Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, April 16, 2018

Latin Legal Terms for Genealogists -- Part Twelve

Plato, Republic, translated into the Latin language by the Humanist Antonio Cassarino. Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 3346, fol. 153v.
This is pretty much a never-ending series. But I only post to it when I think about Latin, which only happens when I am looking at old documents. But since that is what I am doing right now all day long every day, I am back to Latin.

Here we go with the Latin words and phrases. You might want to remember the rules of this series which are that I am only selecting terms that I have actually heard used at some time in my 39-year career or phrases that have passed into English and no longer sound like Latin.

nudum pactum - literally "naked promise"
We spent an entire year in a Contracts course in law school and I can say that I still did not understand contracts until I had been practicing law for a number of years. Technically this term refers to an unenforceable promise due to lack of consideration. The phrase "lack of consideration" is the one that takes a long time to understand. Obviously, having made these statements, I will not try to summarize years of contract law in one or two paragraphs. The key here is the idea that the contract is unenforceable because one of the parties didn't get anything out of the deal. Sort of.

nota bene - literally "consider or note well"
Do people really think that using these phrases impresses anyone? Anyway, people (attorneys) use this phrase occasionally when they are concerned that their most important argument will be ignored. But when the judge sees this used, he or she will automatically assume that what the attorney is trying to say is that the argument has no support.

non obstante verdicto - literally "notwithstanding the verdict"
This phrase has been shortened to nonobstante (pronounced non-ob-stan-tay) and it has nearly passed into English. It means that the judge is about to overrule the jury's decision or verdict in the case. As a side note, civil juries now make decisions not verdicts and the term verdict is more commonly used only in criminal cases.

non faciat malum, ut inde veniat bonum - literally "not to do evil that good may come"
This is another phrase that has been shortened. The short form is "non faciat malum." This phrase is actully used in the context of arguments that some reprehensible act really promotes a good result. The phrase essentially means that the good does not justify the bad act. The argument does work on occasion.

non est factum - literally "It is not [my] deed" 
This is used in a defense when a party is claiming that his or her signature to a contract or document is not valid because he or she did not know what they were signing. This argument also works if there are substantiating and supporting facts that would make the execution of the contract subject to some factual dispute. 

non compos mentis - literally "not in possession of [one's] mind"
Yes, people do say these things and write them in legal briefs. It is more polite than saying that your client is crazy. 

nolo contendere - literally "I do not wish to dispute" 
This is another phrase that has been shortened to "nolo" and has long since passed into English as in a "nolo plea." You also hear questions such as "Is your client going to plead nolo?" It means that the person will not dispute the claim or charge against him or her. 

nolle prosequi - literally "not to prosecute"
This phrase gets confused with "nolo." But this is the state or government representative informing the court that the case will not proceed to prosecution. 

nisi prius - literally "unless first"
This is actually the phrase and it is not same as "nisi" variously pronounced as "nicey" or "neesy." It also does not have anything to do with the Toyota car of the same name. But it might be considered a compliment if said to the driver of such a car. This phrase refers to the court that has original jurisdiction in a matter. The word "jurisdiction" here is something many attorneys never understand during their entire careers. 

OK, so here is the short version of what this phrase means when used without the "prius" from the Legal Dictionary:
NISI. This word is frequently used in legal proceedings to denote that something has been done, which is to be valid unless something else shall be done within a certain time to defeat it. For example, an order may be made that if on the day appointed to show cause, none be shown, an injunction will be dissolved of course, on motion, and production of an affidavitof service of the order. This is called an order nisi. Ch. Pr. 547. Under the compulsory arbitration law of Pennsylvania, on the filing of the award, judgment nisi is to be entered: which judgment is to be as valid as if it had been rendered on the verdict of a jury, unless an appeal be entered within the time required by the law.
Is that clear? This is why attorneys can charge money for what they do. 

nemo plus iuris ad alium transferre potest quam ipse habet - literally "no one can transfer a greater right than he himself has."
Are you going to guess that this phrase also has a short form? Yes, it does. The short form is "ad alium." The phrase is sometimes used to refer to the fact that a purchaser of stolen goods cannot obtain ownership as against the rightful owner. By the way, the phrase has nothing to do with the captain of the Nautilus. This is why some police departments have piles of bikes.

I still have a huge number of these wonderful sayings to look at. See you sometime.

Here are the previous posts in this series.

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