legal history

Impeach

1) To discredit, for example, to show that a witness is not believable -- perhaps because the witness made statements that are inconsistent with present testimony, or has a reputation for not being a truthful person. 2) The process of charging a public official, such as the U.S. president or a federal judge, with a crime or misconduct, which results in a trial by the senate to determine whether the official should be removed from office.

Dictum

A remark, statement, or observation of a judge that is not a necessary part of the legal reasoning needed to reach the decision in a case. Although dictum may be cited in a legal argument, it is not binding as legal precedent, meaning that other courts are not required to accept it. Dictum is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase "obiter dictum," which means a remark by the way, or an aside.

Crime Against Nature

An archaic term used to describe sexual practices deemed deviant or not natural by a legislature or a court. Examples range from bestiality (intercourse between a human and an animal) to necrophilia (intercourse with a dead body). Few states still have "crime against nature" statutes on the books, and any that still include consensual sexual acts, such as sodomy, between adults are unconstitutional under a 2003 United States Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas.

Court of Law

Any tribunal within a judicial system. Under English common law and in some states, it was a court that heard only lawsuits in which money damages were sought, as distinguished from a court of equity, which could grant specific remedies. That distinction has dissolved and today every court (with the exception of federal bankruptcy courts) is a court of law. Compare: court of equity

Court of Equity

Courts that handle lawsuits requesting remedies other than monetary damages, such as writs, injunctions, and specific performance. Such courts existed, separate from courts of law, under English common law and in several states. Federal bankruptcy courts are an example of courts that continue to operate as courts of equity. Compare: court of law

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