law terms


When someone owes a legal duty to someone else but fails to perform

Cause of Action

The legal theory under which someone files a lawsuit

Certiorari (cert)

When a party appeals their case from a lower court and petitions to the US Supreme Court to hear it; the supreme court will decide if they are willing to hear the case, if so, they grant this


Legislative action must only involve those actions over which a particular legislative body has power granted to it by the constitution; if it exceeds its power, it may be found to be unconstitutional


A visitor on an owner's land for either the benefit of the landowner or the mutual benefit of the landowner and the visitor

Statute of limitations

Civil and criminal wrongs have a ''time limit" upon which a lawsuit can reach back


An agreement between at least two entities or persons where both promise to do something


The outcome of a lawsuit as determined by the court based on the evidence given


When a panel of judges hears a case, there are times when the judges do not unanimously agree on the decision, however, majority rules, the judges who disagree may choose to write an opinion explaining their reason for disagreement


Each type of lawsuit has specific requirements for which evidence must be presented by the plaintiff these are the requirements of the lawsuit


When one entity or person promises to pay a liability that belongs to someone else, or agreeing to not hold a certain entity or person responsible


A civil wrong

Ultra vires

An action that is outside the scope of work


A plaintiff in a lawsuit must be someone with something to gain or lose; a right to make a claim in a lawsuit; an "interest" in the outcome of a case


The obligation to pay damages owed to a party

Lower court

The first court that tries/hears a case


The right of an entity or person to do something to another


What the plaintiff is seeking in a lawsuit

Respondeat superior

A legal principle that allows liability to be placed on the shoulders of the employer when an employee is negligent


when parties reach an agreement in a lawsuit prior to the case actually being heard in court

State actor

Governments and agencies and entities that act in governmental capacities and must uphold constitutional rights


The authority of a particular court to hear a case


Previously decided cases in the highest court in the same jurisdiction involving the same general facts and legal issues provides guidance to the current court in its decision making

Binding precedent

Within a specific court system, the ruling of another court with the same general facts and issues must be followed by all courts within that system at the same or lower level

Persuasive precedent

A ruling from a court not within the same or lower jurisdiction with the same general facts and legal issues is merely used as argument by attorneys for or against a ruling in the matter at hand

Statutory law

Laws enacted by legislatures, including congress; they are specific and unchanging unless formally amended by legislative action; sometimes referred to as "black letter law"-a written law

Case law

Built on a case-by-case basis from prior court decisions and can be changed simply by the next significant case resulting in a different ruling/outcome

Common law

The collective body of "case law


Complaining party in a lawsuit


Opposing party in a lawsuit


Disagree with the initial outcome of a case and ask for the issue to be reheard by a higher court


Party who takes an appeal from one court to another


Party in a case against whom an appeal is taken (the winning party at trial)


Appeals court disagrees with lower court's ruling