legal history


Apartheid refers to the implementation and maintenance of a system of legalized racial segregation in which one racial group is deprived of political and civil rights. Apartheid is a crime against humanity punishable under the Rome Statute of the...

Canon Law

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryThe laws of a church or religion, especially those of the Roman Catholic Church, that govern the powers of the clergy, administration of the church, and church ceremonies. Roman Catholic laws, which are...

Case Law

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryThe law based on judicial opinions (including decisions that interpret statutes), as opposed to law based on statutes, regulations, or other sources. Also refers to the collection of reported judicial...


Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryFrom the old English legal system, a chancellor is a judge who sits in what is called a chancery (equity) court. The chancellor has the power to order that something be done, as distinguished from...


Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryA court of equity, in which a judge can order acts performed, such as that a contract be modified or an activity stopped. The chancery court's functions are distinct from those of common law courts, which...

Chinese Exclusion Act

The Chinese Exclusion Act, signed into law on May 6, 1882, by President Chester A. Arthur, effectively terminated Chinese immigration for ten years and prohibited Chinese from becoming US citizens. All Chinese persons- except travelers, merchants,...

Church and State

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary

See: separation of church and state

Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.

Circuit Riding

Many years ago, judges would often travel between the towns within a judicial district (previously known as a circuit) to hear cases in each town. The practice has largely discontinued.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law DictionaryA federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy), and religion in employment, education, and access to public facilities and public...

Common Law

Law that is derived from judicial decisions instead of from statutes. Early American common law was taken from English common law. See, e.g. Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996).