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Legal Dictionary

D

  • Damages

    A cash compensation ordered by a court to offset losses or suffering caused by another's fault or negligence. Damages are a typical request made of a court when persons sue for breach of contract or tort
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  • DCL

    Dear Colleague Letter
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  • De facto

    Latin: as a matter of fact; something which, while not necessarily lawful or legally sanctified, exists in fact. A common law spouse may be referred to a de facto wife or de facto husband: although not legally married, they live and carry-on their lives as if married. A de facto government is one which has seized power by force or in any other unconstitutional method and governs in spite of the existence of a de jure government.
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  • De jure

    Latin: "of the law." The term has come to describe a total adherence of the law. For example, a de jure government is one which has been created in respect of constitutional law and is in all ways legitimate even though a de facto government may be in control.
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  • De minimis non curat lex

    Latin: a common law principle whereby judges will not sit in judgement of extremely minor transgressions of the law. It has been restated as "the law does not concern itself with trifles".
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  • De novo

    Latin: new. This term is used to refer to a trial which starts over, which wipes the slate clean and begins all over again, as if any previous partial or complete hearing had not occurred.
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  • Death penalty

    Also known as capital punishment, this is the most severe form of corporal punishment as it is requires law enforcement officers to kill the offender. Forms of the death penalty include hanging from the neck, gassing, firing squad and has included use of the guillotine
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  • Debtor

    A person who owes money, goods or services to another, the latter being referred to as the creditor.
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  • Decapitation

    The act of beheading a person, usually instantly such as with a large and heavy knife or by guillotine, as a form of capital punishment. This form of capital punishment is still in use in some Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia.
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  • Decree absolute

    The name given to the final and conclusive court order after the condition of a decree nisi is met.
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  • Decree nisi

    A provisional decision of a court which does not have force or effect until a certain condition is met such as another petition brought before the court or after the passage of a period time, after which it is called a decree absolute. Although no longer required in many jurisdictions, this was the model for divorce procedures wherein a court would issue A decree nisi, which would have no force or effect until a period of time passed (30 days or 6 months).
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  • Deed

    A written and signed document which sets out the things that have to be done or recognitions of the parties towards a certain object. Under older common law, a deed had to be sealed; that is, accompanied not only by a signature but with an impression on wax onto the document. The word deed is also most commonly used in the context of real estate because these transactions must usually be signed and in writing.
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  • Deem

    To accept a document or an event as conclusive of a certain status in the absence of evidence or facts which would normally be required to prove that status. For example, in matters of child support, a decision of a foreign court could be "deemed" to be a decision of the court of another for the purpose of enforcement
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  • Defalcation

    1. Defaulting on a debt or other obligation such to account for public or trust funds. Usually used in the context of public officials. 2. Defalcation has another legal meaning referring to the setting-off of two debts owed between two people by the agreement to a new amount representing the balance. I owe you $7 and you owe me $3; we agree to "defalk"; the result is that I owe you $4. This is a type of novation
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  • Defamation

    An attack on the good reputation of a person, by slander or libel.
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  • Default

    failure of a defendant to appear, or file an answer or response in a civil case, after having been served with a summons and complaint
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  • Default Judgment

    decision made by the court when the defendant fails to respond
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  • Defeasance

    A side-contract which contains a condition which, if realized, could defeat the main contract. The common English usage of the word "defeasance" has also become acceptable in law, referring to a contract that is susceptible to being declared void as in "immoral contracts are susceptible to defeasance."
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  • Defendant

    person against whom a civil or criminal proceeding is begun
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  • Dehors

    French for outside. In the context of legal proceedings, it refers to that which is irrelevant or outside the scope of the debate.
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