Demystifying some common law jargon terms

Hundreds of students in the UK use Casedo for both legal mooting competitions and for their studies. For the benefit of them, and those of us that are not legally trained, we’ve put together a list of some common legal terms that may not be familiar to most of us. If you have any more suggestions for terms we could add, please let us know.

Actus rea: The action or conduct that comprises the physical elements of a criminal act. Refers to the external element or the objective element of a crime, is the Latin term for the “guilty act.”

 

Adversary: The opposition party.

 

Appeal: When a party to a court case asks a higher court to review a judge s decision from a lower court.

 

Appellant: The person who appeals to the decision of the court.

 

Arbitration: A form of dispute resolution. It is a way of settling a dispute without having to go to court. Both of the parties put their case to an independent person called an arbitrator. The decision is final and binding.

 

Caveat emptor: In Latin, this translates to “let the buyer beware”. This refers to the principle that the buyer is responsible for checking the product before he/she purchases it.

 

Claimant: The person, company, or institution who brings the claim or charge forward against the defendant in court.

 

Defendant: The person, company, or institution against whom a claim or charge was brought in court.

 

Diligence: Reasonable care or attention to the matter, that is sufficient to avoid a claim of negligence.

 

Duty of Care: Refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to avoid any behaviours or omissions that could reasonably be foreseen to cause harm to others.

 

Freehold: Ownership of a substantial interest in land held for an indefinite period of time. This is known as the ‘best’ type of interest. The freeholder of a property owns it outright, including the land it’s built on

 

Joint tenancy: Refers to a legal arrangement in which two or more people own a property together, each with equal rights and obligations.

 

Leasehold: Ownership of lease from the freeholder. A leaseholder can only use the property for a specified period of time. Under this, the interest in the property is held under a rental agreement. A leaseholder has the right to occupy the property for as long as the lease is valid.

 

Litigation: This is an alternative means of dispute resolution. It is the process of bringing and arguing a case in court.

 

Mediation: A form of dispute resolution, where parties discuss their dispute with each other with the assistance of a mediator, in hopes of resolving the dispute amicably.

 

Mens rea: The mental element of a crime, referring to the criminal intent and state of mind of a person. The literal translation from Latin is “guilty mind.”

 

Obiter Dicta: A judge’s expression of opinion uttered in court or in a written judgement, but not essential to the decision and therefore not legally binding as a precedent.

 

Party: A person or company involved in a lawsuit (can be either side of a case).

 

Precedent: A precedent is a statement made of the law by a Judge in deciding a case.

 

Ratio decidendi: A legal rule derived from, and consistent with, those parts of legal reasoning within a judgment on which the outcome of the case depends.

 

Tenancy in common: A shared tenancy in which each holder has a distinct, separately transferable interest.

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