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Legal Grind® presents

The Little Law Book

by Miriam Kurtzig Freedman, J.D
Illustrations by Daphne San Jose

Legal Procedures and Courts


What ís in a Name? Sometimes Everything

When you are dealing with the law, you may be called a ee, an ant, or an or! Which is which when? Here are some common categories of people as they appear in legal situations.

  1. Bailor and bailee
  2. The bailor delivers property to a bailee to hold and return later to the bailee.

    When I park my car in your garage and leave you the keys, I am the bailor; you are the bailee. The car is the bailment.

    If I don't leave the key, then I am the lessee and you are the lessor: I simply rent space from you.

    Who cares, you say! You do, if something happens to my car and I'm looking for someone to sue! It may be easier to sue a bailee than a lessor.

    Other everyday bailments: leaving valuables at the hotel desk; taking clothes to the cleaners; taking your car to the garage for a tune-up. (Remember that if the mechanic does the job, he now has a lien on your car that ends when you pay for the work. If you don't pay, guess who may own part of the car!)

  3. Creditor and debtor and (sometimes) surety
  4. The debtor owes an obligation (often money) to the creditor. A surety guarantees the debtor's debt through a suretyship arrangement. ì promise to pay Dee's debt if he fails to do it'.

    Here are some of the many everyday creditor/debtor relations.

    1. Mortgagor (homebuyer, debtor) owes money to the mortgagee (often a bank, creditor).
    2. Borrower (debtor) owes money to the lender (creditor-often a bank).
    3. Obligor owes an obligation to the obligee.
    4. Promisor owes a promise to the promisee.
  5. Donor and donee
  6. The donor gives a gift to the donee. Nice and easy.
  7. Drawer, drawee, and payee
  8. In writing a check the drawer writes an order to the drawee (often the bank) to pay money to the payee.

  9. Employer, employee, and independent contractor
  10. The employer hires the employee to work. Other terms for employer include boss, owner, and master. Other terms for employee include worker, servant.

    The terms master and servant, as used here, have specific legal meanings. A master employs someone and directs how the work is done, as well as the finished product. You own a painting company and hire painters. You instruct them in how to paint what process to use what materials to buy, et cetera.

    A different relation exists between an employer and an independent contractor. In this case the employer directs the finished product only.

    'I want my house painted red.' I don't tell you how to paint it. I pay when the house is painted.

    Who cares? Again, you do, when it's time to pay employee taxes, sue for a job poorly done, or deal with a work-related injury, among other things.

    In law so much depends on how you characterize someone! We move on....

  11. Garnishee, debtor, and creditor
  12. Sometimes in enforcing an order against a debtor, a court may use the process of garnishment. The court orders the garnishee (often, the employer) to pay a portion of the debtor's wages to creditors. In this way money held by a third party (the garnishee) may be attached for payment to a creditor. Laws limit the amount of wages that can be garnished. See state laws.

  13. Grantor and grantee The grantor transfers an interest in real estate to the grantee. Often the grantor is the seller and the grantee is the buyer. These folks may also be called the assignor (grantor) and the assignee (grantee).

  14. Guardian and ward The guardian (appointed by a court) has legal responsibility for the care of a ward (often a child or incompetent adult). The relationship between guardian and ward is called a ìguardianship.' Related terms:

    1. Next friend: Someone acting for another person, like a child, without a court appointment.
    2. Guardian ad litem: Someone appointed by a court to advocate for a ward's interest in a particular court case (litigation).
  15. iLessor and lessee I always found these confusing!
  16. The lessor is the landlord; lessee is the tenant. Why don't they just say so? Oh, well, it's better than calling them the ìparty of the first part' and the ìparty of the second part'! That happens too.

  17. iThe plaintiff and defendant
  18. The plaintiff (Π) starts a lawsuit against a defendant (∆). The Π seeks a remedy from the ∆. These Greek letters are often used by lawyers for these terms.

  19. Appellant and appellee
  20. Whoever loses the lawsuit and appeals to a higher court is called the ìappellant' (also called the ìplaintiff in error.' Sometimes, simply ìa sore loser').

    The former winner, now, in the appeals stage, is called the ìappellee' (also called the ìdefendant in error' or respondent). The appellant wants to reverse the lower court. The appellee wants to affirm the lower court decision.
  21. Settlor, trustee, and beneficiary In making a trust the settlor (also called the trustor) creates a trust for the benefit of the beneficiary to be managed by the trustee.
  22. A trust is one of the great legal inventions, an instrument that splits property into two forms of ownership: the legal and the equitable ownership.

    The trustee has legal title to the trust property (called the corpus). The beneficiary has equitable title. In this case the equitable title is the valuable one! The trust eventually and actually belongs to him.

    The relation between the trustee, the beneficiary, the settlor, and the trust is called a fiduciary relationship. In plain English, this means the trustee had better do a good job and serves the interests of those other folks, and not himself.

  23. Vendor and vendee
  24. The vendor is the seller. The vendee is the buyer. So, let's go shopping!

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