…election of remedies

n. an outmoded requirement that if a plaintiff (party filing suit) asks for two remedies based on legal theories which are inconsistent (a judge can grant only one or the other), the plaintiff must decide which one is the most provable and which one he/she really wants to pursue, usually just before…election under the will

n. in those states which have statutes which give a widow a particular percentage of the late husbands estate (such as dower), the surviving wife may elect to take that percentage instead of any lesser amount (or assets with unacceptable conditions such as an estate which will be cancelled if she r…eleemosynary

(eh-luh-moss-uh-nary) adj. charitable, as applied to a purpose or institution.element

n. 1) an essential requirement to a cause of action (the right to bring a lawsuit to enforce a particular right). Each cause of action (negligence, breach of contract, trespass, assault, etc.) is made up of a basic set of elements which must be alleged and proved. Each charge of a criminal offense r…emancipation

n. freeing a minor child from the control of parents and allowing the minor to live on his/her own or under the control of others. It usually applies to adolescents who leave the parents household by agreement or demand. Emancipation may also end the responsibility of a parent for the acts of a chi…embezzlement

n. the crime of stealing the funds or property of an employer, company or government or misappropriating money or assets held in trust.embezzler

n. a person who commits the crime of embezzlement by fraudulently taking funds or property of an employer or trust.emblements

n. crops to which a tenant who cultivated the land is entitled by agreement with the owner. If the tenant dies before harvest the crop will become the property of his/her estate.emergency

n. a sudden, unforeseen happening which requires action to correct or to protect lives and/or property.eminent domain

n. the power of a governmental entity (federal, state, county or city government, school district, hospital district or other agencies) to take private real estate for public use, with or without the permission of the owner. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution provides that private property [ma…emolument

n. salary, wages and benefits paid for employment or an office held.emotional distress

n. an increasingly popular basis for a claim of damages in lawsuits for injury due to the negligence or intentional acts of another. Originally damages for emotional distress were only awardable in conjunction with damages for actual physical harm. Recently courts in many states, including New York …employee

n. a person who is hired for a wage, salary, fee or payment to perform work for an employer. In agency law the employee is called an agent and the employer is called the principal. This is important to determine if one is acting as employee when injured (for workers compensation) or when he/she cau…employer

n. a person or entity which hires the services of another called a principal in the law of agency.employment

n. the hiring of a person for compensation. It is important to determine if acts occurred in the scope of employment to establish the possible responsibility of the employer to the employee for injuries on the job or to the public for acts of the employee.en banc

(on bonk) French for in the bench, it signifies a decision by the full court of all the appeals judges in jurisdictions where there is more than one three- or four-judge panel. The larger number sit in judgment when the court feels there is a particularly significant issue at stake or when request…enabling clause

n. a provision in a new statute which empowers a particular public official (Governor, State Treasurer) to put it into effect, including making expenditures.enclosure

(inclosure)n. land bounded by a fence, wall, hedge, ditch or other physical evidence of boundary. Unfortunately, too often these creations are not included among the actual legally described boundaries and cause legal problems.encroach

v. to build a structure which is in whole or in part across the property line of anothers real property. This may occur due to incorrect surveys, guesses or miscalculations by builders and/or owners when erecting a building. The solutions vary from giving the encroaching party an easement or lease …encroachment

n. the act of building a structure which is in whole or in part on a neighbors property.encumbrance

(incumbrance)n. a general term for any claim or lien on a parcel of real property. These include: mortgages, deeds of trust, recorded abstracts of judgment, unpaid real property taxes, tax liens, mechanics liens, easements and water or timber rights. While the owner has title, any encumbrance is us…endorse (indorse)

v. 1) to sign ones name to the back of a check, bill of exchange or other negotiable instrument with the intention of making it cashable or transferable. 2) to pledge support to a program, proposal or candidate.endorsement

(indorsement)n. 1) the act of the owner or payee signing his/her name to the back of a check, bill of exchange or other negotiable instrument so as to make it payable to another or cashable by any person. An endorsement may be made after a specific direction (pay to Dolly Madison or for deposit o…endowment

n. the creation of a fund, often by gift or bequest from a dead persons estate, for the maintenance of a public institution, particularly a college, university or scholarship.enjoin

v. for a court to order that someone either do a specific act, cease a course of conduct or be prohibited from committing a certain act. To obtain such an order, called an injunction, a private party or public agency has to file a petition for a writ of injunction, serve it on the party he/she/it ho…enjoyment

n. 1) to exercise a right. 2) pleasure. 3) the use of funds or occupancy of property. Sometimes this is used in the phrase quiet enjoyment which means one is entitled to be free of noise or interference.enter a judgment

v. to officially record a judgment on the judgment roll, which entry is normally performed by the court clerk once the exact wording of the judgment has been prepared or approved and signed by the trial judge. All times for appeal and other post-judgment actions are based on the date of the entry …entity

n. a general term for any institution, company, corporation, partnership, government agency, university or any other organization which is distinguished from individuals.entrapment

n. in criminal law, the act of law enforcement officers or government agents inducing or encouraging a person to commit a crime when the potential criminal expresses a desire not to go ahead. The key to entrapment is whether the idea for the commission or encouragement of the criminal act originated…entry of judgment

n. the placement of a judgment on the official roll of judgments.environmental impact report

n. a study of all the factors which a land development or construction project would have on the environment in the area, including population, traffic, schools, fire protection, endangered species, archeological artifacts and community beauty. Many states require such reports be submitted to local …environmental law

n. a body of state and federal statutes intended to protect the environment, wildlife, land and beauty, prevent pollution or over-cutting of forests, save endangered species, conserve water, develop and follow general plans and prevent damaging practices. These laws often give individuals and groups…equal opportunity

1) n. a right supposedly guaranteed by both federal and many state laws against any discrimination in employment, education, housing or credit rights due to a persons race, color, sex (or sometimes sexual orientation), religion, national origin, age or handicap. A person who believes he/she has not…equal protection of the law

n. the right of all persons to have the same access to the law and courts and to be treated equally by the law and courts, both in procedures and in the substance of the law. It is akin to the right to due process of law, but in particular applies to equal treatment as an element of fundamental fair…equitable

adj. 1) just, based on fairness and not legal technicalities. 2) refers to positive remedies (orders to do something, not money damages) employed by the courts to solve disputes or give relief.equitable estoppel

n. where a court will not grant a judgment or other legal relief to a party who has not acted fairly; for example, by having made false representations or concealing material facts from the other party. This illustrates the legal maxim: he who seeks equity, must do equity. Example: Larry Landlord …equitable lien

n. a lien on property imposed by a court in order to achieve fairness, particularly when someone has possession of property which he/she holds for another.equity

n. 1) a venerable group of rights and procedures to provide fairness, unhampered by the narrow strictures of the old common law or other technical requirements of the law. In essence courts do the fair thing by court orders such as correction of property lines, taking possession of assets, imposing …equity of redemption

n. the right of a mortgagor (person owing on a loan or debt against their real property), after commencement of foreclosure proceedings, to cure his/her default by making delinquent payments. The mortgagor also must pay all accumulated costs as well as the delinquency to keep the property.equivalent

: n., adj. equal in value, force or meaning.ergo

(air-go)conj. Latin for therefore, often used in legal writings. Its most famous use was in Cogito, ergo sum: I think, therefore I am principle by French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650).erroneous

adj. 1) in error, wrong. 2) not according to established law, particularly in a legal decision or court ruling.error

n. a mistake by a judge in procedure or in substantive law, during a hearing, upon petitions or motions, denial of rights, during the conduct of a trial (either granting or denying objections), on approving or denying jury instructions, on a judgment not supported by facts or applicable law or any o…errors and omissions

n. short hand for malpractice insurance which gives physicians, attorneys, architects, accountants and other professionals coverage for claims by patients and clients for alleged professional errors and omissions which amount to negligence.escalator clause

n. a provision in a lease or other agreement in which rent, installment payments or alimony, for example, will increase from time to time when the cost of living index (or a similar gauge) goes up. Often there is a maximum amount of increase (cap) and seldom is there a provision for reduction if t…escape clause

n. a provision in a contract which allows one of the parties to be relieved from (get out of) any obligation if a certain event occurs.escheat

n. from old French eschete, which meant that which falls to one, the forfeit of all property (including bank accounts) to the state treasury if it appears certain that there are no heirs, descendants or named beneficiaries to take the property upon the death of the last known owner.escrow

1) n. a form of account held by an escrow agent (an individual, escrow company or title company) into which is deposited the documents and funds in a transfer of real property, including the money, a mortgage or deed of trust, an existing promissory note secured by the real property, escrow instr…escrow agent

n. a person or entity holding documents and funds in a transfer of real property, acting for both parties pursuant to instructions. Typically the agent is a person (commonly an attorney), escrow company or title company, depending on local practice.escrow instructions

n. the written instructions by buyer and seller of real estate given to a title company, escrow company or individual escrow in closing a real estate transaction. These instructions are generally prepared by the escrow holder and then approved by the parties and their agents.espionage

n. the crime of spying on the federal government and/or transferring state secrets on behalf of a foreign country. The other country need not be an enemy, so espionage may not be treason, which involves aiding an enemy.esquire

n. a form of address showing that someone is an attorney, usually written Albert Pettifog, Esquire, or simply Esq. Originally in England an Esquire was a rank just above gentleman and below knight. It became a title for barristers, sheriffs and judges.estate

n. 1) all that one owns in real estate and other assets. 2) commonly, all the possessions of one who has died and are subject to probate (administration supervised by the court) and distribution to heirs and beneficiaries, all the possessions which a guardian manages for a ward (young person requiri…estate by entirety

n. generally a federal tax on the transfer of a dead persons assets to his heirs and beneficiaries. Although a transfer tax, it is based on the amount in the decedents estate (including distribution from a trust at the death) and can include insurance proceeds. Currently such federal taxation appl…estop

n. a bar or impediment (obstruction) which precludes a person from asserting a fact or a right or prevents one from denying a fact. Such a hindrance is due to a persons actions, conduct, statements, admissions, failure to act or judgment against the person in an identical legal case. Estoppel inclu…et al.

n. abbreviation for the Latin phrase et alii meaning and others. This is commonly used in shortening the name of a case, as in Pat Murgatroyd v. Sally Sherman, et al.et seq.

(et seek) n. abbreviation for the Latin phrase et sequentes meaning and the following. It is commonly used by lawyers to include numbered lists, pages or sections after the first number is stated, as in the rules of the road are found in Vehicle Code Section 1204, et seq.et ux.

(et uhks) n. abbreviation for the Latin words et uxor meaning and wife. It is usually found in deeds, tax assessment rolls and other documents in the form John Alden et ux., to show that the wife as well as the husband own property. The connotation that somehow the wife is merely an adjunct to h…evasion of tax

n. the intentional attempt to avoid paying taxes through fraudulent means, as distinguished from late payment, using legal loopholes or errors.eviction

n. a generic word for the act of expelling (kicking out) someone from real property either by legal action (suit for unlawful detainer), a claim of superior (actual) title to the property, or actions which prevent the tenant from continuing in possession (constructive eviction). Most frequently evic…evidence

n. every type of proof legally presented at trial (allowed by the judge) which is intended to convince the judge and/or jury of alleged facts material to the case. It can include oral testimony of witnesses, including experts on technical matters, documents, public records, objects, photographs and …ex delicto

(ex dee-lick-toe)adj. Latin for a reference to something that arises out of a fault or wrong, but not out of contracts. Of only academic interest today, it identified actions which were civil wrongs (torts).ex officio

a (ex oh-fish-ee-oh)dj. Latin for from the office, to describe someone who has a right because of an office held, such as being allowed to sit on a committee simply because one is president of the corporation.ex parte

(ex par-tay, but popularly, ex party) adj. Latin meaning for one party, referring to motions, hearings or orders granted on the request of and for the benefit of one party only. This is an exception to the basic rule of court procedure that both parties must be present at any argument before a jud…ex post facto

adj. Latin for after the fact, which refers to laws adopted after an act is committed making it illegal although it was legal when done, or increasing the penalty for a crime after it is committed. Such laws are specifically prohibited by the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9. Therefore, if …ex rel.

conj. abbreviation for Latin ex relatione, meaning upon being related or upon information, used in the title of a legal proceeding filed by a state Attorney General (or the federal Department of Justice) on behalf of the government, on the instigation of a private person, who needs the state to …examination

n. 1) the questioning of a witness by an attorney. Direct examination is interrogation by the attorney who called the witness, and cross-examination is questioning by the opposing attorney. A principal difference is that an attorney putting questions to his own witness cannot ask leading questions…exception

n. 1) a formal objection during trial (We take exception, or simply, exception) to the ruling of a judge on any matter, including rulings on objections to evidence, to show to a higher court that the lawyer did not agree with the ruling. In modern practice, it is not necessary to take exception…exception in deed

n. a notation in a deed of title to real property which states that certain interests, such as easements, mineral rights or a life estate, are not included in the transfer (conveyance) of title.excessive bail

n. an amount of bail ordered posted by an accused defendant which is much more than necessary or usual to assure he/she will make court appearances, particularly in relation to minor crimes. If excessive bail is claimed, the defendant can make a motion for reduction of bail, and if it is not granted…exchange

1) v. to trade or barter property, goods and/or services for other property, goods and/or services, unlike a sale or employment in which money is paid for the property, goods or services. 2) n. the act of making a trade or barter. An exchange of equivalent property, including real estate, can defe…excise

n. a tax upon manufacture, sale or for a business license or charter, as distinguished from a tax on real property, income or estates. Sometimes it is redundantly called an excise tax.exclusionary rule

n. the rule that evidence secured by illegal means and in bad faith cannot be introduced in a criminal trial. The technical term is that it is excluded upon a motion to suppress made by the lawyer for the accused. It is based on the constitutional requirement that no [person] can be deprived of …exculpatory

adj. applied to evidence which may justify or excuse an accused defendants actions and which will tend to show the defendant is not guilty or has no criminal intent.excusable neglect

n. a legitimate excuse for the failure of a party or his/her lawyer to take required action (like filing an answer to a complaint) on time. This is usually claimed to set aside a default judgment for failure to answer (or otherwise respond) in the period set by law. Illness, press of business by the…execute

v. 1) to finish, complete or perform as required, as in fulfilling ones obligations under a contract or a court order. 2) to sign and otherwise complete a document, such as acknowledging the signature if required to make the document valid. 3) to seize property under court order. 4) to put to death…executed

1) adj. to have been completed. (Example: it is an executed contract) 2) v. to have completed or fully performed. (Example: he executed all the promises made in the contract) 3) v. completed and formally signed a document, such as a deed, contract or lease. 4) v. to have been put to death for a …execution

n. 1) the act of getting an officer of the court to take possession of the property of a losing party in a lawsuit (judgment debtor) on behalf of the winner (judgment creditor), sell it and use the proceeds to pay the judgment. The procedure is to take the judgment to the clerk of the court and have…executive clemency

n. the power of a President in federal criminal cases, and the Governor in state convictions, to pardon a person convicted of a crime, commute the sentence (shorten it, often to time already served) or reduce it from death to another lesser sentence. There are many reasons for exercising this power,…executive order

n. a Presidents or Governors declaration which has the force of law, usually based on existing statutory powers, and requiring no action by the Congress or state legislature.executive privilege

n. a claim by the President or another high official of the executive branch that he/she need not answer a request (including a subpena issued by a court or Congress) for confidential government or personal communications, on the ground that such revelations would hamper effective governmental opera…executor

n. the person appointed to administer the estate of a person who has died leaving a will which nominates that person. Unless there is a valid objection, the judge will appoint the person named in the will to be executor. The executor must insure that the persons desires expressed in the will are ca…executory

adj. something not yet performed or done. Examples: an executory contract is one in which all or part of the required performance has not been done; an executory bequest is a gift under a will which has not been distributed to the beneficiary.executory interest

n. an interest in property (particularly real estate) which will only pass to another in the future, or never, if certain events occur.executrix

(pl. executrices) n. Latin for female executor. However, the term executor is now unisex.exemplary damages

n. often called punitive damages, these are damages requested and/or awarded in a lawsuit when the defendants willful acts were malicious, violent, oppressive, fraudulent, wanton or grossly reckless. Examples of acts warranting exemplary damages: publishing that someone had committed murders when t…exemption

n. 1) in income taxation, a credit given for each dependent, blindness or other disability, and age over 65, which result in a downward calculation in tax levels. These are not to be confused with deductions, which reduce gross income upon which taxes are paid. 2) a right to be excluded from, such a…exhibit

n. 1) a document or object (including a photograph) introduced as evidence during a trial. These are subject to objections by opposing attorneys just like any evidence. 2) a copy of a paper attached to a pleading (any legal paper filed in a lawsuit), declaration, affidavit or other document, which i…expectancy

n. a possibility of future enjoyment of something one counts on receiving, usually referring to real property or the estate of a deceased person, such as a remainder, reversion, or distribution after the death of someone who has use for life.expense

n. in business accounting and business taxation, any current cost of operation, such as rent, utilities and payroll, as distinguished from capital expenditure for long-term property and equipment.expert testimony

n. opinions stated during trial or deposition (testimony under oath before trial) by a specialist qualified as an expert on a subject relevant to a lawsuit or a criminal case.expert witness

n. a person who is a specialist in a subject, often technical, who may present his/her expert opinion without having been a witness to any occurrence relating to the lawsuit or criminal case. It is an exception to the rule against giving an opinion in trial, provided that the expert is qualified by …express

adj. direct, unambiguous, distinct language, particularly in a contract, which does not require thought, guessing, inference or implication to determine the meaning.express contract

n. a contract in which all elements are specifically stated (offer, acceptance, consideration), and the terms are stated, as compared to an implied contract in which the existence of the contract is assumed by the circumstances.expropriation

n. a taking of property or rights by governmental authority such as eminent domain, possibly including an emergency situation, such as taking a persons truck or bulldozer to build a levee during a flood. In such a case just compensation eventually must be paid to the owner, who can make a claim aga…extension

n. granting of a specific amount of extra time to make a payment, file a legal document after the date due or continue a lease after the original expiration of the term.extenuating circumstances

n. surrounding factors (sometimes called mitigation) which make a crime appear less serious, less aggravated or without criminal intent, and thus warranting a more lenient punishment or lesser charge (manslaughter rather than murder, for example).extinguishment

n. the cancellation or destruction of a right, quite often because the time for enforcement has passed. Example: waiting more than four years after the due date to make a demand for payment on a promissory note wipes out the persons right to collect the money owed to him/her. It can also occur by f…extortion

n. obtaining money or property by threat to a victims property or loved ones, intimidation, or false claim of a right (such as pretending to be an IRS agent). It is a felony in all states, except that a direct threat to harm the victim is usually treated as the crime of robbery. Blackmail is a form…extradition

n. the surrender by one state or country of a person charged with a crime in another state or country. Formally, the request of the state (usually through the Governors office) claiming the right to prosecute is made to the Governor of the state in which the accused is present. Occasionally a Gover…extrajudicial

adj. referring to actions outside the judicial (court) system, such as an extralegal confession, which, if brought in as evidence, may be recognized by the judge during a trial.extraordinary fees

n. attorneys fees claimed, usually in the administration of a dead persons estate, for work beyond the normal, including filing collection suits, preparing tax returns or requiring unusual effort beneficial to the estate. This claim is in addition to the usual statutory or court-approved legal fee…extreme cruelty

n. an archaic requirement to show infliction of physical or mental harm by one of the parties to his/her spouse to support a judgment of divorce or an unequal division of the couples property. All states except Illinois and South Dakota recognize no fault divorces, but in some states evidence of …extrinsic fraud

n. fraudulent acts which keep a person from obtaining information about his/her rights to enforce a contract or getting evidence to defend against a lawsuit. This could include destroying evidence or misleading an ignorant person about the right to sue. Extrinsic fraud is distinguished from intrins…eyewitness

n. a person who has actually seen an event and can so testify in court.

The Peoples Law Dictionary byGerald and Kathleen Hill