ACADEMIC TOPICS

success billing

A method for lawyers to bill clients that is based on how the lawyer solves the client's problem, instead of the number of hours the lawyer spends working on it. For example, if a lawyer represents a company that's being sued, they might agree that the client will pay a certain fee if the lawyer settles the case for an amount that the client's insurance policy will cover.

strict construction

Interpreting a legal provision (usually a constitutional protection) narrowly. Strict constructionists often look only at the literal meaning of the words in question, or at their historical meaning at the time the law was written. Also referred to as "strict interpretation" or "original intent," because a person who follows the doctrine of strict construction of the Constitution tries to ascertain the intent of the framers at the time the document was written by considering what the language they used meant at that time.

star chamber proceedings

Proceedings of any court or other government body that are held in secret and produce arbitrary results. This derogatory term takes its name from an English court, whose members were appointed by the crown, that met in the 15th to 17th centuries. That court, which met in a room that was apparently decorated with gilt stars, decided guilt and punishment of people accused of violating the monarch's orders. Its practices made "star chamber" synonymous with any unfair and secretive proceedings.

self-serving

Refers to a statement or answer to a question that serves no purpose and provides no evidence, but only argues or reinforces the legal position of a particular party in a lawsuit. An example would be a lawyer asking his own client: "Are you the sort of person who would never do anything dishonest?" A judge may disallow this kind of question unless there is some evidentiary value.

seduction

The use of charm, promises, and flattery to induce another person to have sexual intercourse outside of marriage, without any use of force or intimidation. At one time, seduction was a crime in many states, but seduction is no longer criminal (unless the seduced person is underage or otherwise unable to consent). However, seduction does linger in the criminal codes of some states.

provocation

The act of inciting another person to do a particular thing. In a fault divorce, provocation may constitute a defense to the divorce, preventing it from going through. For example, if a wife suing for divorce claims that her husband abandoned her, the husband might defend the suit on the grounds that she provoked the abandonment by driving him out of the house. In criminal law, provocation can be a defense that justifies an acquittal, mitigated sentence, or reduction of conviction to a lesser charge (for instance, from murder to manslaughter).

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