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
petitioner (immigration)
A U.S. resident or business who makes a formal request that a foreign national be allowed to enter the United States. The petitioner must be an immediate relative who is either a U.S. citizen or green card holder or your prospective U.S. employer. No one else may act as your petitioner. Almost all green card categories and some types of nonimmigrant visa categories require you to have a petitioner.
physical custody
The right and obligation of a parent to have his child live with him. Compare legal custody.
physical incapacity
The inability of a spouse to engage in sexual intercourse with the other spouse. In some states, physical incapacity is a ground for an annulment or fault divorce, assuming the incapacity was not disclosed to the other spouse before the marriage.
piercing the veil
A judicial doctrine that allows a plaintiff to hold otherwise immune corporate officers and directors personally liable for damages caused by a corporation under their control. The veil is pierced when officers have acted intentionally and illegally, or when their actions exceeded the power given them by the company's articles of incorporation.
plagiarism
Passing off someone else's work as your own, whether word for word or merely the creative ideas. This can amount to copyright infringement if permission has not been obtained from the copyright owner for use of the expressive elements of the work. Even if permission is granted, putting your name on someone else's work is still plagiarism and is unethical within artistic, scientific, academic and political communities.
plaintiff
The person, corporation or other legal entity that initiates a lawsuit. In certain states and for some types of lawsuits, the term petitioner is used instead of plaintiff. Compare defendant, respondent.
plant patent
A patent issued for new strains of asexually reproducing plants. Plant patents last for 17 years from the date the patent issues.
plea
The defendant's formal answer to criminal charges. Typically defendants enter one of the following pleas: guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere. A plea is usually entered when charges are formally brought (at arraignment).
plea bargain
A negotiation between the defense and prosecution (and sometimes the judge) that settles a criminal case. The defendant typically pleads guilty to a lesser crime (or fewer charges) than originally charged, in exchange for a guaranteed sentence that is shorter than what the defendant could face if convicted at trial. The prosecution gets the certainty of a conviction and a known sentence; the defendant avoids the risk of a higher sentence; and the judge gets to move on to other cases.
pleading
A statement of the plaintiff's case or the defendant's defense, set out in generally accepted legal language and format. Today, in many states, the need to plead a case by drafting legal jargon -- or borrowing from a legal form book -- and printing it on numbered legal paper has been replaced by the use of pre-printed forms. In this case, creating a proper pleading consists principally of checking the correct boxes and filling in the requested information.
PMI
See private mortgage insurance.
POD
See pay-on-death designation.
poison pill
A strategy for avoiding a hostile takeover. A company offers low-price stock to its current shareholders in order to make it more expensive for another company to buy them out.
post hoc
Part of the Latin phrase post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which means "after this, therefore because of this." The phrase represents the faulty logic of assuming that one thing was caused by another merely because it followed that prior event in time.
pot trust
A trust for children in which the trustee decides how to spend money on each child, taking money out of the trust to meet each child's specific needs. One important advantage of a pot trust over separate trusts is that it allows the trustee to provide for one child's unforeseen need, such as a medical emergency. But a pot trust can also make the trustee's life difficult by requiring choices about disbursing funds to the various children. A pot trust ends when the youngest child reaches a certain age, usually 18 or 21.