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purple5me4

How to know the right legal words to conduct research

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I enjoy reading case law on interesting subjects.  However when looking for something very specific I have trouble.  Here is my example:

 

licensed contractor received  money from homeowner to pay subs and buy material for remodel.  Instead contractor used most of the money for personal use - paying mortgage and personal bills.  Homeowner then paid the subs who were not paid by contractor.  The homeowner paid twice for some labor and materials.

 

I do not know the legal terminology to describe the situation. That makes research very difficult.  Is it fraud?  Or something else alltogether?  Would a legal dictionary be a solution for me?   Thanks for you help. 

 

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I do not know the legal terminology to describe the situation. That makes research very difficult.  Is it fraud?  Or something else alltogether?  Would a legal dictionary be a solution for me?   Thanks for you help. 

 

You don't need legal terminology, you don't need to read cases.

 

If the contract says one thing and a party breaches it, that's all you need to know.

 

If all you want to do is sit around and read case decisions for fun, here's the place to do it:

 

http://scholar.google.com/scholar_courts?hl=en&as_sdt=0,3

 

Pick a court, click on "done" and enter your search phrase on the next page.

 

Do that for a while and trial and error will teach you how to put in search parameters to drill down to applicable cases.

 

That's how the rest of us learned how to do it.

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The obvious answer to your question is to go to law school, at least for one year. A primary focus in the first year of law school is how to do legal research. That process has changed dramatically in the last few years, mostly by putting resources online. Access to the resources no longer requires walking around in a massive collection of books. But the process of analyzing a set of facts and determining the relevant area of the law hasn't changed. In the example you gave, a lawyer would consider, based on the years of study of the law (usually three or four) whether this would involve: (1) contract, (2) tort (conversion), or (3) criminal (theft or embezzlement).

Duocar concludes it would involve contract law. I would lean more to conversion.

Anyway, in analyzing your question, you may notice I have used words that do not often arise in non-legal conversation: tort; conversion; embezzlement. Those words roll easily off the tongues of lawyers but few non-lawyers would think of them as starting points for research. Like medicine, there is a unique vocabulary of law. (We don't use very much Latin in legal speech anymore, despite the warnings of the high school Latin teachers)

A legal dictionary would not be of much assistance in legal research, for the reason I set out above. If you don't know what word to look up you can't look it up.

I am sure there are books like "Dummy's guide to contracts", etc. that might be a good starting point.

One easy way to start legal research is to post questions on boards, such as this one. There are people like myself who no longer practice law but who are still drawn to it and are happy to help.

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I am not sure if this is the proper way to reply to the great answers I received.  Thank you so much for all 3 replies.  I do read case law because as a non-lawyer something that sounds like common sense does not work in the legal world.   The worst example I can think of is Roe vs. Wade.  I always thought this ruling was about when life begins.  Nope I was absolutely wrong. I still do not understand how the case was brought under the right to privacy.   This is case law that is interesting to read. 

 

thank you again for all the replies.  I appreciate your time.  Hello Retired in VA.  My son, the Marine is at Quantico.  Lots of jobs there that no can talk about.  I know Quantico is not in VA but its close. VA is lovely.  The history is amazing. 

 

Gish

 

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Quantify is most definitely in Virginia.

To understand Roe v. Wade you must start at Stanley v. Georgia, which held a person was entitled to view pornography in his own bedroom because of the right of privacy. That was followed by Griswold v. Connecticut that held that a pharmacist could not be prosecuted for selling condoms because people were entitled to use condoms in the privacy of their bedrooms. Obviously if the condom failed, their use in the privacy of the bedroom entitled the woman to terminate the pregnancy, Roe v. Wade. You are not the only one who is surprised by the basis of Roe v. Wade.

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I must have been really tired. Of course Quantico is in VA.  I am glad my son didn't read that post.  I just learned more about Roe vs. Wade than I knew.  Now Stanley vs. Georgia makes sense. In the privacy of one's own home porn is ok. Wild sex is ok (between consenting adults).  Isn't Georgia one of the states that still has sodomy as a crime? Maybe they have revoked that law. 

 

Why haven't the pro-life folks (me included) filed suit on the issue of when does life begin?  In our country we err on the side of caution to protect rights.  No scientists or doctor can say with 100% certainty when life begins. Wouldn't the Supreme Court rule on the side of protecting life?  Has this been tried as an argument for reversing Roe vs. Wade?   Just curious. 

 

Gish

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licensed contractor received  money from homeowner to pay subs and buy material for remodel.  Instead contractor used most of the money for personal use - paying mortgage and personal bills.

 

Didn't you post about this somewhere else?  How do you know what the contractor did with the money after it was deposited into his account?

 

 

 

I do not know the legal terminology to describe the situation. That makes research very difficult.  Is it fraud?  Or something else alltogether?  Would a legal dictionary be a solution for me? 

 

I don't know if a legal dictionary would be of use to you, but what you've described is not fraud.  If you paid for work to be done and the work didn't get done, that's a breach of contract.  It may also be a violation of contractor laws.

 

 

 

I do read case law because as a non-lawyer something that sounds like common sense does not work in the legal world.   The worst example I can think of is Roe vs. Wade.  I always thought this ruling was about when life begins.  Nope I was absolutely wrong. I still do not understand how the case was brought under the right to privacy.

 

Well...there's substantial literature that discusses Roe, and any attempt to discuss it in detail would be way beyond the reasonable scope of a message board like this.  I don't know that it's accurate to say that "the case was brought under the right to privacy," but you can read the Northern District of Texas's opinion here:  http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/314/1217/1472349/ ("privacy" is only mentioned once, toward the end of the discussion portion of the opinion).  The district court decided the case primarily based on the 9th Amendment.  In the Supreme Court, Justice Blackmun's opinion mentioned the right to privacy, but that wasn't really the basis of the decision.  It's not necessarily wrong to say that the "ruling was about when life begins," but the Court did not make any sort of finding or legal conclusion in that regard.

 

 

 

I know Quantico is not in VA but its close.

 

Umm....https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantico,_Virginia ("Quantico is the site of one of the largest U.S. Marine Corps bases in the world, MCB Quantico. The base is the site of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and HMX-1 (the presidential helicopter squadron), Officer Candidate School and The Basic School. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration's training academy, the FBI Academy, the FBI Laboratory, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations headquarters are on the base.").

 

 

 

Why haven't the pro-life folks (me included) filed suit on the issue of when does life begin?

 

I can't tell you why any given person or group of persons hasn't done something, but this wouldn't be legally permissible.  The courts don't exist simply to issue abstract opinions about things.  There must be some sort of justiciable "case or controversy."  To be sure, folks in the numerous abortion cases throughout the years have made this argument.  However, the evidence is anything but clear in this regard.  And, I'm fairly sure that the judges who have decided these cases understand that the "real" issue behind the "when does life begin" argument is an unanswerable religious question relating to the time when a human body connects to a "soul."

 

 

 

Wouldn't the Supreme Court rule on the side of protecting life?  Has this been tried as an argument for reversing Roe vs. Wade?

 

Yes, it's been tried, and the Supreme Court has had numerous opportunities to overturn Roe v. Wade (the most well-known probably being Planned Parenthood v. Casey from 1992 -- if you think Roe was a screwed up opinion, trying plowing through the numerous opinions in Casey -- just make sure you have some extra strength analgesics handy).

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purple5me4,

 

Thank you for the post. As to your first question, more simplified searches can help you find some of the terms you are looking for.  We also have tabs at the top of this page such as "Learn About the Law" and blog sections that may help you understand how to conduct your search.

 

You may also add phrases like third party beneficiary and quantum meruit to your search to give you a fuller understanding of that subcontractor pay issue.

 

As for your Roe v. Wade question, my law school professor once said that determining where a life began was something extremely difficult and almost incapable of adjudication, so maybe that's why its an argument that doesn't seem to get much traction.

 

Privacy rights are often included in whats called a penumbra of rights that constitutional law historians refer to that does not exactly have a well defined beginning and ending its just something we hold on to as a society, For instance, there is no clearly codified right to privacy written in the constitution yet its something we all believe we should have and the supreme court adheres to it.  Add the term stare decisis to your search terms when querying the Supreme Court, that may also help with your understanding.

 

Please feel free to continue to post your legal questions at our forums,

 

-The FindLaw.com Team

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