Legal Terms ( C )

Canon Law: The laws of the church, which are based on religious beliefs and customs. These laws are not binding, as far as the judicial system is concerned. Canon law deals with the matters related to church, like funerals, baptism and church property.

Capital Punishment: The sentence of death, awarded to those who commit very serious crimes. It is otherwise known as the death penalty.

Case Law: As opposed to the statutes and treaties, case laws are legal principles developed by the courts through the years while deciding cases. A case law is a collection of reported judicial decisions related to specific topics, and is an important part of the modern legal rules.

Causa Mortis: A Latin term which means, “in expectation of the approaching death”. This term is mainly used to denote gifts, which are given by a person who is expecting death. Such gifts are called deathbed gifts or gifts causa mortis, which are deemed to be effective only if the death of the person is imminent due to a known condition, and he/she dies as a result of this condition. In case of recovery of the donor, such gifts can be revoked.

Cause of Action: A set of facts, which may entitle a person with a right to sue another person. If such facts are proved, it would result in a judgment in favor of the plaintiff.

Caveat: A Latin term for a formal warning. This term refers to a notice sent to a judge or court official with a request to suspend the proceedings in a particular lawsuit, until the merits of the notice are determined or until the notifier is given an opportunity to be heard.

Caveat Emptor: A common law rule, which is a Latin term meaning, “let the buyer beware”. This rule applies to the sale of all goods, especially those relating to real estate. As per this rule, the buyer has the full responsibility to check and verify the quality of the goods for sale or the title to the land, in case of real estate.

Cease and Desist Order: It is an order issued by any authority or judge to halt any activity, or else face legal action. It can be sent to any person or organization. This order or request can be sent by any person asking the recipient to stop some activity to avoid legal action.

Certificate: The term ‘certificate’ has different meanings as per the context. It can be a document which certifies the truth of some facts, like marriage, birth and death. It can be a document which certifies the ownership of a property, like a stock certificate. While some certificates are issued to people who complete some course, there are certificates which authorize persons to practice certain profession. Some certificates are issued by courts, certifying the facts or decisions of the concerned cases, like the certificate of divorce and certificate of appointment of estate trustee with a will.

Certified Copy: A copy of a document, which is attested by the concerned authority to be the true copy of its original. 

Certiorari: The Latin term, which means ‘to be informed of’. This legal term refers to the order issued by a higher court to an inferior court, tribunal or public authority, directing the latter to certify certain records in a particular case and return to the former. Certiorari, which is otherwise called cert, is a type of writ seeking judicial review. The mechanism, which was adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States, in order to manage the rising number of petitions of certiorari is called the ‘cert pool’.

Chain of Title: The legal term used to denote the history of transfers of title to property from the present owner to the original owner. Such records regarding properties are maintained by a registry office or civil law notary.

Change of Venue: A legal term used to denote a change in the location of the trial. A venue should be a place which is deemed to be proper and convenient for filing/handling a particular case. Though the venue is decided as per the rules of every state, the parties can also ask for a change in the venue. However, a change of venue is usually granted to avoid prejudice against any party to the case.

A practice of sharing the benefits of a lawsuit, by a person who is not a party to that lawsuit. A person who has no interests in a lawsuit, offers assistance to one of the litigants to conduct the legal proceedings, on condition that the former receives a portion of the judicial award.

Charge: This legal term is used to denote a formal accusation of an offense against a person, and is considered as the first step to prosecution. This term can also refer to the instructions given to the jury by the judge before the verdict and is known as charge to the jury.

Charity: As per legal terminology, the term charity refers to organizations, which are created and operated exclusively for the benefit of the society, rather than pecuniary benefits. These organizations, which are exempted from federal taxation, hold their assets in trust to serve the purpose for which they are created. The purpose can be religious, scientific, educational or anything which benefits the society.

Chattel: All movable items of property, which do not include land or those permanently attached to land. While buildings and trees are not considered as chattels, furniture or growing crops (like corn) are deemed to be chattels.

Check or Cheque: A check/cheque is a negotiable instrument, like a bill of exchange drawn on a bank by one of its depositors. The bank has to pay the specified amount to the bearer of the instrument (check/cheque) or the person named therein.

Circumstantial Evidence: As compared to direct evidence, like the testimony of the eyewitness, circumstantial evidence can be considered as indirect evidence or facts which are inferred from the proven facts. Circumstantial evidence can be best explained with fingerprints, which can prove the presence of a particular person at the crime scene or his/her contact with an object used in the commission of a crime.

Citation: An order issued by a court to a person to appear before it to answer the charges or to do a certain thing. This legal term also denotes the reference to previously decided cases.

Civil Action: Legal proceedings are mainly divided into two categories- civil and criminal. A criminal action is prosecuted by the state against a person, who is charged with a public offense. Civil actions are generally classified as those which are not criminal in nature. Such cases involve disputes between private parties, organizations or the government, whereas criminal cases deal with those actions which are harmful to the society.

Claim: An assertion of a fact which establishes a legally enforceable right to some form of compensation or remedy.

Codicil (Will): A document that amends or adds to an existing will is called a codicil. A codicil does not replace the original will, but only amends it. As in the case of a will, a codicil should also be dated, signed and witnessed as per the relevant rules.

Coercion: Coercion refers to the crime of forcing a person to commit an act against his will, by using threats, physical violence or trickery.

Collusion: A secret understanding or agreement between two or more parties to deceive a third party or to mislead a court.

Commitment: The warrant or order issued by a court to send a person to the prison. A commitment can be final, after the sentence is pronounced or till further hearing.

Common Law: A legal system developed in Britain through the centuries. Contrary to statutory laws, common laws are based on the traditional customs, but are enforced through judgments. These rules, which are embodied in case laws developed into a body of laws, and are still followed in Britain and some of its erstwhile colonies. Most countries have modified these laws and enacted them into statutes.

Commutation: The reduction or lessening of a sentence of a convicted person by officials authorized by law. Usually, the executive head of the government is vested with this power.

Compensation: Damages recovered for an injury suffered or in case of violation of a contract. This term also refers to the rewards received by an employee for his work.

Complaint: The first document filed in a court to initiate a lawsuit. A complaint states the brief facts of the case, on the basis of which, a legal remedy is sought. The person who files the complaint is called the plaintiff and the party against whom the complaint is filed is called the defendant.

Confession: A voluntary admission by the accused person that he has committed the acts, which constitute the crime.

Conspiracy: An agreement between two or more persons to commit an illegal or unlawful act, and the act if committed would amount to an offense. Conspiring to commit such acts is also an offense.

Constitution: This legal term refers to the fundamental law of a state or a nation. It is as per the provisions in the constitution that the government is founded and the divisions of sovereign powers are regulated. 

Contempt of Court: A misconduct inside the court or any willful disobedience to a court order.

Contract: A voluntary agreement between two or more legally competent parties, in which the parties are obliged to do or refrain from doing certain things.

Conviction: A decision taken by a judge after a criminal trial, which finds the defendant guilty of the crime.

Copyright: A type of intellectual property, which gives the owner the exclusive right to control the publication, distribution and adaptation of creative works, for a certain period of time.

Cybersquatting: Registering of an Internet domain name with the intent of making huge profits by selling it to someone else.


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