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Glossary of Legal Terms Index


Glossary of Legal Terms – P

Paralegal: A researcher or assistant to a lawyer who has some legal skills but no legal qualifications.

Parens patriae: Latin phrase meaning ‘parent of the country’.

Pari passu: Latin meaning ‘equally’.

Parole: To release a prisoner from a part of his or her sentence providing some certain conditions are met. If these conditions are not met the prisoner must return to prison and serve out the rest of the sentence.

Partnership: An agreement involving two or more people to run business with the expectation of sharing the profits.

Party: A person who is involved in a relationship or a legal action.

Patent: An inventors legal rotection against the unauthorised use of his or her invention, with grant of a monopoly right.

Paternity: meaning fatherhood.

Payee: A person to whom a payment is made or a person to whom a bill of exchange is payable.

Penal: Relating to punishment.

Penalty: A punishment usually a fine.

Per annum: By the year.

Peremptory challenge: The right of the defendants and the plaintiffs lawyers to object in a jury trial to a number of prospective jurors but for no given reason.

Perjury: crime of knowingly swearing a false oath, not telling the truth while under oath.

Permit: Written permission or license to take specific action.

Personal property: Anything that can be owned not including real estate. Property that can be moved, goods, chattels.

Petition: Written request to the court for a particular remedy, stating the facts on which the request is based.

Plaintiff: The person who initiates legal proceedings.

Plea: Defendants answer to the charges brought against him or her.

Plea bargaining: A negotiation in a criminal case between the prosecutor and defence lawyer usually to decrease the type or number of charges in edxchange for a guilty plea.

Pleadings: Written formal statements made by the defendant and the plaintiff in which they state the facts in the case as they see them.

Possession: The holding in one’s custody of something.

Posthumous: Meaning ‘after death’.

Power of Attorney: Authority to represent someone or act as his or her agent and conduct business in his or her name.

Preamble: an introduction, introductory words or passages.

Precedent: The concept that a legal principle or form decided in an earlier instance, or case, should be used in a subsequent one.

Pre-nuptual agreement: A document prepared prior to marriage by a couple outlining the dividing property in the event of a separation or divorce.

Presumption: An assumption which is made in a legal case, of which there are three kinds:

1. presumption of fact; an inference drawn from the facts.

2. irrebuttable presumption of law; a rule of law or legal principle that cannot be contradicted by factual proof.

3. rebuttable presumption of law: a legal rule or principle that can be overturned by factual evidence.

Prima facie: Latin meaning ‘as it first appears’ or ‘at first sight’.

Principal: The amount of a debt not including interest; person who is primarily responsible for a debt; a person who gives authorisation to another to act on his or her behalf.

Priority: A first legal claim that is accepted in preference to other competing claims.

Pro rata: Meaning ‘proportionally’

Probable cause: A strong reason to suspect something; reasonable grounds.

Probate: A court procedure which determines the validity of a will.

Probation: Permission which is given to a person previously convicted of a crime to stay free from prison provided he or she stays out of trouble and reports to a probation officer at predetermined intervals.

Promissory note: A signed document which is a promise to pay a certain amount of money either on or after a designated date, or, on demand.


1. The subject matter of ownership.

2. Ownership or title.

Prosecute: To take action by way of legal proceedings.

Proxy: Someone authorised to act on behalf of another person, a properly appointed representative or agent (generally to vote).

Publication: To make available or communicate to the public.

Public domain: A work is in public domain when the relevant copyright has expired.

Public nuisance: An activity which is dangerous.offensive or obstructive to a community members rights.

Public policy: A legal principle providing that no one may violate the conscience of the people or the public good.

Punitive damages: Money awarded in a lawsuit to the plaintiff in order to punish the defendant for her or his negligent, reckless or malicious conduct. It is in addition to any actual losses suffered by the plaintiff.

Purchase agreement: A contract for the sale and purchase of services, goods, or real estate.

Purchaser: the buyer.

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