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
martial misconduct
See fault divorce.
McNaghten Rule
The earliest and most common test for criminal insanity, in which a criminal defendant is judged legally insane only if he could not distinguish right from wrong at the time he committed the crime. For example, a delusional psychotic who believed that his assaultive acts were in response to the will of God would not be criminally responsible for his acts.
means test
A formula that uses predefined income and expense categories to determine whether a debtor whose current monthly income is higher than the median family income for his or her state should be allowed to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
mechanic's lien
A legal claim placed on real estate by someone who is owed money for labor, services or supplies contributed to the property for the purpose of improving it. Typical lien claimants are general contractors, subcontractors and suppliers of building materials. A mechanics' lien claimant can sue to have the real estate sold at auction and recover the debt from the proceeds. Because property with a lien on it cannot be easily sold until the lien is satisfied (paid off), owners have a great incentive to pay their bills.
median family income
An annual income figure for which there are as many families with incomes below that level as there are above that level. The Census Bureau publishes median family income figures for each state and for different family sizes. A debtor whose current monthly income is higher than the median family income in his or her state must pass the means test in order to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and must commit all disposable income to a five-year repayment plan if filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
mediation
A dispute resolution method designed to help warring parties resolve their own dispute without going to court. In mediation, a neutral third party (the mediator) meets with the opposing sides to help them find a mutually satisfactory solution. Unlike a judge in her courtroom or an arbitrator conducting a binding arbitration, the mediator has no power to impose a solution. No formal rules of evidence or procedure control mediation; the mediator and the parties usually agree on their own informal ways to proceed.
mediator
See mediation.
Medicaid
A program established by the federal government and administered by the states to help pay medical costs for financially needy people. Need is defined by the program of the state in which the applicant resides. Medicaid operates in addition to Medicare to help pay for some of the medical costs that Medicare does not cover.
Medicare
A federal government program that assists older and some disabled people in paying their medical costs. The program is divided into two parts. Part A is called hospital insurance and covers most of the costs of a stay in the hospital, as well as some follow-up costs after time in the hospital. Part B, medical insurance, pays some of the cost of doctors and outpatient medical care.
meeting of creditors
A meeting held with the bankruptcy trustee about a month after you file for bankruptcy. You must attend. The trustee reviews your bankruptcy papers and asks a few questions. In a Chapter 7, the meeting of creditors lasts a few minutes and rarely do any creditors show up. In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, one or two creditors may attend, especially if they disagree with some provision of your repayment plan.
memorandum
(1) An informal written document. A memorandum may be used in any number of circumstances, but most lawyers are best acquainted with the interoffice memorandum--a document prepared by a junior associate in a law office or a judge's law clerk outlining the facts, procedural elements and legal arguments involved in a particular legal matter. These memos are reviewed by senior lawyers and judges who use them to decide how to proceed with the case. (2) Any written record, including a letter or note, that proves that a contract exists between two parties. This type of memo may be enough to validate an oral (spoken) contract that would otherwise be unenforceable because of the statute of frauds. (Under the statute of frauds, an oral contract is invalid if it can't be completed within one year from the date the contract is made.)
memorandum decision
A single, very brief paragraph setting out a court's decision in a case. A memorandum decision does not usually include the court's reasons for reaching its result; those details may appear later in a comprehensive written opinion.
mens rea
The mental component of criminal liability. To be guilty of most crimes, a defendant must have committed the criminal act (the actus reus) in a certain mental state (the mens rea). The mens rea of robbery, for example, is the intent to permanently deprive the owner of his property.
mineral rights
An ownership interest in the minerals contained in a particular parcel of land, with or without ownership of the surface of the land. The owner of mineral rights is usually entitled to either take the minerals from the land himself or receive a royalty from the party that actually extracts the minerals.
minimum contacts
A requirement that must be satisfied before a defendant can be sued in a particular state. In order for the suit to go forward in the chosen state, the defendant must have some connections with that state. For example, advertising or having business offices within a state may provide minimum contacts between a company and the state.