The Law Dictionary by TheLaw.com includes over 23,000 legal terms, abbreviations and maxims written by our staff and includes definitions from Black’s Law Dictionary, 2nd Edition. You can browse our online dictionary, add a definition, or download the law dictionary app for the iPhone and iPad in the App Store or download the law dictionary app for Android devices at Google Play. Please let us know if you would like to add a definition or believe that a correction should be made in our growing legal resource!
New Legal Definitions
The making or spreading of defamatory statements about another person, typically of a scandalous, vulgar and denigrating nature, with the intention of damaging the victim’s reputation. Slanderous of defamatory statements that are intended to be malicious in nature.
- COURT FEE
A fee (such as a “filing fee“) which may be imposed upon a litigant in order begin a lawsuit or start a legal dispute resolution case. The fee may represent covering administrative costs.
In India this can refer to stamps that may be attached to court documents which instruct the payment of fees. It may also refer to collections matters.
See also “Court Costs“.
- NOSCITUR A SOCIIS
Latin meaning literally “it is known from its associates.” A word whose meaning is uncertain, questionable or doubtful can be understood and defined by its association with surrounding words and its context. This concept is frequently used in canons of construction or interpreting and understanding the meaning of the words in a legal statute, ordinance or law.
Example of Noscitur A Sociis
A law required that explosives must be held within a “case or canister.” The matter before the court involved a defendant who used a bag made of cloth. By reading words that appear around the statute and from a discussion of the matter by legislature, it became clear that the intent of legislature was that the container for carrying should be at least as strong the canister. See Foster v Diphwys Casson (1887) 18 QBD 428.
- ACTUAL MALICE
The “actual malice” defines the level of proof needed to establish a libel case for defamatory statements made regarding public figures or public officials. Actual Malice requires intent or reckless disregard for the truth – “knowledge that the information was false” or published “with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” Reckless disregard for the truth requires more than negligence and failure to follow up with generally acceptable reporting standards. It also requires a belief that the statements made were reasonably false. The actual malice standard is most well known from its use in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964), where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public officials who sued a defendant for making defamatory statements needed to prove that the defendants made them with actual malice in order to succeed in a libel lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court gave this case Constitutional importance by highlighting the extent of First Amendment rights of free speech and the power of the press.
Excerpt from New York Times v. Sullivan
We are required in this case to determine for the first time the extent to which the constitutional protections for speech and press limit
Generally the upper or top interior surface of a room or area. In contract law a ceiling is usually intended to refer to a highest price or level to occur under an agreement. See also “floor” referring to the lowest or bottom price or level of a contractual agreement.
- CURATIVE ACTION
An action taken to cure or fix a legal defect. For example, under the Code of Federal Regulations (25 CFR 150.7 – Curative action to correct title defects) which deals with real estate law. The Land Titles and Records Office can initiate an action to “cure” or fix defects in the record which are discovered during the recording of title documents or examination of titles. See also “curative“.
- ZUBULAKE FACTORS
The Zubulake Factors are used by a court to determine whether cost shifting is appropriate to shift the burden of costs of compliance with an electronic discovery request from the receiving party to the requesting party. (See Federal Rule 26(b)(2) more specifically.) The factors are the product of a series of decisions in Zubulake v. UBS Warburg LLC, 216 F.R.D. 280 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) and which are often referred to by number, including specifically Zubulake I, 217 F.R.D. at 322 and Zubulake III, 216 F.R.D. at 284.
- The extent to which the request is specifically tailored to discover relevant information;
- The availability of such information from other sources;
- The total costs of production compared to the amount in controversy;
- The total costs of production, compared to the resources available to each party;
- The relative ability of each party to control costs and its incentive to do so;
- The importance of the issues at stake in the litigation; and
- The relative benefits to the parties of obtaining the information.
The first two factors are also known as the “Marginal Utility Test” which concerns the necessity of requiring the receiving party to provide the requested electronic evidence and whether it may be more easily available via alternatives. The middle three are known as the “cost
- FEE SHIFTING
Shifting fees to be paid by one party to another party. Typically it refers to the action of a court awarding legal costs associated with something from one party to another. For example, a court may award legal costs of the successful party to a lawsuit upon the losing party to the lawsuit (so that the losing party must pay both its own legal costs as well as the attorneys’ fees and costs of the winning party.) See also “cost shifting” – often used concerning legal issues surrounding electronic evidence and discovery.
- COST SHIFTING
When a court imposes or shifts the costs associated with legal compliance from one party to another. A good example of cost shifting occurs with electronic evidence and electronic discovery compliance. The general presumption under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is that the party responding to a request for electronic discovery will bear the costs of compliance with the request. (A receiving party receives a subpoena to provide e-mails to the requesting party.) However, a court can shift the costs associated with the electronic discovery request from the receiving party to the requesting party if the discovery does not pass the Federal Rule Federal Rule 26(b)(2) proportionality test (which includes the “Zubulake Factors“).
See also “fee shifting“.
Cyberstalking is the use of electronic or online communications technology to stalk, harass or intimidate another person or party. Most frequently it is used in reference to activities on the Internet or via mobile telecommunications networks. Cyberstalking activities may include threats or may just constitute monitoring of another without their knowledge and consent. It may also include defamatory statements or accusations and is frequently a means of a stalker intending to unduly influence, intimidate or control the victim.
Cyberstalking is a criminal offense under various state statutes which can include stalking, slander and harassment laws. Some states have specifically enacted Cyberstalking laws, such as Florida 784.048(d) which defines the term as follows:
“Cyberstalk” means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.
To insert between two parts, to introduce an obstacle. In legal parlance it usually means to file something so that it stands as an obstacle to something else being accomplished (usually by an adversary.) For example to “interpose a claim” or to interpose an objection, which would then stand in the way of the first motion from being accomplished. Also common is to “interpose a defense.”
- STATUTORY COMPLIANCE
In compliance or accord with existing laws and regulations (the statutes) – adherence to and compliance with the letter of the law. Popular examples of statutory compliance including Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPPA laws in the United States.
- RES UNIVERSITATIS
Latin meaning “universal thing.” Something that is shared with and owned by the community for public purposes and cannot be acquired by any individual or private entity. It has been understood to also mean something in the “public domain“. It may also refer to something shared with and owned by a specific community of which all members can freely use independently.
- TRIAL IN ABSENTIA
Conducting a trial in the absence of a party. Trial “in absentia” typically refers to a criminal proceeding in a court of law in which the defendant is not physically present to present a defense and testify on behalf of one’s self. In many jurisdictions the concept of “trial in absentia” is understood to refer to a defendant’s right to be present in a courtroom during criminal proceedings or a criminal trial. Such a conviction where a defendant is not present to defend and answer charges in person may be considered a violation of the principles of natural justice and notions of fair play.
Latin meaning “absence”. Usually used in terms such as “in absentia” or in the absence of the physical presence of a party. See also “death in absentia” and “trial in absentia“.
- DEATH IN ABSENTIA
The declaration of someone’s death in absence of their physical dead body, corpse or skeletal remains. One who is presumed dead. “In absentia” is Latin for the term “in absence”.
Such a declaration may be made when a person is missing for an extended period of time and the evidence overwhelmingly supports the belief that the person has perished. For example, ticketed and verified passengers aboard an airplane that has crashed. Jurisdictions vary with regard to the length of time and procedure for legally declaring someone dead in absentia or “death in absentia“.