Understanding the Law
October 14, 2005

Words that you need to know

It is not satisfactory for you to use some corruption of a word. You need to have actual knowledge of certain words that are used in the court and in legal documents. An ordinary dictionary would not always give you the meaning, hence I invite you to go through this article as you build your knowledge of the law. {{more}}

• Fieri facias is of Latin origin and is often used in its shortened form – fi fa. Fieri facias means ‘you cause to be done”. This writ of execution directs the sheriff or Marshall (the registrar of the High Court) to seize and sell a defendant’s property to satisfy a money judgment made by the court. Bailiffs are the agents of the court and normally act on behalf of the Marshall. They are empowered to enter a person’s property to seize goods belonging to the judgment debtor. This is often used when the judgment debtor refuses to pay the judgment creditor voluntarily.

• Nulla bona – The bailiff writes nulla bona on the writ of execution, that is, the document giving him the right to seize the goods and chattels of the debtor if he finds nothing that is worth seizing.

• The word chattel refers to the movable items belonging to a person and may include furniture, refrigerator, stereo, television among others.

• The word damages is an ordinary English word but in law it is used to mean money claimed by a person or ordered by the court to be paid to a person as compensation for loss or injury suffered. For example, the claimant seeks $8,000 in damages from the defendant for losses suffered in an accident. It could be that his car and clothing were destroyed or he suffered physical injuries. The different types of damages that the court deals with will be explained in a subsequent article. It is sufficient to state however that this issue is normally argued extensively by the lawyer especially in an injury case.

• Voir dire (pronounced vwarhr deer) is French by origin meaning to speak the truth. In American courts it is used to refer to the examination of a prospective juror by a lawyer to decide whether a person is suitable or qualified to perform as a juror. In our own courts it is used to test the competence of a witness or evidence. A voir dire is often given in the absence of the jury.

• Hereditament is a word that you would find in a deed of conveyance. It is an old English word that refers to land and those things associated with land that could be inherited.

• Easement is used to describe the interest given to a person over the land belonging to another person. It is normally given to a person to access a public road. It could last forever. The person who uses it cannot possess it. Everyone must have access to a public road and cannot be totally contained. Hence if there is no road to and from a person’s land the court would allow that person to cross over the land of another.

• Estate is the interest that one has in land or other property. It is usually used to refer to the property that one leaves after death.