A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
benevolent society benefits
See fraternal benefit society benefits.
bequeath
A legal term sometimes used in wills that means "leave" -- for example, "I bequeath my garden tools to my brother-in-law, Buster Jenkins."
bequest
The legal term for personal property (anything but real estate) left in a will.
Berne Convention
An international treaty that standardizes basic copyright protection among all of the signatory countries, which currently number over 100. A member country will afford the same treatment to an author from another country as it does to authors in its own country. In addition, each member country is obligated to protect an author's moral rights in her work.
best evidence rule
A rule of evidence that demands that the original of any document, photograph or recording be used as evidence at trial, rather than a copy. A copy will be allowed into evidence only if the original is unavailable.
best interests (of the child)
The test that courts use when deciding who will take care of a child. For instance, an adoption is allowed only when a court declares it to be in the best interests of the child. Similarly, when asked to decide on custody issues in a divorce case, the judge will base his or her decision on the child's best interests. And the same test is used when judges decide whether a child should be removed from a parent's home because of neglect or abuse. Factors considered by the court in deciding the best interests of a child include: age and sex of the child mental and physical health of the child mental and physical health of the parents lifestyle and other social factors of the parents emotional ties between the parents and the child ability of the parents to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing and medical care established living pattern for the child concerning school, home, community and religious institution quality of schooling, and the child's preference.
beyond a reasonable doubt
The burden of proof that the prosecution must carry in a criminal trial to obtain a guilty verdict. Reasonable doubt is sometimes explained as being convinced "to a moral certainty." The jury must be convinced that the defendant committed each element of the crime before returning a guilty verdict.
bifurcate
To separate the issues in a case so that one issue or set of issues can be tried and resolved before the others. For example, death penalty cases are always bifurcated. The court or juryfirst hears the evidence of guilt and reaches a verdict, and then hears evidence about and decides upon which punishment to impose (death or life in prison without parole). Bifurcated trials are also common in product liability class action lawsuits in which many people claim that they were injured by the same defective product -- the issue of liability is tried first, followed by the question of damages. Bifurcation is authorized by Rule 42(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
binding precedent
The decisions of higher courts that set the legal standards for similar cases in lower courts within the same jurisdiction.
blanket search warrant
An unconstitutionally broad authorization from a judge that allows the police to search multiple areas for evidence without specifying exactly what they are looking for.
blue law
A statute that forbids or regulates an activity, such as the sale of liquor on Sundays.
blue sky laws
The laws that aim to protect people from investing in sham companies that consist of nothing but "blue sky." Blue sky laws require that companies seeking to sell stock to the public submit information to and obtain the approval of a state or federal official who oversees corporate activity.
board of directors
See director.
bond
(1) A written agreement purchased from a bonding company that guarantees a person will properly carry out a specific act, such as managing funds, showing up in court, providing good title to a piece of real estate or completing a construction project. If the person who purchased the bond fails at his or her task, the bonding company will pay the aggrieved party an amount up to the value of the bond. (2) An interest-bearing document issued by a government or company as evidence of a debt. A bond provides pre-determined payments at a set date to the bond holder. Bonds may be "registered" bonds, which provide payment to the bond holder whose name is recorded with the issuer and appears on the bond certificate, or "bearer" bonds, which provide payments to whomever holds the bond in-hand.
booking
A quaint phrase that refers to the recording of an arrested person's name, age, address and reason for arrest when that person is brought to jail and placed behind bars. Nowadays, the book is likely to be a computer. Usually, a mug shot and fingerprints are taken, and the arrestee's clothing and personal effects are inventoried and stored.