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
District Attorney (D.A.)
A lawyer who is elected to represent a state government in criminal cases in a designated county or judicial district. A D.A.'s duties typically include reviewing police arrest reports, deciding whether to bring criminal charges against arrested people and prosecuting criminal cases in court. The D.A. may also supervise other attorneys, called Deputy District Attorneys or Assistant District Attorneys. In some states a District Attorney may be called a Prosecuting Attorney, County Attorney or State's Attorney. In the federal system, the equivalent to the D.A. is a United States Attorney. The country has many U.S. Attorneys, each appointed by the President, who supervise regional offices staffed with prosecutors called Assistant United States Attorneys.
district court
In federal court and, in some states, the name of the main trial court. Thus, if you file suit in federal court, your case will normally be heard in federal district court. States may also group their appellate courts into districts -- for example, The First District Court of Appeal.
diversity jurisdiction
The power of the federal courts to decide cases between two citizens of different states, provided the amount the plaintiff seeks in damages exceeds $75000.
dividend
A portion of profits distributed by a corporation to its shareholders based on the type of stock and number of shares owned. Dividends are usually paid in cash, though they may also be paid in the form of additional shares of stock or other property. The amount of a dividend is established by the corporation's board of directors; however, state laws often restrict a corporation's ability to declare dividends by requiring a minimum level of profits or assets before the dividend can be approved.
divorce
The legal termination of marriage. All states require a spouse to identify a legal reason for requesting a divorce when that spouse files the divorce papers with the court. These reasons are referred to as grounds for a divorce.
divorce agreement
An agreement made by a divorcing couple regarding the division of property, custody and visitation of the children, alimony or child support. The agreement must be put in writing, signed by the parties and accepted by the court. It becomes part of the divorce decree and does away with the necessity of having a trial on the issues covered by the agreement. A divorce agreement may also be called a marital settlement agreement, marital termination agreement or settlement agreement.
docket
See court calendar.
doctrine of equivalents
A patent rule under which a new device or process violates an existing patent if the new invention does the same work in a substantially similar way to achieve the same results.
doing business as (DBA)
A situation in which a business owner operates a company under a name different from his or her real name. The owner must file a "fictitious name statement" or similar document with the appropriate agency -- for example, the county clerk. This enables consumers to discover the names of the business owners, which is important if a consumer needs to sue the business.
domain name
A combination of letters and numbers that identifies a specific computer or website on the Internet. A domain name usually consists of three parts: a generic "top-level" domain such as ".com" or ".gov" that identifies the type of organization; a second level domain such as nolo or yahoo, which identifies the organization, site or individual; and a third level domain such as "www," which is used to identify a particular host server. Domain names have various functions. They can serve as an address (whitehouse.com), as a trademark (amazon.com) or as an expression of free speech (presidentbushsucks.com). A domain name owner can stop another business from using the same name for its business or product only if the domain name is being used as a trademark. In other words, if you use your domain name in connection with the sale of goods or services and consumers associate the domain name with your business, you can stop another business from using it. On the flip side, trademark owners can stop others from using a domain name if it conflicts with their existing trademark.
dominant tenement
Property that carries a right to use a portion of a neighboring property. For example, property that benefits from a beach access trail across another property is the dominant tenement.
donation
A gift of property. The IRS allows you to take an income tax deduction for the value of donations made to charitable organizations who are recognized as such by the IRS.
donee
Someone who receives a gift.
donor
Someone who gives a gift.
dower and curtesy
A surviving spouse's right to receive a set portion of the deceased spouse's estate -- usually one-third to one-half. Dower (not to be confused with a “dowry”) refers to the portion to which a surviving wife is entitled, while curtesy refers to what a man may claim. Until recently, these amounts differed in a number of states. However, because discrimination on the basis of sex is now illegal in most cases, most states have abolished dower and curtesy and generally provide the same benefits regardless of sex -- and this amount is often known simply as the statutory share. Under certain circumstances, a living spouse may not be able to sell or convey property that is subject to the other spouse’s dower and curtesy or statutory share rights.