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  • Par value shares

    Shares issued by a company which have a minimum price. Shares which are without par value or "non par value shares" are shares which may be sold at whatever price the company's board of directors decides.
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  • Paralegal

    A person who is not a lawyer or is not acting in that capacity but who provides a limited number of legal services. Each country differs in the authority it gives paralegals in exercising what traditionally would be lawyers' work.
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  • Pardon

    A pardon is a government decision to allow a person who has been convicted of a crime, to be free and absolved of that conviction, as if never convicted. It is typically used to remove a criminal record against a good citizen for a small crime that may have been committed during adolescence or young adulthood. Although procedures vary from one state to another, the request for a pardon usually involves a lengthy period of time of impeccable behavior and a reference check. Generally speaking, the more serious the crime, the longer the time requirement for excellent behavior. In the USA, the power to pardon for federal offenses belongs to the President.
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  • Parens patriae

    Latin: A British common law creation whereby the courts have the right to make unfettered decisions concerning people who are not able to take care of themselves. For example, court can make custody decisions regarding a child or an insane person, even without statute law to allow them to do so, based on their residual, common law-based parens patriae jurisdiction.
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  • Pari delicto

    Latin for "of equal fault." For example, if two parties complain to a judge of the non-performance of a contract by the other, the judge could refuse to provide a remedy to either of them because of "pari delicto": a finding that they were equally at fault in causing the contract's breach.
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  • Pari passu

    Latin: Equitably and without preference. This term is often used in bankruptcy proceedings where creditors are said to be "pari passu" which means that they are all equal and that distribution of the assets will occur without preference between them.
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  • Parole

    An early release from incarceration in which the prisoner promises to heed certain conditions (usually set by a parole board) and under the supervision of a parole officer. Any violation of those conditions would result in the return of the person to prison.
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  • Parricide

    Killing one's father or another a family member or close relative.
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  • Partnership

    A business organization in which two or more persons carry on a business together. Partners are each fully liable for all the debts of the enterprise but they also share the profits exclusively. Many states have laws which regulate partnerships and may, for example, require some form of registration and allow partnership agreements. One of the basic advantages of partnerships is that they tend to allow business losses to be deducted from personal income for tax purposes (see also limited partner).
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  • Patent

    An exclusive privilege granted to an inventor to make, use or sale an invention for a set number of years (eg. in Canada, 17 years). Normally, no one company can retain a monopoly over a product or service because this is considered to economically harmful to society. But as a financial incentive to potential inventors, the state grants a temporary monopoly to that inventor through the issuance of a patent.
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  • Patents, Trademarks & Copyrights

    the area of law dealing with an idea, invention, trade secret, process, program, data, formula, patent, copyright, or trademark or application, right, or registration (often times referred to as intellectual property law).
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  • Paternity

    Being a father. "Paternity suits" are launched when a man denies paternity of a child born out of wedlock. New technology of DNA testing can establish paternity thus obliging the father to provide child support.
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  • Paternity Judgment

    legal determination of fatherhood
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  • Payee

    The person to whom payment is addressed or given. In family law, the term usually refers to the person who receives or to whom support or maintenance is owed. In commercial law, the term refers to the person to whom a bill of exchange is made payable. On a regular check, the space preceded with the words "pay to the order of" identifies the payee.
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  • Payor

    The person who is making the payment(s). Again, in the context of family law, the word would typically refer to the person to a support or maintenance debtor. In commercial law, the word refers to the person who makes the payment on a check or bill of exchange.
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  • Pen register

    An electronic surveillance device which attaches to a phone line and which registers every number dialed from a specific telephone. This surveillance device is not as effective as wire-tapping.
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  • Pendente lite

    Latin: during litigation. For example, if the validity of a will is challenged, a court might appoint an administrator pendente lite with limited powers to do such things as may be necessary to preserve the assets of the deceased until a hearing can be convened on the validity of the will. Another example is an injunction pendente lite, to last only during the litigation and, again, designed simply to preserve something until the decisive court order is issued.
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  • Pension & Benefits

    the area of law dealing with compensation under given conditions to a person following retirement from employment or to surviving dependents.
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  • Percolating water

    Water which seeps or filters through the ground without any definite channel and not part of the flow of any waterway. The best example is rain water.
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  • Perjury

    An intentional lie given while under oath or in a sworn affidavit.
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  • Perpetuating testimony

    The recording of evidence when it is feared that the person with that evidence may soon die or disappear and that this person's evidence, if recorded, could then be used in the future to prevent a possible injustice or to support a future claim of property.
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  • Perpetuity

    Forever; of unlimited duration. There is a strong bias in the law against things that are to last in perpetuity. Rights that are to last forever are said to hinder commerce as an impediment to the circulation of property. That is why there is a rule against perpetuities.
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  • Person

    An entity with legal rights and existence including the ability to sue and be sued, to sign contracts, to receive gifts, to appear in court either by themselves or by lawyer and, generally, other powers incidental to the full expression of the entity in law. Individuals are "persons" in law unless they are minors or under some kind of other incapacity such as a court finding of mental incapacity. Many laws give certain powers to "persons" which, in almost all instances, includes business organizations that have been formally registered such as partnerships, corporations or associations
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  • Personal Injury & Torts

    the area of law that involves civil law cases designed to obtain compensation for injury to your person. The personal injury attorney usually tries to negotiate with the opposing party or their insurance company. If necessary, and if the attorney thinks you have a good chance of winning, the case may go to trial. The main concerns in a personal injury case are negligence and liability. Before you can collect an award, your attorney will have to prove that the defendant is liable. To prove liability, the attorney must establish negligence. If there is a failure to exercise reasonable care to prevent injury or damage then there may be negligence. Once liability and negligence have been established, the judge or the jury may award money to compensate for medical costs, lost wages and lost future earnings as well as for pain and suffering.
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  • Personal representative

    In the law of wills, this is the general name given to the person who administers the estate of a deceased person. There are two kinds of personal representatives. Where a person dies without a will, the court must appoint an administrator. Where a personal representative is named in a will, the personal representative is known as an executor.
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  • Petition

    The formal, written document submitted to a court, and which asks for the court to redress what is described in the petition as being an injustice of some kind. Petitions set out the facts, identifies the law under which the court is being asked to intervene, and ends with a suggested course of action for the court to consider (eg. payment of damages to the plaintiff). Petitions are normally filed by lawyers because courts insist on complicated forms but most states will allow citizens to file petitions provided they conform to the court's form. Some states do not use the word "petition" and, instead, might refer to an "application", a "complaint" or the "writ."
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  • Pettifogger

    A petty or underhanded lawyer or an attorney who sustains a professional livelihood on disreputable or dishonorable business. The word has also taken on an common usage definition referring to anyone prone to quibbling over details.
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  • Petty offense

    A minor crime and for which the punishment is usually just a small fine or short term of imprisonment.
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  • PF

    Putative Father
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  • Physical custody

    A child custody decision which grants the right to organize and administer the day to day residential care of a child. This is usually combined with legal custody.
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  • Picket

    To object publicly, on or adjacent to the employer's premises, to an employer's labor practices, goods or services. The most common form of picketing is patrolling with signs.
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  • Pillory

    A medieval punishment and restraining device made of moveable and adjustable boards through which a prisoner's head or limbs were pinned. Pillories were often fixed to the ground in a city's main square and on market days, local criminals were exhibited. Citizens were given license to throw things at the prisoners. As such, this method of punishment was not just humiliating but often led to serious injury or death. For the government, this was a public statement serving to warn others of the consequences of crime. England abolished the pillory as a form of punishment in 1837.
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  • PIQ

    Policy Interpretation Question
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  • Plaintiff

    The person who brings an case to court; who sues. May also be called "claimant", "petitioner" or "applicant. The person being sued is generally called the "defendant" or the "respondent."
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  • Plea bargaining

    Negotiations during a criminal trial, between an accused person and a prosecutor in which the accused agrees to admit to a crime (sometimes a lesser crime than the one set out in the original charge), avoiding the expense of a public trial, in exchange for which the prosecutor agrees to ask for a more lenient sentence than would have been recommended if the case had of proceeded to full trial. The normal rule of law is that judges are not bound by plea bargains although, as past lawyers themselves, they are generally aware of plea bargains and a reasonable recommendation of a prosecutor on sentencing is always heavily considered.
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  • Pleadings

    That part of a party's case in which he or she formally sets out the facts and legal arguments which support that party's position. Pleadings can be in writing or they can be made verbally to a court, during the trial.
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  • Poach

    To kill or take an animal or fish from the property of another.
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  • Polygamy

    Being married to more than one person. Illegal in most countries.
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  • Polygraph

    A lie-detector machine which records even the slightest variation in blood pressure, body temperature and respiration as questions are put to, and answers elicited from a subject.
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  • Postal rule

    A rule of contract law that makes an exception to the general rule that an acceptance is only created when communicated directly to the offeror. An acceptance is binding and the contract is said to be perfected when the acceptor places this acceptance in the mail box for return mail even if, in fact, it never reaches the offeror. An 1892 British case summarized it as follows: "Where the circumstances are such that it must have been within the contemplation of the parties that, according to the ordinary usages of mankind, the post might be used as a means of communicating the acceptance of an offer, the acceptance is complete as soon as it is posted."
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  • Power of attorney

    A document which gives a person the right to make binding decisions for another, as an agent. A power of attorney may be specific to a certain kind of decision or general, in which the agent makes all major decisions for the person who is the subject of the power of attorney. The person signing the power of attorney is usually referred to, in law, as the donor and the person that would exercise the power of attorney, the donee.
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  • Præcipe or precipe

    Latin: used to refer to the actual writ that would be presented to a court clerk to be officially issued on behalf of the court but now mostly refers to the caovering letter from the lawyer (or plaintiff) which accompanies and formally asks for the writ to be issued by the court officer. The precipe is kept on the court file, but does not accompany the writ when the latter is served on the defendant.
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  • Praemunire

    An offence against the King or Parliament, in old English law, which led to serious penalties but not capital punishment.
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  • Precatory words

    Words that express a wish or a desire rather than a clear command. "Precatory words" are often found in trusts or wills and cause great difficulties when courts try to find the real intention of the settlor or testator, For example, the words "all my property to my wife to be disposed of as she may deem just and prudent in the interest of my family" were found to be "precatory" and did not constitute a trust for family members other than the wife.
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  • Precedent

    A case which establishes legal principles to a certain set of facts, coming to a certain conclusion, and which is to be followed from that point on when similar or identical facts are before a court. Precedent form the basis of the theory of stare decisis which prevent "reinventing the wheel" and allows citizens to have a reasonable expectation of the legal solutions which apply in a given situation.
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  • Preferred shares

    A share in a company that has some kind of special right or privilege attached to it, such as that it is distinguished from the company's common shares. The most common special right is a preference over holders of common shares when dividends are declared. Another, is for the preferred shares to be redeemable at the option of either the holder or the company. Still another might be to disallow voting rights to preferred shareholders. Depending on the local laws in your state, there may be no limit to the qualifications a company can attach to preferred shares. For example, a family company may only allow holders of preferred shares to use a recreational property belonging to the company.
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  • Preponderance

    A word describing evidence that persuades a judge or jury to lean to one side as opposed to the other during the course of litigation. In many states, criminal trials require evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. But in civil trials, evidence is required only by preponderance of the evidence. The judge (or jury, where applicable) will perceive the evidence of one side as outweighing the other based on which side has the most persuasive or impressive evidence. The strength or "weight" of evidence is not decided by the sheer number of witnesses because the judge decides on the credibility of witnesses and give their testimony weight accordingly. The side with the preponderance of evidence wins the case.
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  • Prescription

    A method of acquiring rights through the silence of the legal owner. Known in common law jurisdiction as "statute of limitations." When used in a real property context, the term refers to the acquisition of property rights, such as an easement, by long and continued use or enjoyment. The required duration of continued use or enjoyment, before legal rights are enforceable, is usually written in a state's law known as "statute of limitations."
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  • Presumption of advancement

    A presumption in trust, contract and family law which suggests that property transferred from a parent to a child, or spouse to spouse, is a gift and would defeat any presumption of a resulting trust.
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  • Presumption Of Paternity

    a rule of law under which evidence of a man`s paternity (e.g. voluntary acknowledgment, genetic test results) creates a presumption that the man is the father of a child. A rebuttable presumption can be overcome by evidence that the man is not the father, but it shifts the burden of proof to the father to disprove paternity.
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  • Prima facie

    (Latin) A legal presumption which means "on the face of it" or "at first sight". Law-makers will often use this device to establish that if a certain set of facts are proven, then another fact is established prima facie. For example, proof of mailing a letter is prima facie proof that it was received by the person to whom it was addressed and will accepted as such by a court unless proven otherwise. Other situations may require a prima facie case before proceeding to another step in the judicial process so that you would have to at least prove then that at first glance, there appears to be a case.
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  • Principal

    An agent's master; the person for whom an agent has received instruction and to whose benefit the agent is expected to perform and make decisions.
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  • Private law

    Law which regulates the relationships between individuals. Family, commercial and labor law are examples of private law because the focus of those kinds of laws is the relationships between individuals or between corporations or organizations and individual, with the government a bystander. They are the counter part to public law.
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  • Privilege

    A special and exclusive legal advantage or right such as a benefit, exemption, power or immunity. An example would be the special privileges that some persons have in a bankruptcy to recoup their debts from the bankrupt's estate before other, non-privileged creditors.
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  • Pro bono

    Provided for free. Pro bono publico means "for the public good."
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  • Pro forma

    As a matter of form; in keeping with a form or practice. Something done pro forma may not be essential but it facilitates future dealings. For example, an invoice might be sent to a purchaser even before the goods are delivered as a matter of business practices.
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  • Pro possessore

    As a possessor. For example, a person may exercise certain rights over a thing not as owner but pro possessore: as a person who possesses, but does not own, the thing.
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  • Pro rata

    Latin: to divide proportionate to a certain rate or interest. For example, if a company with two shareholders, one with 25% and the other with 75% of the shares, received a gift of $10,000 and desired to split it "pro rata" between the shareholders, the shareholder with 25% of the shares would receive $2,500 and the 75% shareholder, $7,500.
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  • Pro se

    Latin: in one's personal behalf. Contrast with pro socio.
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  • Pro socio

    Latin: on behalf of a partner; not on one's personal behalf.
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  • Pro tempore

    Latin: something done temporarily only and not intended to be permanent.
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  • Probability Of Paternity

    the probability that the alleged father is the biological father of the child as indicated by genetic test results.
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  • Probate

    the area of law dealing with the validity of wills, administration of estates and sometimes over the affairs of minors and persons adjudged incompetent.
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  • Probation

    A kind of punishment given out as part of a sentence which means that instead of jailing a person convicted of a crime, a judge will order that the person reports to a probation officer regularly and according to a set schedule. It is a criminal offence not to obey a probation order and is cause for being immediately jailed. If someone is "on probation", that means that they are presently under such a Court order. These orders may have special conditions attached to them such as not to leave the city, drink alcohol, consume drugs, not to go to a specific place or contact a certain person.
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  • Products Liability Law

    the area of law focusing on the liability imposed on a manufacturer or seller of a defective and unreasonably dangerous product (see also personal injury law).
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  • Profit à prendre

    A servitude which resembles an easement and which allows the holder to enter the land of another and to take some natural produce such as mineral deposits, fish or game, timber, crops or pasture.
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  • Prohibition

    A legal restriction against the use of something or against certain conduct. For example, in the 1920s, both the USA and Canada enacted liquor prohibitions, outlawing the manufacture or use of alcoholic beverages.
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  • Promisee

    A person whom is to be the beneficiary of a promise, an obligation or a contract. Synonymous to "obligee."
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  • Promisor

    The person who has become obliged through a promise (usually expressed in a contract) towards another, the intended beneficiary of the promise being referred to as the promisee. Also sometimes referred to a "obligor."
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  • Promissory note

    An unconditional, written and signed promise to pay a certain amount of money, on demand or at a certain defined date in the future. Contrary to a bill of exchange, a promissory note is not drawn on any third party holding the payor's money; it is a direct promise from the payor to the payee.
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  • Property

    Property is commonly thought of as a thing which belongs to someone and over which a person has total control. But, legally, it is more properly defined as a collection of legal rights over a thing. These rights are usually total and fully enforceable by the state or the owner against others. It has been said that "property and law were born and die together. Before laws were made there was no property. Take away laws and property ceases." before laws were written and enforced, property had no relevance. Possession was all that mattered. There are many classifications of property, the most common being between real property or immoveable property (real estate such as land or buildings) and "chattel", or "moveable" (things which are not attached to the land such as a bicycle, a car or a hammer) and between public (property belonging to everybody or to the state) and private property.
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  • Propinquity

    Nearness in place; close-by. Also used to describe relationships as synonymous for "kin."
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  • Propound

    To offer a document as being authentic or valid. Used mostly in the law of wills; to propound a will means to take legal action, as part of probate, including a formal inspection of the will, by the court.
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  • Proprietor

    Owner.
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  • Prosecute

    To bring judicial proceedings against a person and to administer them until the conclusion of the court proceedings. Lawyers are hired by the government to administer the prosecution of criminal charges in the courts.
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  • Prospectus

    A document in which a corporation sets out the material details of a share or bond issue and inviting the public to invest by purchasing these financial instruments.
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  • Prostitute

    A person who offers sexual intercourse for hire.
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  • Proxy

    A right which is signed-over to an agent. Proxies are used frequently at annual meetings of corporations where the right to exercise a vote is "proxied" from the shareholder to the agent.
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  • PRWORA

    Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996
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  • Public Assistance

    money granted from the State! Federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children program to a person or family for living expenses; eligibility based on need
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  • Public domain

    A term of American copyright law referring to works that are not copyright protected, free for all to use without permission. Examples include works that were originally non-copyrightable (items that by their very nature are not eligible for copyright such as ideas, facts or names), copyright that has been lost or expired, where copyright is owned or authored by the federal government (federal documents and publications are not copyrighted and so are public domain), and those works which have been specifically granted to the public domain.
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  • Public law

    Those laws which regulate (1) the structure and administration of the government, (2) the conduct of the government in its relations with its citizens, (3) the responsibilities of government employees and (4) the relationships with foreign governments. Good examples are criminal and constitutional law. It can be distinguished from private law, which regulates the private conduct between individuals, without direct involvement of the government. For example, an unsolicited punch in the nose would constitute a crime for which the government would prosecute under criminal law but for which there would also be a private legal action possible by the injured party under tort law, which is private law although governments can be held responsible under tort law. As you can see, the line is often hard to draw between public and private law.
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  • Public Utilities Law

    the area of law dealing with the business organizations (such as an electric company) performing a public service and subject to special governmental regulation.
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  • Puisne

    Junior or lower in rank, as opposed to the chief justice. For example, there are 8 puisne judges on the Supreme Court of Canada and a chief justice.
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  • Punitive damages

    Special and highly exceptional damages ordered by a court against a defendant where the act or omission which caused the suit, was of a particularly heinous, malicious or highhanded nature. Where awarded, they are an exception to the rule that damages are to compensate not to punish. The exact threshold of punitive damages varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some countries, and in certain circumstances, punitive damages might even be available for breach of contract cases but, again, only for the exceptional cases where the court wants to give a strong message to the community that similar conduct will be severely punished. They are most common in intentional torts such as rape, battery or defamation. Some jurisdictions prefer using the word "exemplary damages" and there is an ongoing legal debate whether there is a distinction to be made between the two and even with the concept of aggravated damages.
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