Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'C'

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on August 03, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

Even for those of us who went to law school, legalese can be confusing. That's where FindLaw's Legalese From A to Z series comes into play.

This week, we explain in plain English five legal terms that begin with "C." While you may be familiar with some common terms like contract and civil case, here are a few other "C" words that only lawyers would use, that you may not be familiar with:

  • Causa mortis. Causa mortis is Latin for "in contemplation of death." In the context of gifts of personal property, a gift causa mortis -- a gift made in contemplation of death -- is a gift made while the giver is still alive but near death, and with the intent that the gift will take effect when the giver is dead. If the giver subsequently survives, then the gift is revoked.
  • Certiorari. Certiorari is a written order from a superior court, such as the U.S. Supreme Court, to call up the records of a lower court decision in order to review that decision. It's one of only two ways a case can reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The other is by certification.
  • Chattel. Chattel is any item of personal property; in other words, something you can own. In some legal jurisdictions, chattel encompasses both tangible and intangible personal property. In other jurisdictions, chattel refers to only items of tangible, movable items personal property.
  • Clean hands doctrine. Clean hands is a legal doctrine that prohibits a person seeking an equitable remedy -- such as an injunction or restitution -- from obtaining that remedy if he or she has acted unethically or with "unclean hands."
  • Cooling time. If a homicide is committed, then a defendant charged with murder can argue that the killing was committed in the so-called "heat of passion," which if proven, can reduce a murder charge to the lesser offense of manslaughter in some states. Cooling time is the period of time following an event in which the provocation legally needed to prove a heat of passion defense is deemed to have passed.

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. And check back here next Sunday, when Legalese From A to Z will define five more legal terms you may not know, beginning with the letter "D."

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