The term de minimis is an abbreviated form of a Latin term “de minimis non curat lex” which loosely states that the law does not care for small things. It refers to the legal doctrine where a court adjudicating over a matter refuses to be drawn into trivial matters or to consider petty matters. This common law concept was expressed in the English decision of the “Reward” in the year 1818 and also restated by Justice Robert Seigmann of the Illinois Appeal Court in the case of People v Durham.In a law suit coming for adjudication, the court applies this doctrine so as to avoid the resolution of petty matters that do not pass muster of judicial scrutiny. It may have the effect of causing the dismissal of an action such as one which seeks the recovery of a nominal sum such as one dollar. The doctrine has had an impact in the American legal system for as it has obviated the wastage of judicial resources as well as saved on time and enabled the consideration of many matters.
The discovery process refers to the process that happens before the start of the trial where both sides to a civil action exchange information of the case before them. This is done so as to obtain evidence that the other party is going to rely on and which may be helpful to the other party in its case. This pre-trial phase of a legal proceeding is necessary and if the other party objects to the request of the information, the other party may seek the indulgence of the court to compel the production of such evidence or documents. A number of methods are used by parties in the discovery process such as depositions, interrogatories, production of documents and expert discovery. The discovery process has its roots in the rules of Equity which gave each party to a legal proceeding, the right for disclosure of material facts and documents of the other party. The importance of the discovery process on the American Legal system is that it has enabled the fair determination and preparation of a party’s case and as such enabled a more expeditious and fair determination of civil matters.
The Brady Rule is the rule in law that obliges prosecutors in a criminal case to disclose or avail materials that may exculpate or exonerate a defendant charged, to the defense. The rule was named after the seminal decision in the case of Brady v Maryland and requires that the prosecution discloses any evidence that is favorable to the accused to the defense. Such evidence may either have the effect of negating the defendant’s guilt, reducing the sentence to be imposed or that which lends to the credibility of such witness. This rule has been applied in the American legal system where the courts have suppressed such evidence in the event that the prosecution has failed to disclose such matters. This is so, since the major function of the courts is not to convict accused persons but rather to decide matters fairly.
Motion in limine is a Latin phrase which stands for threshold. It refers to a motion made by a party to the court or judge at the start of a trial urging that the court finds some evidence either inadmissible or admissible in a trial. This may be so in a criminal case such as where the evidence consists of one collected without giving the Miranda warnings or which falls short of the admissibility criteria. Though some legal texts such as the Black’s Law dictionary refers to the motion as only serving to exclude inadmissible evidence, a motion in limine is made to either request that certain evidence is excluded or included. The importance of this motion in the legal system is that it has served the purpose of avoiding prejudice to a party which would otherwise occur, were inadmissible evidence to be offered at trial.
Witness sequestration refers to the exclusion of witnesses from listening on to the testimony of other witnesses who are testifying to avoid influence. This is a common law rule which may be invoked by parties to a legal proceeding so as to exclude witnesses from hearing the testimony of another witness until they have testified . This order made by the court to sequestrate the witnesses enables the witnesses testifies of the case from their own knowledge of the same without the influence of other witnesses’ testimony. The order plays a central role in the American legal system as it ensures the integrity of the testimony offered by witnesses and thus enabling the fair determination of a matter besides strengthening the role of cross-examination in the development of facts in a case.
Garner, B. A. (2006). Black's Law Dictionary (7th ed.). St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing.
Haydock, R. S. (2007). Discovery Practice. New York: Aspen Law & Business.
Hochman, R. (2007). Brady v Maryland and the Search for Truth in Criminal Trials. The University of Chicago Law Review , 1673-1705.