Category: What does . . . mean?

What does it mean when a defendant is ‘indicted’? Is the defendant guilty?

An indictment just means that a person was charged with a crime.  The defendant is not guilty, but he was accused of committing the crime. One special characteristic of the United States is that in federal courts and often in state courts a “grand jury” indicts the defendant.  A grand jury is a large jury, 16-23 persons, which reviews the evidence presented by the prosecutor and determines whether there is at least enough evidence to accuse the defendant of committing the crime.  Grand juries are intended to, among other things, act as a shield against meritless prosecutions.  Not all states use the grand jury system and some states only use grand juries for certain crimes.   If the grand jury agrees that there is enough evidence the foreperson of the grand jury will sign the document with the accusations against the defendant.  We would say that the grand jury has indicted the defendant.  Below is a short video on grand...

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What is a fee simple determinable?

I am working to get more property law videos up on my YouTube page.  I just loaded a new one on the fee simple determinable.   Property law in law school is mainly focused on real property, rights to land.  An interest in land is called an estate.  There are different types of estate. A fee simple estate means that a person has as many rights as possible with respect to a particular piece of land.  He can do what he wants with the land (subject to applicable zoning laws of course) and can give it to someone else.   A fee simple determinable is just like a fee simple estate except that the person’s interest in the land can end automatically if something occurs. Let’s say O gives land to A: “I convey this land to you and your heirs so long as you use it for educational purposes.”  Our magic words here are “so long as”.  “So long as”; “while”; “during”; and “until” are words that may create a fee simple determinable.  A has the land but as soon as he no longer uses the land for educational purposes, the land automatically reverts back to O....

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What does it mean when Congress “imposes stricter pleading requirements?”

Generally speaking, it is easy to commence a litigation in the United States because pleading requirements are not strict.  That is, a plaintiff can usually file a lawsuit without including too much detail and without including evidence in the complaint.  The additional details and evidence can come later.  These same lax rules also apply to counterclaims and defenses.  Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure imposes three requirements on a complaint: a short and plain statement of subject matter jurisdiction, a short and plain statement showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief, and a demand.  Rule 9 requires some additional detail if a complaint or counterclaim alleges fraud (or a defense relates to a mistake).   Some people criticize lax pleading requirements on grounds that it harms defendants who must pay money to defend or to settle meritless claims. Congress enacted the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (the PSLRA) in 1995 to curb purportedly meritless securities fraud litigation. The PSLRA makes it more difficult for plaintiffs to commence the lawsuit by requiring additional details in the complaint.  Recently, interest groups in the United States and members of Congress have worked to enact stricter pleading requirements and other reforms related to patent troll litigation.   You might want to look at some videos I uploaded regarding pleading requirements in the federal...

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What are the differences between a Bivens Action and a 42 USC 1983 civil rights lawsuit?

42 USC 1983 is a statute, a law enacted by Congress.  The law allows a person whose Constitutional rights were violated by government officials to sue in federal court.  The defendant in the case must be someone acting on behalf of a state or local government.  A plaintiff can also sue a local government, such as a city, for violating his constitutional rights. Congress passed 42 USC 1983 because of a concern after the United States Civil War that southern states deprived black people of their Constitutional rights.  42 USC 1983 empowers victims to sue state officials, and those acting on their behalf. A Bivens Action is different because the defendant in a Bivens Action is alleged to be acting on behalf of the federal government, not a state government.  The Supreme Court, in Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), held that plaintiffs whose Constitutional rights were violated by persons acting on behalf of the federal government (may) have an implied right to sue federal officials in federal court.  The plaintiff in that case was named Warren Bivens so now we call these types of cases “Bivens Actions”. Learn more about a 2017 Supreme Court case, Ziglar v. Abbasi which discusses the scope of Bivens actions and the separation of powers: Ziglar v. Abbasi: The Scope of Bivens Actions Below is an older video on Bivens...

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Isn’t it troublesome for each state in the US to have different laws and courts?

I received a number of comments that it seems inefficient for different states to have different laws and legal systems.  Here are a few thoughts on this: 1. Many people might agree with you.  In fact, there are “uniform laws” adopted by most or all the states for precisely that reason – – so that each state will apply the same law.  For example, in connection with business (the Uniform Commercial Code or UCC) and criminal law (the Model Penal Code), many states enacted similar codes.   2. In any event, most laws tend to be fairly similar.  For example, no one could seriously believe that in his home state it would be illegal to start a fire in the lobby of a hotel but that in another state that type of  dangerous activity could possibly be legal. 3. There are some advantages to having different legal systems and statutes in each state.   First, states can specialize in areas of law.  For example, Delaware has well-developed law regarding corporations.  States in the west or south developed useful law regarding cattle branding.  New York is not famous for cattle branding but many people respect New York’s sophisticated commercial laws and courts.   Second, different states can experiment with different laws and states can learn from each other.  For example, California law regarding torts tends to be ahead of the...

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