Do you speak legalese? No, it's not a foreign language (though it may seem foreign at times). Rather, legalese describes the specialized language of the legal profession -- i.e., words only lawyers would use.
Welcome to Legalese From A to Z, a new FindLaw series highlighting the meanings behind some legal terms that may not be familiar to non-lawyers. To kick off the series, we're starting -- where else? -- with five words that begin with the letter "A":
- Acceleration clause. An acceleration clause is a clause in a loan agreement accelerating the date by which payment in full is due under certain circumstances. For example, an acceleration clause in a mortgage agreement can be triggered -- meaning payment of the remaining balance of the loan will be due -- if the home is sold, title to the property is changed, the loan is refinanced, or if the borrower defaults on the loan.
- Additur. Additur allows the court to increase the amount of damages awarded by a jury if it deems the award insufficient. The U.S. Supreme Court held that additur violates the Seventh Amendment, so it is unavailable in federal court. However, some state courts do still permit additur under certain circumstances. A court can also decrease the amount of damages awarded by a jury through a similar process called remittitur.
- Ademption. Ademption is the revocation of a gift in a will through either the disposal of the property by the maker of the will before he or she dies -- called ademption by extinction -- or by a gift of that same or similar property from the maker of the will to the named recipient before his or her death, known as ademption by satisfaction.
- Amicus curiae. Amicus curiae is Latin for "friend of the court." It refers to individuals or organizations that are not a party to a lawsuit but are allowed to advise the court on a point of law or fact directly concerning the lawsuit. This is done via the submission of amicus briefs, which can often number in the dozens in important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Asportation. Asportation describes the carrying away of someone's property, an element of the crime of larceny. Larceny is the common-law form of what most people now consider theft, and has been merged into general theft statutes in many states. In general, a larceny is committed when someone asportates (i.e., takes and carries away) the property of another without consent, and with the intent to permanently deprive the other person of that property.
If you need help with defining a legal word or phrase, check out FindLaw's Legal Dictionary for free access to more than 8,000 definitions of legal terms. Or just wait for next Sunday, when Legalese From A to Z will demystify five more legal terms you may not know, beginning with the letter "B."