- S -
Search warrant - A written order issued by a judge that directs
a law enforcement officer to search a specific area for a particular piece
Seal - To mark a document with a seal; to authenticate or make
binding by affixing a seal. Court seal, corporate seal.
Secondary authority - Legal encyclopedias, treatises, legal texts,
law review articles, and citators. Writings which set forth the opinion
of the writer as to the law.
Secured debts - In bankruptcy, a debt is secured if the debtor
gave the creditor a right to repossess the property or goods used as collateral.
Securities an Exchange Commission (SEC) - A federal agency which
monitors the securities industry.
Self-defense - The claim that an act otherwise criminal was legally
justifiable because it was necessary to protect a person or property from
the threat or action of another.
Self-incrimination, privilege against: - The constitutional right
of people to refuse to give testimony against themselves that could subject
them to criminal prosecution. The right is guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment
to the United States Constitution . Asserting the right is often referred
to as "taking the Fifth."
Self-proving will - A will whose validity does not have to be
testified to in court by the witnesses to it, since the witnesses executed
an affidavit reflecting proper execution of the will prior to the maker's
Sentence - The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant
convicted of a crime. (See concurrent and consecutive sentences.)
Sentence Report - (See Presentence Report.)
Sequester - To separate. Sometimes juries are separated from
outside influences during their deliberations. For example, this may occur
during a highly publicized trial.
Sequestration of witnesses - Keeping all witnesses (except plaintiff
and defendant) out of the courtroom except for their time on the stand,
and cautioning them not to discuss their testimony with other witnesses.
Also referred to as "separation of witnesses."
Service of process - The delivering of writs, summonses, and
subpoenas by delivering them to the party named in the document. Also referred
to as "service."
Settlement - An agreement between the parties disposing of a
Settlor - The person who sets up a trust. Also referred to as
Shepardizing - Method for finding
subsequent development of a legal theory by tracing status of a case as
Sheriff - The executive officer of local court in some areas.
In other jurisdictions the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer
of a county.
Sherman Act - The basic antitrust statute prohibiting any unreasonable
interference, conspiracy, restraint of trade, or monopolies with respect
to interstate commerce.
Sidebar - A conference between the judge and lawyers, usually
in the courtroom, out of earshot of the jury and spectators.
Slander - Spoken defamation which tends to injure a person's
reputation. (See libel.)
Small Business (SBA) - A federal agency which provides assistance
of all kinds, Administration including loans, to small businesses.
Small Claims Court - A state court that handles civil claims
for small amounts of money. People often represent themselves rather than
hire an attorney.
Social Security - A system of federal
old-age pensions for employed persons begun in 1935. A portion of the payment
is deducted from the employee's salary and an equal portion is contributed
by the employer.
Social Security Administration - The federal agency which
administers the national social security program.
Social Security Tax - A payroll deduction based on gross wages
paid; this amount is matched by the employer as required by the Federal
Insurance Contribution Act (FICA).
Sovereign Immunity - The doctrine that the government, state
or federal, is immune to lawsuit unless it give its consent.
Specific performance - A remedy requiring a person who has breached
a contract to perform specifically what he or she has agreed to do. Specific
performance is ordered when damages would be inadequate compensation.
Speedy Trial Act - Federal law establishing time limits for carrying
out major events, i.e. indictment, arraignment, etc., in a criminal prosecution.
Spendthrift trust - A trust set up for the benefit of someone
who the grantor believes would be incapable of managing his or her own
Standard of proof - Indicates the degree to which the point must
be proven. In a civil case, the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff,
who must establish his or her case by such standards of proof as a "preponderance
of evidence" or "clear and convincing evidence." (See burden
Standing - The legal right to bring a lawsuit. Only a person
with something at stake has standing to bring a lawsuit.
Status offenders - Youths charged with the status of being beyond
the control of their legal guardian or are habitually disobedient, truant
from school, or having committed other acts that would not be a crime if
committed by an adult, i.e., smoking. Also referred to as minors or children
in need of supervision.
Statute - Legislative enactment; it may be a single act of a
legislature or a body of acts which are collected and arranged for a session
of a legislature. (See statutory law.)
Statute of frauds - A statutory requirement that certain contracts
must be in writing.
Statute of limitations - A statute which limits the right of
a plaintiff to file an action unless it is done within a specified time
period after the occurrence which gives rise to the right to sue.
Statutory - Relating to a statute; created or defined by a law.
Statutory construction - Process by which a court seeks to interpret
the meaning and scope of legislation.
Statutory law - Laws promulgated by Congress and state legislatures.
(See case law and common law.)
Statutory research - Research of legislation enacted by a state
or the United States.
Stay - A court order halting a judicial proceeding.
Stipulation - An agreement between the parties involved in a
suit regulating matters incidental to trial.
Strict liability - Concept applied by the courts in product liability
cases that when a manufacturer presents his goods for public sale, he is
representing that they are suitable for their intended use.
Strike - Highlighting in the record of a case, evidence that
has been improperly offered and will not be relied upon.
Subject research - Research of matter by determining all law
related to that matter by finding everything on the subject.
Subpoena - A command to appear at a certain time and place to
give testimony upon a certain matter.
Subpoena Duces Tecum - A court order commanding a witness to
bring certain documents or records to court.
Substantive criminal law - Law with the purpose of prevention
of harm to society which prescribed punishment for specific offenses. The
basic law of rights and duties as opposed to "remedial law" which
provides methods of enforcement.
Substantive law - The statutory or written law that governs rights
and obligations of those who are subject to it.
Summary judgment - A judgment given on the basis of pleadings,
affidavits, and exhibits presented for the record without any need for
a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case
and one party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.
Summons - Instrument used to commence a civil action or special
proceeding; the means of acquiring jurisdiction over a party.
Support trust - A trust that instructs the trustee to spend only
as much income and principal (the assets held in the trust) as needed for
the beneficiary's support.
Suppress - To forbid the use of evidence at a trial because t
is improper or was improperly obtained. (See also exclusionary rule.)
Surety Bond - A bond purchased at the expense of the estate to
insure the executor's proper performance. Also referred to as "fidelity
Survivorship - (See joint tenancy.)
Suspension - A temporary loss of the right to practice law by
an attorney. (See disbarment or censure.)
Sustain - A court ruling upholding an objection or a motion.
- T -
Tangible Personal Property Memorandum (TPPM) - A legal document
that is referred to in a will and used to guide the distribution of tangible
Taxable income - The income against which tax rates are applied
to compute tax paid; gross income of businesses or adjusted gross income
of individuals less deductions and exemptions.
Tax Court of the United States - A judicial body which hears
cases concerning federal tax laws.
Temporary relief - Any form of action by a court granting one
of the parties an order to protect its interest pending further action
by the court.
Temporary restraining order - An emergency remedy of brief duration
issued by a court only in exceptional circumstances, usually when immediate
or irreparable damages or loss might result before the opposition could
Tender of performance - An offer or attempt to do what is required
under a contract or under the law.
Testamentary capacity - The legal ability to make a will.
Testamentary trust - A trust set up by a will.
Testator - Person who makes a will (Female: testatrix).
Testimony - The evidence given by a witness under oath. It does
not include evidence from documents and other physical evidence.
Third party complaint - A petition filed by a defendant against
a third party (not presently a party to the suit) which alleges that the
third party is liable for all or part of the damages plaintiff may win
Title - Legal ownership of property, usually real property or
Tort - A private or civil wrong or injury for which the court
provides a remedy through an action for damages.
Trademark - A word, name, symbol, or devise used by a manufacturer
to distinguish his goods from those sold by others.
Transcript - A written, word-for-word record of what was said.
Usually refers to a record of a trial, hearing, or other proceeding which
has been transcribed from a recording or from shorthand.
Transmittal form - Form required in certain courts for transmitting
documents for filing.
Treatise - A formal and systematic book or writing containing
a narrative statement on a field of law.
Trial - A judicial examination of issues between parties to an
Trial brief - A written document prepared for and used by an
attorney at trial. It contains the issues to be tried, synopsis of evidence
to be presented and case and statutory authority to substantiate the attorney's
position at trial.
Trust - A legal device used to manage real or personal property,
established by one person (grantor or settlor) for the benefit of another
(beneficiary). (See trustee.)
Trust agreement or declaration - The legal document that sets
up a living trust. Testamentary trusts are set up in a will.
Trustee - The person or institution that manages the property
put in trust.
Truth in lending - Statutes which provide that precise and meaningful
cost of credit information be provided to the credit customer.