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face amount
n. the original amount due on a promissory note or insurance policy as stated therein, without calculating interest.
face value
n. in shares of stock, the original cost of the stock shown on the certificate, or "par value."
fact
n. an actual thing or happening, which must be proved at trial by presentation of evidence and which is evaluated by the finder of fact (a jury in a jury trial, or by the judge if he/she sits without a jury).
fact finder (finder of fact)
n. in a trial of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution, the jury or judge (if there is no jury) who decides if facts have been proven. Occasionally a judge may appoint a "special master" to investigate and report on the existence of certain facts.
factor
n. 1) a salesman who sells in his/her own name on behalf of others, taking a commission for services. 2) something that contributes to the result.
failure of consideration
n. not delivering goods or services when promised in a contract. When goods a party had bargained for have become damaged or worthless, failure of consideration (to deliver promised goods) makes the expectant recipient justified to withhold payment, demand performance or take legal action.
failure of issue
n. when someone dies leaving no children or other direct descendants.
fair comment
n. a statement of opinion (no matter how ludicrous) based on facts which are correctly stated and which does not allege dishonorable motives on the part of the target of the comment. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that to protect free speech, statements made about a public person (politician, offi...
fair market value
n. the amount for which property would sell on the open market if put up for sale. This is distinguished from "replacement value," which is the cost of duplicating the property. Real estate appraisers will use "comparable" sales of similar property in the area to determine market value, adding or de...
fair trade laws
n. state laws which permit manufacturers or producers to set minimum rates for resale of the product. They have been repealed or found violative of state constitutions in many states.
fair use
n. the non-competitive right to use of copyrighted material without giving the author the right to compensation or to sue for infringement of copyright. With the growing use of copy machines, teachers and businesses copy articles, pages of texts, charts and excerpts for classroom use, advice to empl...
false arrest
n. physically detaining someone without the legal right to do so. Quite often this involves private security people or other owners or employees of retail establishments who hold someone without having seen a crime committed in their presence or pretend that they are police officers. While they may ...
false imprisonment
n. depriving someone of freedom of movement by holding a person in a confined space or by physical restraint including being locked in a car, driven about without opportunity to get out, being tied to a chair or locked in a closet. It may be the follow-up to a false arrest (holding someone in the of...
false pretenses
n. the crime of knowingly making untrue statements for the purpose of obtaining money or property fraudulently. This can range from claiming zircons are diamonds and turning back the odometer on a car, to falsely stating that a mine has been producing gold when it has not. It is one form of theft.
family
n. 1) husband, wife and children. 2) all blood relations. 3) all who live in the same household including servants and relatives, with some person or persons directing this economic and social unit.
family purpose doctrine
n. a rule of law that the registered owner of an automobile is responsible for damages to anyone injured when the auto is driven by a member of the family with or without the owner's permission. The theory of this liability is that the vehicle is owned for family purposes. This doctrine is the law i...
federal courts
n. the court system which handles civil and criminal cases based on jurisdictions enumerated in the Constitution and federal statutes. They include federal district courts which are trial courts, district courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as specialized courts such as bankruptcy,...
federal question
n. one basis for filing a lawsuit in federal district court is that it is based on subjects enumerated in the U.S. Constitution or when a federal statute is involved. Thus, existence of such a federal question gives the federal court jurisdiction.
Federal Tort Claims Act
n. a statute (1948) which removed the power of the federal government to claim immunity from a lawsuit for damages due to negligent or intentional injury by a federal employee in the scope of his/her work for the government. It also established a set of regulations and format for making claims, givi...
fee
n. 1) absolute title in land, from old French, fief, for "payment," since lands were originally given by lords to those who served them. It often appears in deeds which transfer title as "Mary Jo Rock grants to Howard Takitall in feeā€¦" or similar phrasing. The word "fee" can be modified to show that...
fee simple
n. absolute title to land, free of any other claims against the title, which one can sell or pass to another by will or inheritance. This is a redundant form of "fee," but is used to show the fee (absolute title) is not a "conditional fee," or "determinable fee," or "fee tail." Like "fee" it is ofte...
fee tail
n. an old feudal expression for a title to real property which can only be passed to one's heirs "of his body" or certain heirs who are blood relatives. If the blood line ran out (no children) then the title would revert to the descendants of the lord who originally gave the land to the title-holdin...
felon
n. a person who has been convicted of a felony, which is a crime punishable by death or a term in state or federal prison.
felonious
adj. referring to an act done with criminal intent. The term is used to distinguish between a wrong which was not malicious, and an intentional crime, as in "felonious assault," which is an attack meant to do real harm.
felony
n. 1) a crime sufficiently serious to be punishable by death or a term in state or federal prison, as distinguished from a misdemeanor which is only punishable by confinement to county or local jail and/or a fine. 2) a crime carrying a minimum term of one year or more in state prison, since a year o...
felony murder doctrine
n. a rule of criminal statutes that any death which occurs during the commission of a felony is first degree murder, and all participants in that felony or attempted felony can be charged with and found guilty of murder. A typical example is a robbery involving more than one criminal, in which one o...
fertile octogenarian
n. an unrealistic notion that any person (male or female) is capable of having a child no matter at what age, infirmity or physical deficiency. Thus, if property title could not pass to one's child as long as he or she might have or acquire a sibling, then he/she must wait until mother and dad have ...
fictitious defendants
n. when a party suing (plaintiff) is not sure if he/she knows if there are unknown persons involved in the incident or the business being sued, there are named fictitious persons, usually designated Doe I, Doe II, and so forth, or "Green and Red Company," with an allegation in the complaint that if ...
fiduciary
1) n. from the Latin fiducia, meaning "trust," a person (or a business like a bank or stock brokerage) who has the power and obligation to act for another (often called the beneficiary) under circumstances which require total trust, good faith and honesty. The most common is a trustee of a trust, bu...
fiduciary relationship
n. where one person places complete confidence in another in regard to a particular transaction or one's general affairs or business. The relationship is not necessarily formally or legally established as in a declaration of trust, but can be one of moral or personal responsibility, due to the super...
fighting words
n. words intentionally directed toward another person which are so nasty and full of malice as to cause the hearer to suffer emotional distress or incite him/her to immediately retaliate physically (hit, stab, shoot, etc.). While such words are not an excuse or defense for a retaliatory assault and ...
file
1) v. to deposit with the clerk of the court a written complaint or petition which is the opening step in a lawsuit and subsequent documents, including an answer, demurrer, motions, petitions and orders. All of these are placed in a case file which has a specific number assigned to it which must be ...
final decree
n. another name for a final judgment. In states where there are interlocutory decrees of divorce (in the hope that a further wait may lead to reconciliation), followed several months later by the actual divorce, the second order is called a final decree, issued after the filing of a declaration that...
final judgment
n. the written determination of a lawsuit by the judge who presided at trial (or heard a successful motion to dismiss or a stipulation for judgment), which renders (makes) rulings on all issues and completes the case unless it is appealed to a higher court. It is also called a final decree or final ...
final settlement
n. an agreement reached by the parties to a lawsuit, usually in writing and/or read into the record in court, settling all issues. Usually there are elements of compromise, waiver of any right to reopen or appeal the matter even if there is information found later which would change matters (such as...
finding
n. the determination of a factual question vital (contributing) to a decision in a case by the trier of fact (jury or judge sitting without a jury) after a trial of a lawsuit, often referred to as findings of fact. A finding of fact is distinguished from a conclusion of law which is determined by th...
findings of fact
n.
firm offer
n. in contract law, an offer (usually in writing) which states it may not be withdrawn, revoked or amended for a specific period of time. If the offer is accepted without a change during that period, there is a firm, enforceable contract.
first degree murder
n. although it varies from state to state, it is generally a killing which is deliberate and premeditated (planned, after lying in wait, by poison or as part of a scheme), in conjunction with felonies such as rape, burglary, arson, or involving multiple deaths, the killing of certain types of people...
first impression
adj. referring to a legal issue which has never been decided by an appeals court and, therefore, there is no precedent for the court to follow. To reach a decision the court must use its own logic, analogies from prior rulings by appeals courts and refer to commentaries and articles by legal scholar...
fixture
n. a piece of equipment which has been attached to real estate in such a way as to be part of the premises and its removal would do harm to the building or land. Thus, a fixture is transformed from a movable asset to an integral part of the real property. Essentially a question of fact, it often ari...
flight
n. running away or hiding by a person officially accused of a crime with the apparent intent of avoiding arrest or prosecution.
floating easement
n. an easement (a right to use another's property for a particular purpose) which allows access and/or egress but does not spell out the exact dimensions and location of the easement.
FOB
1) adj. short for free on board, meaning shipped to a specific place without cost. 2) Friend of Bill (Clinton).
for value received
prep. a phrase used in a promissory note, a bill of exchange or a deed to show that some consideration (value) has been given without stating what that payment was.
forbearance
n. an intentional delay in collecting a debt or demanding performance on a contract, usually for a specific period of time. Forbearance is often consideration for a promise by the debtor to pay an added amount.
forced sale
n. a sale of goods seized by the sheriff to satisfy (pay) a judgment.
forcible entry
n. the crime of taking possession of a house or other structure or land by the use of physical force or serious threats against the occupants. This can include breaking windows or doors or using terror to gain entry, as well as forcing the occupants out by threat or violence after having come in pea...
foreclosure
n. the system by which a party who has loaned money secured by a mortgage or deed of trust on real property (or has an unpaid judgment), requires sale of the real property to recover the money due, unpaid interest, plus the costs of foreclosure, when the debtor fails to make payment. After the payme...
foreclosure sale
n. the actual forced sale of real property at a public auction (often on the courthouse steps following public notice posted at the courthouse and published in a local newspaper) after foreclosure on that property as security under a mortgage or deed of trust for a loan that is substantially delinqu...
foreign corporation
n. a corporation which is incorporated under the laws of a different state or nation. A "foreign" corporation must file a notice of doing business in any state in which it does substantial regular business. It must name an "agent for acceptance of service" in that state, or the Secretary of State in...
forensic
1) adj. from Latin forensis for "belonging to the forum," ancient Rome's site for public debate and currently meaning pertaining to the courts. Thus, forensic testimony or forensic medicine are used to assist the court or the attorneys in legal matters, including trials.
forensic medicine
n. research, reports and testimony in court by experts in medical science to assist in determining a legal question. Cause of death is a common issue determined by pathologists who may be coroners or medical examiners.
forensic testimony
n. any testimony of expert scientific, engineering, economic or other specialized nature used to assist the court and the lawyers in a lawsuit or prosecution.
forensics
n. public speaking or argumentation.
foreseeability
n. reasonable anticipation of the possible results of an action, such as what may happen if one is negligent or consequential damages resulting from breach of a contract.
foreseeable risk
n. a danger which a reasonable person should anticipate as the result from his/her actions. Foreseeable risk is a common affirmative defense put up as a response by defendants in lawsuits for negligence. A skier hits a bump on a ski run, falls and breaks his leg. This is a foreseeable risk of skiing...
forfeit
v. to lose property or rights involuntarily as a penalty for violation of law. Example: the government can take automobiles or houses which are used for illegal drug trafficking or manufacture. A drug pusher may forfeit his/her car (property) if caught carrying drugs in it and found guilty. A parent...
forfeiture
n. loss of property due to a violation of law.
forger
n. a person who commits the crime of forgery, by making false documents or signatures.
forgery
n. 1) the crime of creating a false document, altering a document, or writing a false signature for the illegal benefit of the person making the forgery. This includes improperly filling in a blank document, like an automobile purchase contract, over a buyer's signature, with the terms different fro...
fornication
n. sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are not married to each other. This usage comes from Latin fornicari, meaning vaulted, which became the nickname for brothel, because prostitutes operated in a vaulted underground cavern in Rome. Fornication is still a misdemeanor in some states, as ...
forthwith
adv. a term found in contracts, court orders and statutes, meaning as soon as it can be reasonably done. It implies immediacy, with no excuses for delay.
forum
n. a court which has jurisdiction to hold a trial of a particular lawsuit or petition.
forum non conveniens
(for-uhm nahn cahn-vee-nee-ehns) n. Latin for a forum which is not convenient. This doctrine is employed when the court chosen by the plaintiff (the party suing) is inconvenient for witnesses or poses an undue hardship on the defendants, who must petition the court for an order transferring the case...
foster child
n. a child without parental support and protection, placed with a person or family to be cared for, usually by local welfare services or by court order. The foster parent(s) do not have custody, nor is there an adoption, but they are expected to treat the foster child as they would their own in rega...
four corners of an instrument
n. the term for studying an entire document to understand its meaning, without reference to anything outside of the document ("extrinsic evidence"), such as the circumstances surrounding its writing or the history of the party signing it. If possible a document should be construed based on what lies...
franchise
1) n. a right granted by the government to a person or corporation, such as a taxi permit, bus route, an airline's use of a public airport, business license or corporate existence. 2) n. the right to vote in a public election. 3) v. to grant (for a periodic fee or share of profits) the right to oper...
franchise tax
n. a state tax on corporations or businesses.
fraud
n. the intentional use of deceit, a trick or some dishonest means to deprive another of his/her/its money, property or a legal right. A party who has lost something due to fraud is entitled to file a lawsuit for damages against the party acting fraudulently, and the damages may include punitive dama...
fraud in the inducement
n. the use of deceit or trick to cause someone to act to his/her disadvantage, such as signing an agreement or deeding away real property. The heart of this type of fraud is misleading the other party as to the facts upon which he/she will base his/her decision to act. Example: "there will be tax ad...
fraudulent conveyance
n. the transfer (conveyance) of title to real property for the express purpose of putting it beyond the reach of a known creditor. In such a case the creditor may bring a lawsuit to void the transfer. However, if the transfer was made without knowledge of the claim (or before a debt has matured), fo...
free and clear
adj. referring to the ownership of real property upon which there is no lien, encumbrance, recorded judgment or the right of anyone to make a claim against the property. The term is used in contracts for sale of real property and deeds, to state that the title has no claim against it.
free on board (FOB)
adj. referring to purchased goods shipped without transportation charge to a specific place. Free on board at the place of manufacture shows there is a charge for delivery. Example: if an automaker in Detroit sells a car "FOB Detroit," then there will be a shipping charge if delivery is taken anywhe...
freehold
n. any interest in real property which is a life estate or of uncertain or undetermined duration (having no stated end), as distinguished from a leasehold which may have declining value toward the end of a long-term lease (such as the 99-year variety).
fresh pursuit
n. immediate chase of a suspected criminal by a law enforcement officer, in which situation the officer may arrest the suspect without a warrant. It can also refer to chasing a suspect or escaped felon into a neighboring jurisdiction in an emergency, as distinguished from entering another jurisdicti...
friendly suit
n. a lawsuit filed in order to obtain a court order when the parties to the suit agree on the expected outcome. Such a legal action will be dismissed if it is an attempt to get an advisory opinion, is collusive (deceitfully planned) to get a judgment to set a legal precedent or where there is no rea...
frisk
v. quickly patting down the clothes of a possible criminal suspect to determine if there is a concealed weapon. This police action is generally considered legal (constitutional) without a search warrant. Generally it is preferred that women officers frisk women and men officers frisk men.
frivolous
adj. referring to a legal move in a lawsuit clearly intended merely to harass, delay or embarrass the opposition. Frivolous acts can include filing the lawsuit itself, a baseless motion for a legal ruling, an answer of a defendant to a complaint which does not deny, contest, prove or controvert anyt...
fruit of the poisonous tree
n. in criminal law, the doctrine that evidence discovered due to information found through illegal search or other unconstitutional means (such as a forced confession) may not be introduced by a prosecutor. The theory is that the tree (original illegal evidence) is poisoned and thus taints what grow...
frustration of purpose
n. sometimes called commercial frustration, when unexpected events arise which make a contract impossible to be performed, entitling the frustrated party to rescind the contract without paying damages. Example: Jack Appleseller contracts to buy a commercial building to rent out, and, while the sale ...
fugitive from justice
n. a person convicted or accused of a crime who hides from law enforcement in the state or flees across state lines to avoid arrest or punishment. Under Article IV, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, Governors are required to "deliver up" and return any fugitives from justice to the state where the...
full disclosure
n. the need in business transactions to tell the "whole truth" about any matter which the other party should know in deciding to buy or contract. In real estate sales in many states there is a full disclosure form which must be filled out and signed under penalty of perjury for knowingly falsifying ...
full faith and credit
n. the provision in Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution which states: "Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records and judicial proceedings of every other state." Thus, a judgment in a lawsuit or a criminal conviction rendered in one state shall be recog...
fungible things
n. sometimes merely called "fungibles," goods which are interchangeable, often sold or delivered in bulk, since any one of them is as good as another. Grain or gravel are fungibles, as are securities which are identical.
future interest
n. a right to receive either real property or personal property some time in the future, either upon a particular date or upon the occurrence of an event. Typical examples are getting title upon the death of the person having present use, outliving another beneficiary, reaching maturity (age 18) or ...



The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications