Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'S'
Say what? That may have been your reaction the first time you tried to decipher a legal document, state code section, or correspondence making use of legalese, the specialized language used by lawyers, judges, lawmakers, and others in the legal field.
Each week, our series Legalese From A to Z takes on some of the more important bits of legalese, one letter of the alphabet at a time. This week, we take on five legal terms that start with the letter "S":
- Section 1983. Section 1983 refers to the section of title 42 of the U.S. Code that makes an individual liable for depriving another individual of constitutional rights "under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of a state." Part of the Civil Rights Act, this section is frequently used for police brutality lawsuits.
- Statute of limitations. A statute of limitations establishes the period of time within which an action must be brought. In civil law, statutes of limitations often work to bar lawsuits too remote in time from the occurrence or discovery of an injury. In criminal law, statutes of limitation may prevent prosecutors from charging an individual with a crime after a specified amount of time has passed.
- Supremacy clause. Under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, the laws of the federal government, including the Constitution, are the supreme law of the land. Known as the supremacy clause, this clause requires that federal law pre-empts a state law to the contrary when the laws conflict.
- Survival action. Often confused with wrongful death actions in which the survivors of a person killed bring suit for damages relating to the loss of a loved one, survival actions actually allow for the "survival" of a personal injury or other action after the death of the plaintiff. Although laws vary by state, survival actions generally allow for the estate of a plaintiff to continue with an action filed by the plaintiff after the plaintiff's death, with any recovery being paid to the estate and distributed in accordance with the decedent's will or state intestacy laws.
If you need help with defining a legal word or phrase, check out FindLaw's Legal Dictionary for free access to more than 8,000 definitions of legal terms. In next week's Legalese From A to Z, we'll check out five more legal terms you may not know, beginning with the letter "T."