I think of myself as a down-to-earth person, but I unthinkingly use language that is the opposite. I blame this on my law school education, although I think lawyers self-select with a love of language and words.
Last week’s post was titled “Domestic Violence Redux.” It wasn’t until I was asked for the meaning of “redux” that I realized how arcane the normal language of the law can be. So with no further ado a dictionary, of sorts, of the more commonly used legalese you may hear your attorney using in your divorce or other matters.
- Redux = revisited
- Pro se = a litigant is by himself, no counsel
- Guardian ad litem = a guardian for the purposes of the litigation, commonly referred to as a GAL
- Propounded, as in “we propounded interrogatories” = “we asked”
- Interrogatories = written questions to be answered under oath in a set time frame
- Pro bono = literally means “for good.” Lawyers do a lot of pro bono work for free or reduced fees generally representing folks who can’t afford lawyers, and also when writing briefs for causes the lawyers believe are good
- Res judicata = already decided in this case, so can’t be litigated again
- Stare decisis = settled law, which of course is never really settled as law is always changing
- Mens rea = criminal intent, not usually an issue in family law
- Res ipsa loquitor = the thing speaks for itself, generally used in personal injury
Many of these terms came from Roman Law through British Common Law to our present day law. I hope they’re helpful!