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Understanding “Legalese”: A Quick Lesson on Common Legal Terms

Emily Hanberry

Associate

Tel:       403.692.5217
Email:  ehanberry@vogel-llp.ca

If you are or have been engaged in any sort of legal proceeding, it’s likely that you have been exposed to what is often called “legalese”, or, in other words, formal legal wording that is often difficult to understand. Latin terms and other technical wording (which is sometimes extremely outdated!) are regularly used in law; if you are not familiar with what these terms mean, they can exacerbate an already confusing process. Here are some quick explanations of a few commonly used legal terms:

  • Sine die”: This is a Latin term commonly used in law when referring to a court application, hearing or other meeting that has been adjourned. With something is adjourned “sine die”, that means that it has been adjourned indefinitely into the future, with no appointed or designated resumption date.
  • Prima facie”: This is another Latin term, which literally means “on its face” or “at first look.” The term “prima facie” is perhaps most commonly used by lawyers when speaking about the quality of evidence in a case. The term “prima facie” can be used to mean that, at first glance, evidence is or may be sufficient to establish a fact, or raise a presumption, unless it is disproved or rebutted by further evidence.
  • Pleadings”: If you have been involved in any type of litigation, you have likely heard the word “pleading(s)” used by lawyers, Judges and Court clerks. A “pleading” is a formal written statement, which is filed with the Court, that sets out a party’s claim or defence to a claim. The pleadings in a case define the issues which are going to be litigated.
  • Void ab initio”: This is another Latin term, which means that something (for example, a contract or an agreement), should be treated as invalid from the outset. If something is “void ab initio”, it is to be treated as if it did not exist. If a contract is declared “void ab initio”, that means that the contract is not binding on any of the contracting parties.
  • Bona fide” – The term “bona fide” literally means “good faith” in Latin. If an action is characterized as “bona fide”, that means that it was done honestly, in good faith and without fraud or deceit.
2019-06-11T10:40:38-06:00June 18th, 2019|

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