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Latin Legalese

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November 17, 2009, 09:41
wordcrafter
Latin Legalese
A term quoted in yesterday's discussion leads to our new theme for the week.

in flagrante delicto – caught red-handed, in the act of committing a misdeed (more frequently applied to being caught in the midst of sex, or in other embarrassing but non-criminal situations)
[Latin, "while the crime is blazing"]

Here are three recent quotes, including for balance one which does not involve sex. The first quote, interestingly, uses our term to mean "having sex" rather than "caught having sex".
November 18, 2009, 20:25
wordcrafter
Two principles for construing unclear language. The later rule is a sub-case of the former. Each term is obscure, but the later is somewhat less so.

noscitur a sociis [Latin, "it is known by its associates"] – principle that unclear/ambiguous wording should be determined by considering the words with which it is associated in the context

ejusdem generis [Latin, "of the same kind"] – principle that in a list with specific items plus a catch-all clause, the catch-all applies only to items like the specifics
[E.g., in a law covering "automobiles, trucks, tractors, motorcycles and other vehicles", the specifics imply that the term "other vehicles" does not include airplanes or bicycles; it is limited to powered land transport]

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November 19, 2009, 19:20
wordcrafter
de minimis – [Latin, "not enough to be considered"] – so minor as to be disregard
Often referring to the principle, "De minimis non curat lex" ("The law does not concern itself with trifles," or, more colloquially, "We don't sweat the small stuff.")
November 20, 2009, 20:24
wordcrafter
ex parte – [Latin, "from a side"] 1. law: a. of a hearing: with one side present, but the other side absent (as in an emergency) b. of a communication: between a lawyer and the opposing party, bypassing the latter's lawyer (almost always improper)
2. from a one-sided or partisan point of view
November 22, 2009, 10:41
wordcrafter
In a nutshell, that is the difference between crime and an accident. It's a matter of intent.

mens rea – [Latin, "guilty mind"] criminal intent
[Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea; "The act does not make a person guilty unless the mind be also guilty".]

Usually but not always, an injurious act is a crime only if injury was intended. Various crimes require various degrees of "intent": was the act taken in order to injure (purposefully)? or for other reasons, but knowing that it would injure (knowingly)? or knowing that it might well injure (recklessly)?

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November 24, 2009, 08:00
wordcrafter
per stirpes – [Latin, "by stems"; used to specify how to distribute a deceased person's estate] the share of any deceased recipient to be subdivided equally among his/her children

For example, rich old Jack dies with a three-branched family tree: sons Abe, Bob, and Carl – all three of whom predeceased Jack, leaving him with seven grandchildren, very much alive (Abe's child, Bob's twins, and Carl's quadruplets).

How should Jack's estate be divided? If Jack willed it in equal shares to his sons and their descendants per stirpes, that mean to treat each "branch" equally: ⅓ to Abe's child, ⅓ to split between Bob's twins (one-sixth each), and ⅓ to split among Carl's quads (one-twelfth each).

If instead Jack willed "… and their descendants per capita", it means to treat the seven grandchildren equally, one-seventh to each.
November 24, 2009, 08:39
Proofreader
And if Jack had any brains he would already have spent half of his estate on wine and women and then squandered the remainder.


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