Category: What does . . . mean?

What does “national law” mean in the United States? Is it the same as federal law?

In the United States, national law and federal law are the same thing.  National laws are enacted by Congress and signed into law by the President of the United States. Because of  federalism, power is divided in the United States between the national government based in Washington, D.C. and state governments.  Both the state and national governments have the power to pass laws.  For example, New York State can pass a law that criminalizes certain types of conduct,  such as robbery, and the United States federal government can pass laws that would criminalize certain types of conduct, such as smuggling illegal goods into the country.  Here is a video on federalism:     Recognizing Federal and State Laws There are some ways to recognize federal and state laws. First, federal laws typically have a recognizable  popular name and a citation.  Popular name just means the name politicians give the law so people can recognize it.  For example, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But citation tells you where the law was published and that will always inform you whether the law is a federal law or not.  Federal laws are published in the United States Code, abbreviated as USC. For example, let’s say you see a  law cited as: 18 USC § 2113 This tells you that the law is a federal law because it is in...

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What is the difference between a promisor and promisee?

A promisor is someone who makes a promise to a promisee. Contract law teaches us whether the promisor is legally obligated to keep his promise. For example, if Mr. A promises to pay Mr. B $500 then A is the promisor and B is the promisee.  Contract law informs us whether Mr. A is liable if he breaks his promise. Consider the following example:  Mr. A promises to pay Mr. B $500 and Mr. B says, “Great!  Now I can get that tablet computer I always wanted.”  Is A in legal trouble if he decides not to pay?  Contract...

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What does “cause of action” mean?

Historically, “cause of action” has had more than one meaning.  Today, when lawyers in the United States refer to a “cause of action” they usually mean a legal category or legal theory on which someone bases a lawsuit.  Remember, “action” means a lawsuit.  Cause of action would mean the legal grounds for the lawsuit, such as breach of contract or tort. For example, in the illustration below the pedestrian’s “cause of action” against the driver will be the tort of negligence because the driver carelessly injured the pedestrian while he was crossing the street. In some cases a party might assert multiple causes of action for one injury.  For example, a plaintiff might argue that he has a cause of action for breach of contract  because the defendant broke a promise.  In the alternative, the plaintiff might also claim to have a cause of action for fraud because the defendant lied when he made his promise....

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What is the difference between a “claim” and an “issue”?

A claim and an issue are very different. Claims Think of a claim as an assertion that is one is legally entitled to relief from a court.  Let’s say David promises to give Patty his bicycle on Tuesday.  Patty says, “Thanks for the present!” But on Tuesday David refuses to give her his bicycle. Patty decides to sue David.  She will claim that David harmed her by refusing to turn over the bicycle and that the court should help her.  She might claim that she had a contract with David and that David breached the contract. Issues Issues are legal questions that a court must answer before deciding a case. In Patty’s case against David the legal question might be, “Is a defendant required to give a bicycle to a plaintiff if he promised her the bicycle but both parties considered the bicycle to be a present and the plaintiff promised nothing in return?” To decide whether Patty should prevail on her claim the court would need to answer the issue of whether the promise to give a present is legally enforceable.  Put another way, the issue might be phrased as, “Was the promise to give a bicycle a contract between David and Patty that the court must enforce?” Of course, a claim can raise one issue or multiple issues.  The court will identify those issues that are relevant to the case and determine...

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What is the difference between judgment as a matter of law and summary judgment?

Briefly, motions for JMOL and summary judgment are very similar in that  judges apply similar legal standards when deciding these motions, but they are different because they take place at different times during a civil case.  Summary judgment is a pre-trial motion, JMOL is an in-trial or post trial motion. In the federal courts JMOL is governed by Rule 50.  The moving party must wait until its adversary has had an opportunity to present its case before moving for JMOL.  In the motion, the moving party asks the court to rule in its favor because the law and the evidence demonstrate that the moving party must win on one or more issues.  There is no need for a jury to deliberate.  A motion for JMOL has tactical advantages because if the judge denies the motion, the moving party can move again after the trial (a “renewed” motion for JMOL) pursuant to Rule 59. A summary judgment motion, Rule 56, also asks the judge to rule in favor of one party on one or more issues.  Similar to JMOL, the motion argues that the evidence and the law so clearly favors the moving party that the judge should rule in the moving party’s favor.  Typically motions for summary judgment take place after discovery is complete  because at that point the parties have shared all the important evidence in the case.  However, it...

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