Legal Terms

The below definitions are from Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition.

citizen, n. 1. A person who, by either birth or naturalization, is a member of a political community, owing allegiance to the community and being entitled to enjoy all its civil rights and protections; a member of the civil state, entitled to all its privileges.

discrimination, n, 1. The effect of a law or established practice that confers privileges on a certain class or that denies privileges to a certain class because of race, age, sex, nationality, religion or handicap. – Federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, prohibits employment discrimination based on any one of those characteristics. Other federal statutes, supplemented by court decisions, prohibit discrimination in voting rights, housing, credit extension, public education and access to public facilities. State laws provide further protections against discrimination. 2. Differential treatment; esp., a failure to treat all persons equally when no reasonable distinction can be found between those favored and those not favored.

“The dictionary sense of ‘discrimination’ is neutral while the current political use of the term is frequently non-neutral, pejorative. With both a neutral and a non-neutral use of the word having currency, the opportunity for confusion in arguments about racial discrimination is enormously multiplied. For some, it may be enough that a practice is called discriminatory for them to judge it wrong. Others may be mystified that the first group condemns the practice without further argument or inquiry. Many may be led to the false sense that they have actually made a moral argument by showing that the practice discriminates (distinguishes in favor of or against). The temptation is to move from ‘X distinguishes in favor of or against’ to ‘X is wrong’ without being aware of the equivocation involved.” Robert K. Fullinwider, The Reverse Discrimination Controversy 11-12 (1980).

Indian country. 1. The land within the borders of all Indian reservations, the land occupied by an Indian community (whether or not located within a recognized reservation), and any land held in trust by the United States but beneficially owned by an Indian tribe. 2. Hist. Any region (esp. during the U.S. westward migration) where a person was likely to encounter Indians.

Indian land. Land owned by the United States but held in trust for and used by American Indians. – Also termed Indian tribal property.

Indian reservation. An area that the federal government has designated for use by an American Indian tribe, where the tribe generally settles and establishes tribal government.

Indian title. A right of occupancy that the federal government grants to an American Indian tribe based on the tribe’s immemorial possession of the area. – Also termed aboriginal title.

Indian tribe. A group, band, nation, or other organized group of indigenous American people, including any Alaskan native village, that is recognized as eligible for special programs and services provided by the U.S. government because of Indian status (42 USCA  9601 (36)); esp., any group having a federally recognized governing body that carries out substantial government duties and powers over an area (42 USCA 300f(14); 40 CFR 146.3). – A tribe may be identified in various ways, esp. by past dealings with other tribes or with the federal, state or local government, or by recognition in historical records.

“The Indian tribe is the fundamental unit of Indian Law; in its absence there is no occasion for the law to operate. Yet there is no all-purpose definition of an Indian tribe. A group of Indians may qualify as a tribe for the purpose of one statute or federal program, but fail to qualify for others. Definitions must accordingly be used with extreme caution.” William C. Canby Jr., American Indian Law in a Nutshell 3–4 (2d ed. 1988).

plenary. adj. 1. Full; complete; entire <plenary authority>. 2. (Of an assembly) to be attended by all members or participants <plenary session>.

sedition, n. An agreement, communication, or other preliminary activity aimed at inciting treason or some lesser commotion against public authority; advocacy aimed at inciting or producing–and likely to incite or produce–imminent lawless action. – At common law, sedition included defaming a member of the royal family or the government. The difference between sedition and treason is that the former is committed by preliminary steps, while the latter entails some overt act for carrying out the plan. But of course, if the plan is merely for some small commotion, even accomplishing the plan does not amount to treason.

“Sedition–This, perhaps the very vaguest of all offenses known to the Criminal Law, is defined as the speaking or writing of words calculated to excite disaffection against the Constitution as by law established, to procure the alteration of it by other than lawful means, or to incite any person to commit a crime to the disturbance of the peace, or to raise discontent or disaffection, or to promote ill-feeling between different classes of the community. A charge of sedition is, historically, one of the chief means by which Government, especially at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, strove to put down hostile critics. It is evident that the vagueness of the charge is a danger to the liberty of the subject, especially if the Courts of Justice can be induced to take a view favourable to the Government.” Edward Jenks, The Book of English Law 136 (P.B.Fairest ed., 6th ed. 1967)

sovereign, n. 1.  A person, body, or state  vested with independent and supreme authority; 2. The ruler of an independent state.  – Also spelled sovran. See Sovereignty.

immunity. 1. Any exemption from a duty, liability, or service of process; esp., such an exemption granted to a public official.

“An immunity is a defense to a tort liability which is conferred upon an entire group or class of persons or entities under circumstances where considerations of public policy are thought to require special protection for the person, activity or entity in question at the expense of those injured by its tortious act. Historically, tort litigation against units of government, public officers, and charities, and between spouses, parents and children, has been limited or prohibited on this basis.” Edward J. Kionka, Torts in a Nutshell 341 (2nd ed. 1992).

sovereign immunity. 1. A government’s immunity from being sued in it’s own courts without its consent. – Congress has waived most of the federal government’s sovereign immunity. See FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT. 2. A states immunity from being sued in federal court by the state’s own citizens.– Also termed governmental immunity.

sovereign people. The political body consisting of the collective number of citizens and qualified electors who possess the powers of sovereignty and exercise them through their chosen representatives.

sovereign power. The power to make and enforce laws.

sovereign right.  A unique right possessed by a state or its agencies that enables it to carry out its official functions for the public benefit, as distinguished from certain proprietary rights that it may possess like any other private person.

sovereign state. A state that possesses an independent existence, being complete in itself, without being merely part of a larger whole to whose government it is subject; a political community whose members are bound together by the tie of common subjection to some central authority, whose commands those members must obey. Also termed independent state.

sovereignty. 1. Supreme dominion, authority, or rule. 2. The supreme political authority of an independent state. 3. The state itself.

“It is well to [distinguish] the senses in which the word Sovereignty is used. In the ordinary popular sense it means Supremacy, the right to demand obedience. Although the idea of actual power is not absent, the prominent idea is that of some sort of title to exercise control. An ordinary layman would call that person (or body of persons) Sovereign in a State who is obeyed because he is acknowledged to stand at the top, whose will must be expected to prevail, who can get his own way, and make others go his, because such is the practice of the country. Etymologically the word of course means merely superiority, and familiar usage applies it in monarchies to the monarch, because he stands first in the State, be his real power great or small.” James Bryce, Studies in History and Jurisprudence 504-05 (1901).

external sovereignty. The power of dealing on a nation’s behalf with other national governments.

internal sovereignty. The power that rulers exercise over their own subjects.

supremacy. The position of having the superior or greatest power or authority.

supreme. adj. (Of a court, power, right, etc.) highest; superior to all others.

treaty. 1. A formally signed and ratified agreement between two nations or sovereigns; an international agreement concluded between two or more states in written form and governed by international law. – A treaty is not only law in each state but also a contract between the signatories. Also termed accord; convention; covenant; declaration; pact.

trust, n. 1. The right, enforceable solely in equity, to the beneficial enjoyment of property to which another person holds legal title; a property interest held by one person (the trustee) at the request of another (the settler) for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary). – For the trust to be valid, it must involve specific property, reflect the settler’s intent, and be created for a lawful purpose. 2. A fiduciary relationship regarding property and subjecting the person with title to the property  to equitable duties to deal with it for another’s benefit; the confidence placed in a trustee, together with the trustee’s obligations toward the property and the beneficiary. – A trust arises as a result of a manifestation of an intention to create it. See FIDUCIARY RELATIONSHIP. 3. The property so held; TRUST FUND. 4. A business combination that aims at monopoly. See ANTI-TRUST.

“[A] trust involves three elements, namely, (1) a trustee, who holds the trust property and is subject to equitable duties to deal with it for the benefit of another; (2) a beneficiary, to whom the trustee owes equitable duties to deal with the trust property for his benefit; (3) trust property, which is held by the trustee for the beneficiary.” Restatement (Second) of Trusts 2 cmt. h (1959).

“One must distinguish, . . .[in] countries where English is spoken, between a wide and a narrow sense of the word ‘trust.’ In the wide sense a trust exists when property is to be held or administered by one person on behalf of another or for some purpose other than his own benefit. . . . In the narrow or strict sense a trust exists when the creator of the trust . . . hands over or is bound to hand over the control of an asset which, or the proceeds of which, is to be administered by another (the trustee or administrator) in his capacity as such for the benefit of some person (beneficiary) other than the trustee or for some impersonal object. A trust in this sense is a species of the genus ‘trust’ in the wide sense.” Tony Honore, The South African Law of Trusts  1-2, at 1-3 (3rd ed. 1985)

voluntarily, adv. Intentionally; without coercion.

voluntary, adj. 1. Done by design or intention <voluntary act>. 2. Unconstrained by interference; not impelled by outside influence <voluntary statement>. 3. Without valuable consideration; gratuitous <voluntary gift>. 4. Having merely nominal consideration <voluntary deed>.