Duhaime's Constitutional, Human Rights and Administrative Law Dictionary

Welcome to the compendium of terms which relate to the most fundamental of all law: constitutional. Nowhere else have words mattered as much as nations, like their human components, once their contract struck in writing, almost instantly seek to expand and tangle its very letters, always, to give the one or the other an advantage presumably found in the spirit, if not the text of the Constitution. And on that, the courts have written what we have harvested and present herein.

Aboriginal
Pertaining to things or land or person or members of a race, which are indigenous to, or first occupied a specified territory.
Abuse of Discretion
A decision of a judicial body based on an erroneous finding of fact or conclusion of law, or an improper application of law to fact.
Accusare Nemo Se Debet Nisi Coram Deo
Latin: no man is obliged to accusehimself except before God.
Act
A bill which has passed through the various legislative steps required for it and which has become law.
Administrative Law
That body of law which applies for hearings before quasi-judicial or quasi-judicial organizations such as administrative tribunals, or the underlying regulatory agency.
Administrative Tribunal
Hybrid adjudicating authorities which render judicial decisions.
Affirmative Action
A reverse discrimination law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of individuals who are socially or economically disadvantaged.
Anarchy
Absence of law.
Apartheid
Afrikaan for apartness. A set of South African laws and regulations that implemented and enforced racial discrimination and segregation.
Apportionment
The division and distribution of something into proportionate parts; to each according to their share.
Audi Alteram Partem
Latin; literally 'hear the other side'.
Bigotry
Racial or religious intolerance.
Bill
A proposed statute, not yet approved.
Bribery
A secret payment to a public officer in exchange for preferential treatment.
Capacity
The power to acquire and assert legal rights.
Capricious
A judicial decision which is not based on any apparent reason.
Citizenship
The status of an individual as owing allegiance to, and enjoying the benefits of, a designated state.
Civil Liberties
Natural rights which appertain and are inherent to each person as a human being, and which are protected.
Civil Rights
Personal rights which civilized communities undertake, by the enactment of positive laws, to prescribe, abridge, protect, and enforce.
Civil War
Armed conflict by identifiable faction(s) within a nation which threatens or has broken down an existing government, law and order.
Communism
A utopian state of government where specified property or means of production are owned by the state and not citizens or persons, and which may also provide for a form of equal distribution of national production.
Complete Preemption
American constitutional law; the conversion of a state law cause of action into a federal claim.
Conflict of Interest
A personal interest that conflicts with a public or fidiciary interest.
Congress
Collectively, the Senate and the House of Representatives of the government of the United States of America.
Constitution
The basic, fundamental law of a state which sets out how that state will be organized and the powers and authorities of government between different political units and citizens.
Constitutional Law
A branch of law with a focus on constitutions.
Constitutional Supremacy
A system of government in which the law-making freedom of parliamentary supremacy cedes to the requirements of a Constitution.
Consuetudo Volentes Ducit, Lex Nolentes Trahit
Customs leads the willing, law drags the unwilling.
Corruption
The use of public office for private gain.
Coup d'etat
French: an often violent, always sudden and unlawful replacement of an existing government.
Criminal Harassment
Unsolicited annoying, alarming or abusive conduct or words which are threatening, and which are prohibited by law.
Crown
The English Monarch, where she is the symbolic head of state.
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Punishments which involve unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.
Curtilage
The area around a home which harbors the intimate activity associated with the sanctity and privacy of it.
Custom
The consensual regulation of human conduct and commerce by the community itself.
Defence of Habitation
The right to use lethal force to prevent a felony committed within a person's home.
Deficient
USA constitutional law: the substandard performance of an attorney.
Delegatus Non Potest Delegare
Latin: a delegate cannot delegate.
Deliberate Indifference
Ignoring a situation known to exist.
Deliberative
The private and candid give-and-take of a consultative or policy development process by a public agency.
Deliberative Process Privilege
A freedom of information exemption as regards documents or records created during and within a government agency's internal decision-making process.
Democracy
A form of government in which the people freely govern themselves; where the executive (or administrative) and law-making (or legislative) power is given to persons chosen by the population; the free people.
Depecage
(USA) The process of cutting up a case into individual issues, each subject to a separate choice-of-law analysis.
Dillon's Rule
A rule of judicial interpretation that a municipality may exercise only those powers expressly conferred by statute, necessarily or fairly implied by the expressed power in the statute, or essential and not merely convenient.
Divine Right of Kings
A doctrine of absolute right of a monarch premised on the belief that an individual's tenure as monarch was an act of God, and thus the king can set the law, or to ignore or change the law as may have been set by a representational parliament.
Domesday Book
An 1086 land census conducted in England.
Dominion
A self-governing colony of the British Empire (now the British Commonwealth).
Dual Sovereignty Doctrine
A maxim of law which allows the double prosecution of a person by more than one state for the same crime, where both states have jurisdiction for the prosecution, and notwithstanding the double jeopardy rule.
Eleventh (11th) Amendment
A 1795 amendment to the constitution of the USA purporting to insulate states from judgments or legal actions brought by citizens of other states.
Eminent Domain
USA: The legal power to expropriate private land for the sake of public necessity.
Erga Omnes
Latin: towards everyone.
Executive Branch
The executive branch is the administrative arm of government (and thus also called the 'administration' or the 'administrative branch of government'); the one with the most employees as it operates, implements and enforces all the laws created by the legislative branch, and as interpreted, from time to time, by the judiciary.
Expressive Association
A group that engages in some form of public or private expression.
Fascism
A form of government which is authoritarian, oppressively conservative, who believe in the supremacy of the stated national group, and which, at least initially, purports to vest law-making and administrative authority in the hands of workers or their organizations.
Federalism
A system of government which has created, by written agreement, a central and national government to which it has distributed specified legislative (law-making) powers, called the federal government, and regional or local governments (or sometimes called provinces or states) to which is distributed other, specified legislative powers.
Federal Paramountcy
A doctrine of constitutional law which gives priority to the application of a federal statute where those terms conflict with the operation of a provincial statute.
FISA Order
(USA) A court order approving electronic surveillance or a search of a target suspected of acting on behalf of a foreign power or terrorist organization.
Fourth Amendment
US constitutional protection against unreasonable search or arrest.
Freedom of Expression
Freedom to communicate ideas without restraint, whether orally or in print or by other means of communication.
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine
Bars the admission of physical evidence and live testimony obtained directly or indirectly through the exploitation of unconstitutional police conduct.
Government
Organization of law-making and law enforcement; the form and institutions by which law and order are developed and maintained in a society.
Hate Crime
The subtly or overt victimization of an individual, for no reason other than skin color, religion, parental heritage, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.
Hearing
The presentation of evidence before an adjudicating body as may be required for a full disclosure and challenge of alleged facts.
Heckler's Veto
(USA) A controversial legal position taken by law enforcement officers based on an alleged right to restrict freedom of speech where such expression may create disorder or provoke violence.
High Treason
Treason as against the monarch, king or queen, or his/her government.
Human Dignity
An individual or group's sense of self-respect and self-worth, physical and psychological integrity and empowerment.
Human Right
An individual's statutory right to equal treatment and free from discrimination prohibited by statute and which, generally, provides a civil remedy to provide compensation or to punish such discrimination when it is reported.
Imperialism
The absorption of subject states, usually for the purpose of harvesting raw materials, into a federalistic political organization.
Independent Source Doctrine
(USA) Evidence initially discovered during an unlawful search, but later obtained independently through activities untainted by the illegality, may be admitted into evidence
Indian
Nomenclature selected by Canada and USA to refer to and define their aboriginal or indigenous people.
Indigent
A poor person; not penniless but in need and who has no financial support from any other.
Ineffective Assistance
In USA constitutional law, grounds for reversing a criminal law judicial determination where relevant legal advice was deficient and prejudicial.
Interculturalism
A government policy regarding the relationship between a cultural majority and cultural minorities, which emphasizes integration by exchange and interaction.
Interjurisdictional Immunity
The purported inability of the Canadian Federal government to legislate in an area assigned by the Constitution to the Provincial government, and vice versa.
Judicial Branch
A branch of government; judges.
Judicial Independence
That judges are not subject to pressure and influence, and are free to make impartial decisions based solely on fact and law.
Kolstad Defense
(USA) A defense an employer can make in a civil rights case to defeat a claim for punitive damages.
Law
Rules of conduct approved and enforced by the government of and over a certain territory (eg. the 'laws' of Australia).
Law Reform
The review of law(s) which apply within a certain area of the law, and the recommendations for changes therein, if any.
Legalism
The rigorous and ruthless adherence to the word of the law, usually combined with a policy to regulate as much as possible.
Legislative Branch
The elected law-making branch of government.
Liberty
What a person may do without being prevented from doing so by law.
Lobbying
The attempt by special interest groups, directly or through agents, to influence the views of members of a deliberative assembly.
Lord Chancellor
The one-time formal title of the Minister of Justice for the United Kingdom.
Manumission
The act of freeing a slave.
Mestizo
A descendant from European and aboriginal parents.
Monarchy
A form of government in which law-making power is given to a single person, usually holding such authority by birthright and not by merit.
Mulatto
A person one of whose parents is either wholly black or the other wholly white.
Multiculturalism
A doctrine of state policy of active encouragement and support of the co-existence of multiple cultures within a same territory.
National Interest
A matter which has or could have impact upon all other members of society.
Natural Justice
Basic or fundamental judicial rights extended to a person with rights at issue.
Natural Law
The natural rights of mankind.
Negro
Black-skinned inhabitants of tropical Africa or their descendants.
Nemo Debet Bis Vexari Pro Una Et Eadem Causa
Latin: No-one shall be tried or punished twice in regards to the same event.
Nemo Judex In Parte Sua
Latin: no person can judge a case in which he or she is party or in which he/she has an interest.
Non Potest Rex Gratiam Facere Cum Injuria Et Damno Aliorum
The king cannot confer a favor on one subject which occasions injury and loss to others.
Oligarchy
A form of government in which a few persons rule and govern by assuming all legislative and administrative authority.
Open Fields Doctrine
There is no constitutionally protected expectation of privacy in open spaces.
Ordinance
An executive decision of a government which has not been subjected to a legislative assembly (contrary to a statute).
Overriding Error
A standard of appellate review, an error that must have altered the result or may well have altered the result.
Parliament
The aggregate or assembly of institutions that comprise the legislative apparatus of government in democratic societies.
Parliamentary Supremacy
A peremptory rule of constitutional law which gives the legislative branch of government to set the law, as opposed to the judicial branch (the courts).
Peerage
An artificial dignity associated with nobility, such as an earldom.
Personal Interest
An interest in either the subject matter or a relationship with the parties before a judicial body.
Petite Policy
A policy of the US Justice Department that following a state prosecution there should be no federal prosecution for the same transaction in the absence of compelling federal interests.
Plebiscite
The submission of a legislative proposal to the vote of the people.
Pluralism
A system or philosophy, which, in the name of respect for diversity, acknowledges the existence of different political opinions, moral and religious beliefs, and cultural and social behaviour.
Poisoned Work Environment
A negative work environment created by a form of harassment.
Police Power
A local or regional government's authority to enforce within its limits, laws, ordinances or regulations.
Policy
Planning decisions of a government agency; also, an insurance contract.
Political Question Doctrine
A doctrine which prevents a court of law from determining issues which are essentially political; within the purview of the executive branch of government.
Political Speech
Expressions which comment on government action rather than the private conduct of an individual.
Polyarchy
Rule by a group of three or more.
Power
An ability conferred upon a person by the law to determine, by his/her own will directed to that end, the rights, duties, and liabilities or other legal .relations either of him/herself or of other persons.
Preemption Doctrine
The superceding of any lower jurisdiction's law in the event of a law on topic extant within a higher jurisdiction.
Principle of Humanity
A general principle of international law that provides that civilians are hors de combat and that even as regards to combatants, superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering is prohibited.
Privacy
A person's right to control access to his or her personal information.
Publicity
The use of an individual's name, image or reputation to promote products or services.
Quando Jus Domini Regis Et Subditi Concurrunt, Jus Regis Praeferri Debet
Latin: When the right of the sovereign and that of a subject conflict, the right of the sovereign is to be preferred.
Quasi-Judicial
Administrative tribunals or government officials which, in their decision-making process, are subject to the rules of natural justice.
Question of Fact
Questions about what actually took place between the parties.
Question of Law
Questions touching the scope, effect or application of a rule of law which the courts apply in determining the rights of parties.
Quick Take
A formal process of the exercise of eminent domain in which the government takes possession before the adjudication of compensation.
Racial Profiling
Targeting of individual members of a particular racial group, on the basis of the supposed propensity of the entire group.
Racism
Superiority-based ideology which discriminates individuals or a group, based on their immutable characteristic of race.
Referendum
The putting of a question of proposed law to popular vote of the people.
Regulation
A law on some point of detail, supported by an enabling statute, and issued not by a legislative body but by an executive branch of government.
Republic
A form of government where the law-makers and administrators are chosen by the people and not king or queen, or chosen thereby.
Revolution
Rebellion, often by organized military action, but always with the support of a significant proportion of the population, aimed at the replacement of an existing government.
Rex Debet Esse Sub Lege, Quia Lex Facit Regem
The king should be subject to the law for the law makes the king.
Rex Non Potest Peccare
Latin: the king can do no wrong.
Rex Nunquam Moritur
Latin: the king never dies.
Right
A claim or an advantage possessed by a person or persons, which is conferred or protected by law, and which implies a corresponding duty on the part of another
Royal Prerogative
A discretionary power vested in the executive branch of government and not, typically, subject to judicial review.
Rule of Law
That individuals, persons and government shall submit to, obey and be regulated by law, and not arbitrary action by an individual or a group of individuals.
Sexual Orientation
An individual's preference in terms of sexual relationship with others - whether homosexual or heterosexual.
Slavery
When a person (called master) has absolute power over another (called slave) including life and liberty.
Sovereign
Has two meanings. The first one is a technical word for the monarch (king or queen) of a particular country as in the Sovereign of England is Queen Elizabeth. The other meaning of the word is to describe the supreme legislative powers of a state: that they are totally independent and free from any outside political control or authority over their decisions.
Sovereignty
A state's ability to legislate without legal limitation save as set by themselves and the reach of international law.
Speech
The expression of an idea in circumstances where it is likely that the message would be understood.
State
Groups of people which have acquired international recognition as an independent country and which have a population, a common language and a defined and distinct territory.
Statutes
The written laws approved by legislatures, parliaments or elected or appointed houses of assembly.
Straight Condemnation
A formal process for the exercise of eminent domain in which a price is adjudicated and then the property bought by the government.
Substantive Law
Core law which determines rights and obligations, as opposed to procedural law.
Theocracy
A form of government which defers not to civil development of law, but to an interpretation of the will of a God as set out in religious scripture and authorities.
Thirteenth (13th) Amendment
An 1865 amendment to the US Constitution that forbids slavery and forced labor except, as regards the latter, as punishment for crime.
Ultra Vires
Latin: beyond the powers.
United States
The territory over which the sovereignty of the United States extends.
Vagueness
A law which lacks in precision as not to give sufficient guidance for legal debate.
Villeinage
A form of slavery under the English feudal land system; the Lord owned a villein outright, as a chattel.
Xenophobia
Racially-based intolerance of immigrants.

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