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Dictionary of legal terms - L
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[Home][Index - Dictionary][Dictionary of legal terms - L]

UK Law Dictionary - English Legal System

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Laches  (pronounced "lay-cheese")

 

A legal doctrine whereby those who take too long to assert a legal right, lose their entitlement to compensation. When you claim that a person's legal action against you is not valid because of this, you would call it "estoppel by laches".

 

 

 

An unconscionable delay.

 

 

 

In a dispute between family members about a family business, the Court of Appeal in 2000 rejected a claim by a son where the relevant events involving his father and brothers had occurred between 19 and 37 years before the start of proceedings.


Landlord 

 

A land or building owner who has leased the land, the building or a part of the land or building, to another person.


Land

 

This is the ground, the buildings built on it, the subsoil below the ground, property fixed to the ground, and the airspace above the ground necessary for its ordinary use.


Larceny 

 

An old English criminal and common law offence covering the unlawful or fraudulent removal of another's property without the owner's consent. The offence of theft has now replaced larceny.


Law 

 

All the rules of conduct which are in force over a certain territory and which must be obeyed by all persons on that territory (e.g.. the "laws" of England).

 

 

 

Violation of these rules could lead to state action such as imprisonment or fine, or private action such as a legal judgment against the offender obtained by the person injured by the action prohibited by law.

 

 

 

Synonymous to a statute although in common usage, "law" refers not only to legislation or statutes but also to the body of unwritten law in those states which recognise common law.


Lawyer 

 

A person that has been trained in the law and that has been certified to give legal advice or to represent others in litigation.

 

 

 

Also known as a "barrister & solicitor". In the USA an attorney.

 

Any person who makes his living from the law.


Leading question 

 

A question which suggests an answer; usually answerable by "yes" is a leading question, but a question that expects the answer "no" is never a leading question.

 

 

 

For example: "Did you see David at 3 p.m.?" such a question is forbidden to ensure that the witness is not coached by their lawyer through his or her testimony. Even "At what time did you see David?" is a leading questions unless the witness has just said she saw David that day.  Leading questions are only acceptable in cross-examination or where a witness is declared hostile.


Lease 

 

A special kind of contract between a property owner and a person wanting temporary enjoyment and use of the property, in exchange for rent paid to the property owner. Where the property is land, a building, or parts of either, the property owner is called a landlord and the person that contracts to receive the temporary enjoyment and use is called a tenant.


Leasehold 

 

Real property held under a lease.  Contrast freehold.


Legacy

 

This is a gift left to someone in a will, but not including land.


Legal (persuasive) burden of proof

 

D has the legal burden to prove the issue he raises.  It requires the defence to adduce some credible evidence. Failure to convince the jury or the magistrates of a defence will mean the defendant will be found guilty.  It is usually a “do or die” situation, because D will have probably admitted all the other ingredients of the offence, and be relying solely on the defence he raises, so it is described as a high standard.

 

 

 

The legal burden is a higher standard than the evidential burden.

 

 

 

The defendant may, for example, wish to raise a defence (evidential burden) that he did not know some particular fact (legal burden), or that he was not going to drive whilst drunk, or that he was insane. 

 

 

 

The standard the defendant has to reach is on the balance of probabilities.

 

 

 

Sometimes referred to as the persuasive burden.

 

 

 

The legal burden and the evidential burden are often referred to as reverse burdens.

 

 

 

To take a well-known example, possessing an offensive weapon places a (legal) burden of proof on the defendant, because the offence contains the phrases "without lawful authority or excuse, the proof whereof shall lie on him".

 

 

 

The legal (or persuasive) burden is imposed on a defendant who wishes to raise "lawful authority or reasonable excuse".

 

 

 

See evidential burden of proof.


Legal custody 

 

A child custody decision which entails the right to make, or participate in, the significant decisions affecting a child's health and welfare (compare with physical custody and joint custody).


Legal Fiction 

 

A rule assuming as true something that is clearly false. A fiction is often used to avoid rules that Parliament should change.

 

 

 

So, for example if a body has no power to sit beyond midnight but has several hours more of work still to do, it is easier to turn back the clock on their wall from time to time than it is to change their constitution.

 

 

 

When the High Court had a full workload of civil cases the criminal division of the same court, could help out and take on some cases by pretending that the defendant in a simple civil action had been arrested and was in custody.

 

 

 

The fiction that a corporation is, a person separate from its members is equivalent to saying that the law deals with the group as a unit, disregarding for the group's individual members.


Legislation 

 

Written and approved laws. Also known as "statutes" or "Acts." In constitutional law, one would talk of the "power to legislate" or the "legislative arm of government" referring to the power of political bodies (i.e. the Houses of Parliament) to write the laws of the land.  Subordinate legislation includes local bye-laws.


Legitimate Expectation 

 

Legal entitlement to anticipate the occurrence of an event which is induced by the conduct of an administrative body.


Letters of administration

 

This is a document recording the court's permission for the administrator to deal with a dead person's property and pay the debts and legacies.


Liability 

 

Any legal obligation, either due now or at some time in the future. It could be a debt or a promise to do something. To say a person is "liable" for a debt or wrongful act is to indicate that they are the person responsible for paying the debt or compensating the wrongful act.


Libel 

 

Defamation by writing such as in a newspaper or a letter.


Liberal construction 

 

A form of construction which allows a judge to consider other factors when deciding the meaning of a phrase or document. For example, faced with ambiguous wording in a statute, a liberal construction would allow a judge to consider the purpose and object of a statute before deciding what the wording actually means.


Licence 

 

A special permission to do something on, or with, somebody else's property which, were it not for the licence, could be legally prevented or give rise to legal action in tort or trespass. A common example is allowing a person to walk across your lawn which, if it were not for the licence, would constitute trespass. Licences are revocable at will (unless supported by a contract) and, as such, differs from an easement (the latter conveying a legal interest in the land).

 

 

 

Licences which are not based on a contract and which are fully revocable are called "simple" or "bare" licences. A common example is the shopping centre to which access by the public is on the basis of an implied licence.


Life extinct 

 

Euphemism for "dead".  Sometimes used by lawyers to spare the feelings of relatives in court cases.  "On arrival at hospital life was pronounced extinct"; meaning "He was dead by the time he got to hospital".


Lien 

 

The right to hold the properly of another as security for the performance of an obligation.

I can be a property right which remains attached to an object that has been sold, but not totally paid for, until complete payment has been made.

 

 

A possessory lien is the right of the creditor to retain possession of his debtor's properly until his debt has been satisfied. A particular lien exists only as a security for the particular debt incurred, while a general lien is available as a security for all debts arising out of similar transactions between the parties. Thus a solicitor has a lien on his client's papers to secure his costs.

 

 

It may involve possession of the object until the debt is paid or it may be registered against the object (especially if the object is land).

 

 

For example a car put in for repair allows the garage to claim a lien over the car until the bill is paid.

 

 

Ultimately, a lien can be enforced by a court sale of the property to which it attached and then the debt is paid off from the proceeds of the sale. See the Tort Interference with Goods Act.

 

 

A common law lien lasts only so long as possession is retained, but while it lasts can he asserted against the whole world.

 

 

An equitable lien exists independently of possession; i.e. it may bind property not in possession at the time the obligation is incurred, but it cannot avail against the purchaser of a legal estate for value without notice of the lien.

 

 

A charging lien is the right to charge property in another's possession with the payment of a debt or the performance of a duty.

 

 

A maritime lien is a lien on a ship or freight, either possessory, arising out of contracts of carriage, or charging, arising out of collision or other damage.

 

 

A vendor's lien is the right of a seller to retain the property till payment of the purchase price.


Life estate 

 

A right to use and to enjoy land and/or structures on land only for the life of the life tenant. The estate reverts back to the grantor (or to some other person), at the death of the person to whom it is given.

 

 

 

A property right to last only for the life of the life tenant is called the estate "pur sa vie." If it is for the duration of the life of a third party, it is called an estate "pur autre vie". The rights of the life tenant are restricted to conduct which does not permanently change the land or structures upon it.


Life tenant 

 

The beneficiary of a life estate.


Limitation period 

 

"The period within which a person who has a right to claim against another person must start court proceedings to establish that right. The expiry of the period may be a defence to the claim." (Civil Justice Rules)


Limited partner 

 

A unique colleague in a partnership relationship who has agreed to be liable only to the extent of his (or her) investment. Limited partners, though, have no right to manage the partnership. Limited partners are usually just investors or promoters who seek the tax benefits of a partnership


Limitrophe 

 

Adjacent, bordering or contiguous.


Lineal descendant 

 

A person who is a direct descendant such as a child to his or her natural parent.


Liquidated damages

 

Quantum of damages that has been determined. A specific amount, for example. the cost of a replacement article, or the cost of repair to say a car.

 

 

 

See unliquidated damages


Liquidation 

 

The selling of all the assets of a debtor and the use of the cash proceeds of the sale to pay off creditors.


List 

 

"Cases are allocated to different lists depending on the subject matter of the case. The lists are used for administrative purposes and may also have their own procedures and judges " (Civil Justice Rules)


Lis pendens 

 

[Latin: a dispute or matter which is the subject of ongoing or pending litigation] Politicians will sometimes refuse to discuss a matter or an issue which is "lis pendens" because they do not want their comments to be perceived as an attempt to influence a court of law.


Literal construction 

 

A form of construction which does not allow evidence extrapolated beyond the actual words of a phrase or document but, rather, takes a phrase or document at face value, giving effect only to the actual words used.

 

 

 

Also known as "strict" or "strict and literal" construction. Contrasts with liberal construction (which allows for the input from other factors such as the purpose of the document being interpreted).


Litigation 

 

A dispute is in "litigation" ( or being "litigated") when it has become the subject of a formal court action or law suit.  Also the study of court process, both civil and criminal.


Litigant in person

 

A person who represents himself and does not have the services of a lawyer in court.

 

 

 

Lord Phillips the Lord Chief Justice has said that the number of obsessive litigants is increasing, but there is little data to support this claim.  However, research by the DCA (Moorhead 2005) has shown that the Court of Appeal perceive such litigants to be an increasing problem, both in their number and by being increasingly difficult, "some will not take "no" for an answer".

 

 

 

Even if litigants in person are a problem for the courts officials are reminded of Lord Woolf's famous remarks:

"Only too often the litigant in person is regarded as a problem for judges and for the court system rather than the person for whom the system of civil justice exists. 

 

"The true problem is the court system and its procedures which are still too often inaccessible and incomprehensible to ordinary people"

(Access to Justice interim report 1995)

 

See also vexatious litigant


Livery 

 

Delivery. An archaic legal word from the feudal system referring to the actual legal transmission of possession of an object to another.

 

 

 

For example, a knight would obtain an estate in land as tenure in exchange for serving in the king's army for 40 days a year. The king would give exclusive possession of the land, (i.e. "livery") to the knight.

 

 

 

A writ of livery also developed which allowed persons to sue for possession of land under the feudal system. Livery (or "delivery") of the land was important in completing legal possession or, as it was known in the feudal system, seisin.


Living will, also called advance directive, or advance decision

 

A document that sets out guidelines for dealing with life sustaining medical procedures in the eventuality of the signatory's sudden debilitation.

 

 

 

See advance decision


LLB., LM. or LLD. 

 

The Latin abbreviations for the three classes of law degrees: the regular bachelor degree in law (LLB.), the masters degree in law (LL.M.) and the doctorate in law (LL.D.).


Locus 

 

[Latin: the place].  For example, lawyers talk of the "locus delicti" as the pace where a criminal offence was committed or "loco parentis" to refer to a person who stands in the place of a parent such as a step-parent in a common law relationship.


Locus standi

 

The right of a litigant to act or be heard.

 

 

 

It has been called "one of the most amorphous concepts in the entire domain of public law".

 

 

 

In common law the litigant has locus standi if a private right is interfered with; in statute law the right is conferred by the statute. For example, in Boyce v Paddington Borough Council (1903), the claimant  Boyce had a private right of access interfered with by the Council and consequently suffered special damage, he therefore had a special interest in the subject matter of the action and had locus standi.

 

 

 

Conversely, R v Secretary of State for the Environment, ex parte Rose Theatre Trust co (1990) the remains of the Rose Theatre, which had seen the first performances of works by Shakespeare and Marlowe, were discovered during redevelopment works in the London Borough of Southwark. The applicant, whose members included distinguished archaeologists and actors, was formed in order to campaign for the protection of the remains, the group did not have sufficient interest and therefore no locus standi.


Lord

 

A peer of the Realm. For example a Law Lord who sits in the House of Lords.  Whilst addressed as "My Lord" and Lords Justice of Appeal who sit in the Court of Appeal and Divisional Courts of the High Court are Knights or Dames, not Peers. 

 

 

 

Judges of the High Court are also appointed privy counsellors and are entitled to use the prefix "Right Honourable" before their names.


Lord-Lieutenant

 

A Lord-Lieutenant (pronounced "Lord Left-tenant") is the permanent local representative of the Crown in a county. The Queen appoints them on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

 

 

 

They attend on royalty during official visits (which they always help to arrange), perform duties in connection with the armed forces, and make presentations of honours and awards on behalf of the Crown.

 

 

 

Lord-Lieutenants also work closely with local charitable and voluntary groups in their counties and areas and often chair the local Advisory Committees on Justices of the Peace.

 

 

 

On official occasions there is a formal dress, resplendent, including a sword (dating back to Henry VII when they had a military role).

 

 

 

In speech he/she is addressed as "My Lord-Lieutenant"


Luxembourg Compromise

 

The Luxembourg compromise, reached in January 1966, brought to an end the so-called ‘empty chair’ crisis; France having refused to take its seat in the Council since July 1965.

 

 

 

The compromise was an acknowledgement of the disagreement existing between those who, when a major national interest was at stake, wanted the members of the Council to do their best within a reasonable space of time to find solutions which all sides could adopt without encroaching on their mutual interests, and France, which was in favour of keeping discussions going until unanimous agreement was reached. Subsequently other member states were to side with the French point of view.


 

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