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  • A fortiori

    More effective; with greater reason
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  • A vinculo matrimonii

    Latin: of marriage. The term is now used to refer to a final and permanent dissolution of the marriage by a decree of annulment on the ground that the marriage was void ab initio, from the beginning.
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  • Ab initio

    Latin: from the start.
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  • Abatement

    A reduction in some amount that is owed, usually granted by the person to whom the debt is owed. For example, a landlord might grant an abatement in rent. In estate law, the word may refer more specifically to a situation where property identified in a will cannot be given to the beneficiary because it had to be sold to pay off the deceased debts. Debts are paid before gifts made in wills are distributed and where a specific gift has to be sold to pay off a debt, it is said to "abate" (compare with "ademption").
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  • Abbacinare

    A barbaric form of corporal punishment meted out in the middle ages where persons would be permanently blinded by the pressing of hot irons to the open eyes.
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  • Abduction

    To take someone away from a place without that person's consent or by fraud.
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  • Abet

    The act of encouraging or inciting another to do a certain thing, such as a crime. For example, many countries will equally punish a person who aids or abets another to commit a crime.
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  • Acceleration clause

    A clause in a contract that states that if a payment is missed, or some other default occurs (such as the debtor becoming insolvent), then the contract is fully due immediately. This is a typical clause in a loan contract; miss one payment and the agreement to pay at regular intervals is voided and the entire amount becomes due and payable immediately.
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  • Acceptance

    One of three requisites to a valid contract under common law (the other two being an offer and consideration). A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties which starts with an offer from one person but which does not become a contract until the other party signifies an unequivocal willingness to accept the terms of that offer. The moment of acceptance is the moment from which a contract is said to exist, and not before. Acceptance need not always be direct and can, in certain circumstances, be implied by conduct (see acquiescence below).
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  • Accord and Satisfaction

    A term of contract law by which one party, having complied with its obligation under a contract, accepts some type of compensation from the other party (usually money and of a lesser value) in lieu of enforcing the contract and holding the other party to their obligation. This discharges the contract. The definition cited by lawyers is usually that found in British Russian Gazette & Trade Outlook Ltd. v. Associated Newspapers Ltd. (1933) 2 K.B. 616: "Accord and satisfaction is the purchase of a release from an obligation arising under contract or tort by means of any valuable consideration, not being the actual performance of the obligation itself. The accord is the agreement by which the obligation is discharged. The satisfaction is the consideration which makes the agreement operative."
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  • Accretion

    The imperceptible and gradual addition to land by the slow action of water. Heavy rain, river or ocean action would have this effect by either washing up sand or soil or by a permanent retreat of the high water mark. The washing up of soil is often called avulsion although the latter term is but a variety of accretion.
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  • ACF

    Administration for Children and Families
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  • Acquiescence

    Action or inaction which binds a person legally even though it was not intended as such. For example, action which is not intended as a direct acceptance of a contract will nevertheless stand as such as it implies recognition of the terms of the contract. For example, if I display a basket of fruit in a marketplace and you come by, inspect an apple and then bite into it, you have acquiesced to the contract of sale of that apple. Acquiescence also refers to allowing too much time to pass since you had knowledge of an event which may have allowed you to have legal recourse against another, implying that you waive your rights to that legal recourse.
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  • Act

    A bill which has passed through the various legislative steps required for it and which has become law, as in "an Act of the Commonwealth of Australia." Synonymous to statute, legislation or law.
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  • Act of God

    An event which is caused solely by the effect of nature or natural causes and without any interference by humans whatsoever. Insurance contracts often exclude "acts of God" from the list of insurable occurrences as a means to waive their obligations for damage caused by hurricanes, floods or earthquakes, all examples of "acts of God".
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  • Ad damnum

    Latin: refers to the parts or sections of a petition that speaks to the damages that were suffered and claimed by the plaintiff. The ad damnum part of a petition will usually suggest an amount in dollars that the plaintiff asks the court to award.
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  • Ad hoc

    Latin: for this purpose; for a specific purpose. An ad hoc committee, for example, is created with a unique and specific purpose or task and once it has studied and reports on the matter, it stands disbanded (compare with standing committee).
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  • Ad infinitum

    Latin: forever; without limit; indefinitely.
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  • Ad litem

    Latin: for the suit. A person appointed only for the purposes of prosecuting or defending an action on behalf of another such as a child or mentally-challenged person. Also called a guardian ad litem.
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  • Addendum

    An attachment to a written document. For example, affidavits may be addendums to a petition as a petition may be an addendum to a writ.
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