Legal Terms and Meanings

Sources of legal terms and meanings used by courts

Sources of legal terms and meanings are derived from an assortment of authorities. Courts and the lawyers who practice before them use legal definitions as terms of legal art. In this sense, each phrase implicitly includes all relevant laws, rights, duties and restrictions, without the necessity of enumerating these items each time a phrase is used. For a layperson who is not familiar with all current applicable laws, legal terminology represents a trap because common meanings and defined terms rarely coincide in all circumstances. The sources for legal terminology include:

  • Constitutions.
  • Statutes.
  • Rules.
  • Case law opinions .
  • Administrative opinions.
  • Agency policies.
  • Legal customs and usage.

Shepardizing case opinions

To determine if a definition is still current, both statutes and case opinions are reported periodically by a service entitled Shepard's Citations. Most lawyers refer to the process of verifying the most recent cases and laws as "Shepardizing" the law. Before relying on any definition, be sure to check all relevant editions of the citation manuel.

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