Three Legal English Phrases Decoded to Help You Do Your Research

Federal statutes and regulations

Doing legal research on statuatory history can be quite the undertaking, because of how difficult Legal English can be to decipher and understand. Sometimes referred to as legalese, or lawspeak, Legal English is a social dialect used by legal professionals in English speaking countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

If you find yourself tasked with doing legislative history research on federal statutes and regulations, or some other such assignment where you have to decipher Legal English, then use this short list to help figure out what exactly you’re reading!

1. Non Comppos Mentis.

In Latin, this phrase meant “not of sound mind,” but its modern meaning used in courtrooms or writings on statuatory history is “mentally incompetent.” It’s a generic term used to describe all different species of mental illness including lunacy, drunkenness, and illness. If you’re reading it in older texts on statuatory history, it could refer to things that are no longer considered mental illnesses, such as homosexuality for example.

2. Sine Qua Non.

This Latin phrase meant “without which not,” but in modern Legal English, it means “an indispensable condition; a prerequisite.” This phrase can be particularly important for research on statuatory history, as what follows it will usually be incredibly significant.

3. Locus Delicti.

“Locus delicti” means “the scene of the crime.” Though used hundreds of years ago, the phrase’s meaning hasn’t changed all that much. It’s important to note this particular phrase, as it’ll be incredible prevalent in writings on the statuatory history of criminal proceedings.

This should help you understand a bit more what you’re reading. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

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