Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 9/2/13: Mayhem!

While the word mayhem is often used in the context of describing chaos, confusion, rioting and disorder, that is neither its original meaning nor its legal definition. The etymology of mayhem has its roots in Anglo-Norman French, derived from Old … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/22/13: The Origins of ‘On the Lam’

Events of this past week in Boston prompted me to look into the origins of an expression I heard quite often on the news: on the lam. Meaning to be a fugitive from the law, the etymology of this idiomatic expression … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/15/13: Estate and Inheritance Taxes

An estate tax is levied before an estate is distributed to heirs, while an inheritance tax is levied against the beneficiaries after it is distributed. The federal government recently raised the estate tax exemption to $5.25 million, but 21 states … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 4/8/13: Alienation of Affection

One of the most common 19th century civil suits was for alienation of affection, awarding damages to litigants whose marriages disintegrated due to the actions of a third party. In order for a plaintiff to prevail, he or she had … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 3/25/13: Workers’ Compensation (or Lack Thereof)

Historically it was very difficult for employees injured on the job to recover damages, based on three concepts in labor law: assumption of risk, which stated that a worker had knowingly assumed the risks of working and was always free to … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 3/4/13: An Eye For An Eye

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a theory of retributive justice, focusing on retaliation rather than compensating the victim. This principle first appeared in the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi (hundreds of years earlier than similar … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/18/13: The Meaning of ‘Rap’

The word rap – referring originally to a mild form of rebuke (such as to rap one’s knuckles) – by the late 18th century referred to punishment or blame for serious offences. By the early 19th century, it entered American … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/11/13: The Third Amendment

The 3rd Amendment states that “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”  The British practice … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 2/4/13: The Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which sought to guarantee equal rights for women, was originally introduced in Congress in 1923 but not submitted for ratification until 1972. It was ultimately ratified by 35 states (although some of these later rescinded … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/28/13: the 27th Amendment

The 27th Amendment, which restricts Congressional power to set the salary of its members, took 203 years to ratify. Proposed as one of the original amendments to the Bills of Rights, it was not ratified until May of 1992. This was … Continue reading

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/21/13: Citizen’s Arrest

A citizen’s arrest — an arrest by a non-law enforcement officer — is statutorily provided for in 49 states (North Carolina is the exception) where a citizen observes a felony being committed, or when a citizen is asked by a … Continue reading