Other legal phrases come down unchanged from Roman jurisprudence. Here are some of the most common:
Latin Used in Criminal Law
- mens rea: this means "the criminal mind," or criminal intent. It's one of the basic criteria for criminal guilt, along with actus reus, or "the criminal deed."
- habeas corpus: this literally means "you may have the body." A writ of habeas corpus demands that a person be physically presented, in order to release him or her from imprisonment or restraint that is unlawful.
- in pari delicto: this concept, roughly meaning "in equal fault," refers to parties that are equally culpable or criminal.
- corpus delicti: meaning "the body of the crime," this concept doesn't necessarily refer to a murder victim's corpse (though it can); it means any proof that a crime has been committed, which must be present before any conviction for that crime.
- pro bono: a lawyer who works "for the (public) good," as this phrase means, is understood as working for free.
- ex parte: this means "by (or for) one party," or on one side only. An ex parte conversation, therefore, might include only the plaintiff in a case, but not the defendant.
- amicus curiae: a "friend of the court" is a person or group who has a stake in an issue in a case, but is not directly involved in that case. Such as party may file an "amicus brief." For instance, Mad Magazine filed an amicus brief in the copyright case Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. (1993), having been sued on similar grounds in Berlin v. E.C. Publications (1964).
- prima facie: this means "at first face," or, more colloquially, on the face of it. A prima facie case is one where there is enough evidence to justify proceeding to trial.
- subpoena: this means "under penalty" or "on pain (of ...)." It is a process by which a court compels someone either to produce papers or documents as evidence, or to appear to testify. It comes from the phrase subpoena duces tecum, meaning "under penalty you shall bring (the papers, etc.) with you."
- nolo contendere: literally, "I am unwilling to dispute," this is a formal declaration that a defendant does not wish to contest the charges.
- v.: This stands for versus, or "against," an abbreviation found in case names. It is also sometimes shortened to vs.
- inter vivos: this means "among the living," and can refer to a gift made during a person's lifetime, as opposed to one made through a will.
- ultra vires: this concept means that an action is "beyond the powers" of something as defined by a charter or constitution.
- nunc pro tunc: literally "now for then," this is legalese for something that has retroactive effect.
- res ipsa loquitur: "the thing speaks for itself," or, more loosely, the fact is self-evident. This concept spills over into other argumentative fields such as philosophy and logic.
- res judicata: this means "a thing adjudged," or a legal matter that has already been decided.
- sua sponte: something done sua sponte is done voluntarily, or "by one's own accord."
- inter se: this phrase, meaning "between each other," refers to a relationship between partners.